Helping expand the growing Fiat model lineup, the new Fiat 500L first hit the road in 2013 to give shoppers all Fiat brand attributes, but in a larger and more flexible package than possible in the much-smaller Fiat 500.
Fiat 500 = small Fiat. Fiat 500L = larger Fiat.
The “L” is for ‘larger” in that example. Still with me?
Anyhow, the 500L is a sort of small wagon/crossover with a relatively tall roof and generous room. That means it’s been enjoyed by dog people, campers, adventurers, professionals and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Rear seats are spacious, the door openings are huge, and the step-in height is nice and low, making the 500L easy to board and exit by a variety of people and creatures.
Feature content may include a Dr. Dre stereo system, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, navigation, and more. A 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine was standard, good for 160 horsepower. Manual or automatic transmissions were available.
If you’re shopping for a used Fiat 500L, consider the following tips and checks before you buy.
Check engine oil often
The 500L’s engine uses a special oil-pressure driven valve timing system referenced by its “Multiair” designation.
Long story short, this system works properly only in situations where the engine has a full supply of engine oil of a specific formulation.
Though every gas engine needs clean oil, and a certain amount of it, to do it’s job properly Fiat’s Multiair engine may be less forgiving about not being maintained to the letter of the owner’s manual.
If you’re not someone likely to properly follow a strict oil change schedule without going over, this is not the vehicle for you. Failure to monitor and correct oil levels can actually cause random stalling and sporadic performance.
During ownership, check oil on a weekly basis and add oil as needed.
If you’re after the 500L’s available panoramic sunroof, be sure to open and close it several times, partially and fully, over the course of your test drive.
Note any signs of trouble like struggling, jamming up, or a failure of the glass panel to go fully to the position you select via the switch.
Check the shape of the fabric sun-screen as well, because some owners have documented problems with this component separating from the sunroof assembly, becoming damaged, or even falling out.
Skip the automatic
In Europe, they drive manual transmissions, and so should you, and especially if you’re after a Fiat 500L.
Some owners have reported big issues with the dual-clutch transmission, which is the automatic transmission option in certain model years.
(Dual clutch transmissions are a type of automatic transmission, even though they have the word ‘clutch).
In fact, some owners have even had the transmission replaced under warranty, more than once.
Warning signs of trouble may include difficulty moving the shifter lever, the transmission being non-responsive to manual-mode shift requests, awkward shifting behaviour, slamming, or warning lights and messages relating to the transmission displayed in the cluster.
So skip the automatic, go for the manual, and if you can’t, have a technician perform a diagnostic scan and physical inspection of the transmission and buy any extended warranty available.
Some 500L owners say their battery has caused them frustration. Factory batteries on this car may need replacing after a shorter-than-expected period of time, and sometimes, leaving the vehicle sit just a few days can drain the battery totally and prevent the car from starting.
Have the battery inspected and tested, and replace it if it doesn’t pass with flying colours. This can also help fend off other niggling electronics-related problems caused by poor battery health.
The heat (and AC)
Give the 500L’s heater and air conditioner a good going-over on your test drive, being sure to run through all possible combinations of temperatures, distribution vents, and even fan speeds.
Ensure your selections are matched exactly: and that air of the temperature of your choosing is pumped out of the vents of your choosing, every time.
If there’s hot air where there should be cold air (or vice versa), or a vent that doesn’t seem to change temperatures with the rest, you’ll want to have a professional take a closer look.
In some cases, a bad ‘blend door’ (which routes air moves through the system) or a bad actuator (an electronic doodad that opens and closes that blend door) are to blame.
A dealer technician is best to try and diagnose and repair this problem, if detected.
The information presented above is gathered from online owner discussion groups and collaboration with a network of automotive repair professionals. This information is not a comprehensive list of all possible issues with the vehicle in question and is instead intended to draw shopper attention to possible trouble-spots they may wish to investigate before they buy. In most cases, problems listed above are reported with relative rarity in comparison to total sales volume. Shoppers are advised to have a dealer-performed, pre-purchase inspection on the vehicle they’re considering for maximum peace of mind.