A Stylish Wagon with Space But Needing an Upgrade
When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking, we found it had a roomy interior and unique styling—and might be a capable small family wagon. It has received a upgrades in the past few years so we thought taking a fresh look at the 2019 Fiat 500L Trekking was in order. We came away with some positive thoughts about its style and functionality, but feel it’s overdue for a upgrade in its performance, handling and ride.
The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine produces 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque through a standard six-speed automatic transmission.
Running on unleaded regular, the 1.4L engine was smooth when cruising at highway speeds, using the Eco mode for maximum efficiency. There is a slight “diesel” sound when starting first thing in the morning, but it’s not noticeable when up to speed. But getting the 3,254-pound 500L Trekking up to highway speeds was not a timely process. Even with a turbocharged engine, it felt underpowered and sluggish. Opting to select the M+/- position, to manually take the transmission through a sequential pattern, there was little noticeable performance gain.
This is the same engine as in the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth we tested, where the performance was far better. Maybe the 700-pound weight differential made all the difference between the two cars. Regardless, there will be no confusing the 500L Trekking with spirited driving.
The EPA gives an estimated fuel economy rating of 22 city/30 highway/25 combined. In 450 miles of 70-percent highway/30-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 30.3 mpg, and 32.6 mpg on a pure highway run with the cruise control set at 65 mph. It took our predominantly highway cruising to barely exceed the EPA combined 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. Your driving pattern may affect your fuel economy.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report’s front-wheel drive 500L Trekking was equipped with 225/45R17 Continental ProContact all-season tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels. The multi-slotted design made for a nice-looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat touts the “touring-tuned chassis” that comes from the McPherson front suspension, with Koni selective damping front strut and rear shocks.
The 500L Trekking handled well to its limits, was generally smooth, but had a tendency to float or drift at highway speeds. There was noticeable body roll, whether it was on a sweeping highway corner or slower, tight twisties.
The variable-speed, assisted electric power steering made cornering around town just fine and parking was easy. But on the highway there is a lack of direct feedback when you really wanted to feel connected to the road. As noted earlier, there was a tendency for the 500L to float at high speeds.
Stopping was through the single piston, front vented and solid rear rotors, but consistency and feel were affected by the grabby nature of the brakes. 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: Exterior
Popular colors of current cars tend to lean toward silver, gray and black. The 2019 500L Trekking has these too, but the 10 exotic sounding exterior colors can make your 500L standout in the crowd. These include Grigio Scuro (Gray Metallic) with the Blanco (white) roof – our test car’s color, Mezzanotte Blue Pearl, Luminosa Orange, Olivia Green Pearl, Brilliante Red, Perla White, and of course Nero (Black). This Easter egg palette is fun.
The 2019 500L Trekking received a freshening with new front and rear fascias, a reworked upper grille and daytime running lights. The flared wheel arches are a nice touch, with front-end lighting composed of Bi-halogen projector-type high intensity displacement headlights (HID) and lower fascia integrated halogen projector fog lights.
Driving Experience: Interior
The 500L’s interior access is a strong selling point, with wide doors leading to high seating positions. The interior is large and accommodating, which includes a wide rear seat for three—though two is best for longer trips—with good leg room. Storage behind the rear seat is good.
When buckling-in, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a comfortable driving position. The upright steering column (which can both tilt and telescope) and steering wheel are positioned more bus-like than car-like. The heated, black leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats had manual height adjusters, and lumbar (two-way power adjustment for the driver) and thigh bolstering support. Unfortunately, the seats up front were too firm, leading to driver fatigue after an hour or so on the road. The placement of the driver and front passenger seat heat controls are unique as they are located on the lower, outer side of the seats.
The rear seats can accommodate three on a 60/40 folding bench seat that also was a bit firm. The roofline dips down above the rear passenger area, so for taller guests headroom can be tight. When that rear seat needs to be folded for more storage space, the 500L has the tilt, tumble and slide system that works easily by rotating the seat back down, and then flipping the seat back and bottom against the driver and front passenger seat backs. It worked well, with the resulting open space a nice feature and strong selling point of the 500L. However, the folded rear seat does not create an uninterrupted flat surface.
You will appreciate the excellent sight lines for a panoramic view. The outward visuals are about the best for any car we have tested, with one exception. The 500L has a design quirk of spit A pillars, so instead of one on each side of the windshield, there are two. Maybe it is an engineering thing, but there is no apparent need of having four pillars running from the roof to the front fenders. This design added a visual distraction to what should have been a very clean view out the windshield.
The Fiat 500L Trekking dash layout is non-flashy with a straight-forward, convenient design, and what is 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, but wind noise when over 30 mph was too loud to keep it open, especially on the highway.
Our car was equipped with the Convenience Group package, 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 top 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. The voice command with Bluetooth for your mobile phone was clear and easy-to-use. Completing the infotainment system is a 7.0-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. A nice feature, on the rear of the steering wheel, is where the volume (right side) and channel selection (left) buttons are located. It is such a natural place for them that it is a wonder all other manufacturers don’t go to this placement.
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, rear window wiper/washer, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror with an universal garage door opener.
Safety and Convenience
The 2019 Fiat 500L Trekking 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 2019 Fiat 500L Trekking has a base price of $23,325. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had a MSRP of $25,860, which included $2,535 in options. All prices do not include the $1,295 destination charge. The 500L comes in four trim levels, starting with the Pop at $21,910, followed by the Trekking, Urbana at $23,920 and Lounge at $24,320.
All 2019 Fiat 500L models come with these warranties:
- Basic Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain Four years/50,000 miles
- Rust-Through 12 years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance Four years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2019 Fiat 500L Trekking
The 2019 500L Trekking is notable for its unique design and Italian style. If you like its smaller sibling, the Fiat 500, the 500L offers more space and functionality that will work for a family that hauls around lots of stuff.
From the outside, the 500L has a look that sets it apart from anything else on the road—in a good way—but the connection with the far more sporty 500 is minimal. The 500L is due for a major overhaul to improve the performance, handling and ride. Your visit to a local Fiat dealer, for a test drive is the only way you will know if the 500L Trekking is right for you.
Whatever you end up buying, 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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