Roomy Family Small Wagon with 30+ MPG
Clean Fleet Report first visited the 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking in May of 2015, curious to see what the bigger sibling to the sporty, fun Fiat 500 or Fiat 500 Abarth two-door hatchback had to offer. What we found was a roomy interior and unique styling that was worth your consideration if you have a small family and their gear to haul around. Taking a look at the 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking, we found a few refinements to an already capable small family wagon version of the Cinquecento.
Clean Fleet Report drove the 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking with the turbocharged 16-valve 1.4L Inline Four with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection. It produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through Fiat’s Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA gives a rating of 22 city/30 highway/25 combined, but in 544 miles of 70/30 highway/city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 30.1 mpg, which means our predominantly highway cruising helped us substantially exceed the EPA estimate. Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California the 70/30 highway/city driving pattern we experienced is far more real world and is why we report it to you. If you were to get similar highway efficiency, you could have gone around 424 miles before stopping to refill the 13.2-gallon fuel tank.
Running on unleaded regular, the 1.4L engine was smooth cruising at highway speeds when keeping the six-speed automatic in the Eco mode for maximum efficiency. On first starting the car there is a slight “diesel” sound, which is not noticeable when up-to-speed. However, it took patience getting the 3,254-pound 500L Trekking up to highway speed, as even with the turbocharged engine it felt underpowered. Placing the center console mounted shift lever in the M+/- position will manually take the transmission through a sequential pattern, back for a higher and forward for lower gear selections, giving a bit more straight-line performance.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report’s front-wheel drive 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking was equipped with 225/45R17 all-season tires, mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels with a five-hole design—a nice-looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat touts the “touring-tuned chassis” and “exceptional rigidity” that deliver improved road-holding and handling characteristics coming from the McPherson front suspension, with Koni selective damping front strut and rear shocks. My take was the 500L Trekking handled well to its limits, was generally smooth, but a bit stiff at highway speeds and had a tendency to float or drift. There was noticeable body roll, whether it was on a sweeping highway corner at 70+ mph or slower, tight twisties. When taking your test drive, make sure the dealer lets you get on the highway for a few miles to judge the ride comfort yourself. Wind noise was low except when the optional sunroof was open at more than 30 mph.
Steering was through a power rack-and-pinion with variable-speed assisted electric power steering, which made cornering around town just fine and parking was easy. On the highway there is a lack of direct feedback when I really wanted to feel connected to the road. As mentioned earlier, there was a tendency for the 500L to float at high speeds.
Stopping was from single-piston, front vented and solid rear rotors. It took me a while to get a handle on the brake consistency and feel before I had confidence the brakes were doing a good job. The 500L Trekking comes with anti-lock brake system, brake assist, all-speed traction control system, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability control.
Driving Experience: Interior
The first things you notice when sliding behind the wheel of the 2016 Fiat 500L is the easy access through a wide door leading to a high driver seat position. Then you see a large and accommodating interior that includes a wide rear seat for three with good leg room. That’s followed by very good storage behind that rear seat—even when it is in the upright position. So far, so good, but when buckling-in, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a comfortable driving position. It was partially due to the upright steering column (which can both tilt and telescope) and steering wheel position that is more akin to a bus. While the heated, two-tone gray leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats had manual height adjusters and good lumbar (four-way power adjustment for the driver) and thigh bolstering support, I felt the seats up front were too firm, which led to driver fatigue after an hour or so on the road. The placement of the driver and front passenger seat heat controls are curious (and unique) as they are located on the lower side of the seats.
The rear seats can accommodate three on a 60/40 folding bench seat that was also a bit too firm. The roofline dips down above the rear passenger area so for taller guests headroom can be tight.
Also of note is that there are no rear HVAC vents or power ports and there is only one cup holder in the rear seat center armrest. For more than two not-so-tall passengers, it would be okay, but then one would be holding their drink between their legs.
When that rear seat needs to be folded for more storage space, the 500L has a tilt, tumble and slide system that worked easily. Simply rotate the seat back down and then flip the seat back and bottom against the driver and front passenger seat backs. It worked well and the resulting open space is a nice feature and strong selling point of the 500L.
You will appreciate the excellent sightlines in what Fiat calls their “Loft – a trendsetting environment with segment-exclusive glass…for panoramic views.” No argument, the visuals, the best for any car we have tested, were very good…with one exception: the 500L design quirk of spit A-pillars. Maybe it is an engineering thing, but I could not figure out the need of having two pillars running from the roof to the front fenders since they added a visual distraction to what should have been a very clean view out the windshield.
The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking dash lay-out is non-flashy with a straight-forward, convenient design. It features probably the largest air vent you will find, located on the top of the dash. The combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls are exactly where you want and need them. Overhead was a power dual-pane sunroof that offered good visuals. Note that the screen for the sunroof can be closed when the glass roof panel is open—a feature that is not unique to the 500L. Debris can collect on the screen, which needs to be brushed off before the power sliding glass roof can be closed.
Our car was equipped with the Trekking Collection 5, which included the ParkView rear backup camera and ParkSense rear parking assist features. The Beats Audio system, with digital sound processing and an eight-channel amplifier, kicks-out good sound with six speakers and a trunk-mounted subwoofer. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio controls that are easy to use for the SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included) and the AM/FM/CD/MP3 and HD Radio, and voice command with Bluetooth for your mobile phone. Completing the infotainment system is a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Uconnect, navigation, audio input jacks with iPod control and USB port. All-in-all, it was an easy system to operate with a quick learning curve.
The 500L had convenience features such as power windows with one-touch up and down, power door locks, power exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, front 12V power outlet, tilt and telescoping steering column, rear window wiper/washer, multiple cup holders and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking is offered in 10 exotic sounding exterior colors, including Tornado (blue)—our test car’s color—plus Giallo (yellow), Verde Bosco Perla (forest green pearl), Rossa
Perla (red pearl), Mocha Latte (brown), Grigio Scuro (gray metallic) and of course Nero (black) and Bianco (white.) Options include Bianco or Nero contrasting roofs. The 500L has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work, with tasteful black insets below the rear hatch and on the front fascia. The flared wheel arches are a nice touch, with front-end lighting composed of Bi-halogen projector-type High Intensity Displacement (HID) headlights and lower fascia-integrated halogen projector fog lights.
I like the look of the 500L Trekking and give Fiat credit for bringing its “small-wide vehicle architecture” to the United States in what is a uniquely European looking car.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Fiat 500L has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but is equipped with seven airbags, rearview camera and in-dash monitor, engine immobilizer and security alarm, tire pressure monitoring system, brake assist, hill start assist and adaptive cruise control.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking has a base price of $21,880 with the 500L Trekking model Clean Fleet Report was driving having a MSRP of $30,525, which included the optional automatic transmission and Trekking Collection 5 package. All prices do not include the $995 destination charge.
All 2016 Fiat 500L models come with these warranties:
- Basic – 48 months/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – 48 months/50,000 miles
- Rust-Through – 60 months/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance – 48 months/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking FWD
The 2016 Fiat 500L is unique in its design and has what Fiat says “…offers customers the Italian style of the Fiat 500 with more space and functionality to suit their lifestyle.” While the 500L comes from the same people that bring us the cute 500, it does not mean it shares its design DNA. Cover the Fiat logo on the steering wheel in the 500L and you would not readily guess you were in an Italian-designed car. From the outside the 500L does have a flair and style that set it apart from anything else on the road—in a good way—but the connection with the very Italian 500 is minimal.
Therefore, if you like the 500L design as I do, then by all means you should take it for a test drive. If you have a family that hauls around lots of stuff, then take a look at the 500L, because for a nicely equipped and versatile car, starting at under $20,000, it should be on your consideration list. Also while on your shopping trip you would be looking at the Kia Soul, Yaris 5 Door, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa 5 Door, MINI Countryman and even the sister AWD model to the 500L, the Fiat 500X.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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