Fiat 500L gets a much needed update for 2018

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The Fiat 500L is one of those love-it or hate-it vehicles. Fiat's largest US vehicle has been knocked for questionable styling, poor build quality, and reliability concerns. That's why the new mid-cycle refresh is so important, as the Fiat says 40-percent of the components on the 500L are all new. Styling is much more aggressive, and a new trim level promises some semblance of off-road readiness.

The 500L still keeps the general not-quite-a crossover shape, but the front and rear fascias have been redone. The front is more upright, losing that slack-jawed look of the current model. The lower air intake and foglight surrounds are big and wide, with contrasting chrome and black plastic. The lighting is similar to the current model but has been updated with LED accents. Of course, the requisite Fiat badge and mustache are in place.

It's a similar story out back. The 500L retains the same general shape, but it's a little more masculine and angular. There are new chrome accents on the bottom of the bumper along with new reverse and rear foglights (for Europe). There are 10 colors available for the 500L, with three options for the roof: body color, gloss black or white, or matte black. All in, Fiat says there are 37 color combinations.

Like the exterior, changes to the interior are more refreshed than all-new. Up front, the biggest changes are to the steering wheel, instrument cluster and infotainment system. A speedometer and tachometer flank a 3.5-inch color display. Like the Fiat 500X, the 500L will have a multitude of menus and options to flip through. The infotainment has been updated with the latest version of FCA's excellent UConnect system. That means standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For Europe, there are three basic configurations: the five-passenger Cross, and optional seven-passenger Wagon, and Urban. There are various trim levels within each configuration, though the long-wheelbase seven-passenger versions are unlikely to make it to the US market. The big news is the Cross, which gets a 25mm lift, skid plates, unique front and rear bumpers, and new wheels and tires. While there are new drive modes, Fiat doesn't make any mention of all-wheel drive. Customers with the need can step up to the smaller but more traditional 500X.

The 500L has been a slow seller here in the US. It's unclear when the new model will go on sale, but it's good to see Fiat breathing some life into a slim product line. Look for more details on US-specific features in the next few weeks.

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