2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen vs. 2018 Fiat 500L

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Fiat 500L doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Golf SportWagen SE/SEL has standard Autonomous Emergency Braking, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The 500L doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

The Golf SportWagen has standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 500L doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The Golf SportWagen offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The 500L doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The Golf SportWagen SEL’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The 500L doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Golf SportWagen SEL offers optional Park Distance Control to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The 500L doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

To help make backing safer, the Golf SportWagen SE/SEL’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 500L doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Golf SportWagen SE/SEL has standard Car-Net, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The 500L doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Golf SportWagen and the 500L have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available blind spot warning systems.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is safer than the 500L:


Golf SportWagen


Overall Evaluation






Head Neck Evaluation



Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

3 cm

14 cm

Chest Evaluation



Hip & Thigh Evaluation



Femur Force R/L

1.1/.1 kN

10.1/3.9 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L



Lower Leg Evaluation



Tibia index R/L



For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Golf SportWagen the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 136 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The 500L was not even a “Top Pick” for 2016.


The Golf SportWagen comes with a full 6-year/72000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car. The 500L’s 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 22000 miles sooner.

The Golf SportWagen’s corrosion warranty is 5 years longer than the 500L’s (10 vs. 5 years).

There are over 70 percent more Volkswagen dealers than there are Fiat dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Golf SportWagen’s warranty.


The camshafts in the Golf SportWagen’s engine are driven by a hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs. The 500L’s camshaft is driven by a rubber belt that needs periodic replacement. If the 500L’s cam drive belt breaks the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Golf SportWagen’s reliability 19 points higher than the 500L.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are better in initial quality than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 70 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 32nd, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2016 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 25th in reliability. With 2 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 26th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2017 Auto Issue reports that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Fiat vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Volkswagen 6 places higher in reliability than Fiat.


The Golf SportWagen’s 1.8 turbo 4 cyl. produces 10 more horsepower (170 vs. 160) and 15 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 184) than the 500L’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Car and Driver the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is faster than the Fiat 500L (automatics tested):




Zero to 60 MPH

7 sec

8.9 sec

Quarter Mile

15.5 sec

16.9 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Golf SportWagen FWD Auto gets better fuel mileage than the 500L (24 city/33 hwy vs. 22 city/30 hwy).

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen uses regular unleaded gasoline. The 500L requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Golf SportWagen 4Motion’s standard fuel tank has 1.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the 500L (14.5 vs. 13.2 gallons).


The Golf SportWagen offers a manual transmission for better acceleration, control and fuel economy. The 500L doesn’t offer a manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

The Golf SportWagen stops shorter than the 500L:





70 to 0 MPH

166 feet

169 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Fiat 500L only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

Suspension and Handling

For superior ride and handling, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Fiat 500L has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The Golf SportWagen has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Golf SportWagen flat and controlled during cornering. The 500L’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Golf SportWagen is 1.1 inches wider in the front than on the 500L.

The Golf SportWagen’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (56.9% to 43.1%) than the 500L’s (60% to 40%). This gives the Golf SportWagen more stable handling and braking.

The Golf SportWagen 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the 500L Lounge pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Golf SportWagen S executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.2 seconds quicker than the 500L Lounge (27.3 seconds @ .63 average G’s vs. 28.5 seconds @ .58 average G’s).


The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs up to about 200 pounds less than the Fiat 500L.

The Golf SportWagen is 7 inches shorter in height than the 500L, making the Golf SportWagen much easier to wash and garage and drive (lower center of gravity).

The design of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen amounts to more than styling. The Golf SportWagen has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .31 Cd. That is lower than the 500L (.31 to .32) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Golf SportWagen get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Golf SportWagen SE is quieter than the 500L Lounge:


Golf SportWagen


At idle

40 dB

45 dB


73 dB

79 dB

Cargo Capacity

The Golf SportWagen has a much larger cargo area than the 500L with its rear seat up (30.4 vs. 22.4 cubic feet).

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the Golf SportWagen easier. The Golf SportWagen’s trunk lift-over height is 24.8 inches, while the 500L’s liftover is 25.9 inches.

Servicing Ease

The Golf SportWagen uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The 500L uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.


If the windows are left open on the Golf SportWagen the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can also lower the windows the same way. The driver of the 500L can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Keyless Access standard on the Golf SportWagen SE/SEL allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Fiat 500L doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The Golf SportWagen has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The 500L doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Golf SportWagen’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The 500L’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Golf SportWagen 4Motion/SE/SEL to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The 500L doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Golf SportWagen has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 500L doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Golf SportWagen SEL detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 500L doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the Golf SportWagen SE/SEL has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The 500L doesn’t offer cornering lights. The Golf SportWagen SEL also has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

Both the Golf SportWagen and the 500L offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Golf SportWagen has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The 500L doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Golf SportWagen SEL has a standard Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 500L doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The Golf SportWagen SEL’s optional Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The 500L doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The Volkswagen Golf comes in four door hatchback and station wagon bodystyles; the Fiat 500L isn’t available as a four door.

Economic Advantages

The Golf SportWagen will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Golf SportWagen will retain 47.51% to 52.5% of its original price after five years, while the 500L only retains 32.9% to 33.7%.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen will be $1384 to $6253 less than for the Fiat 500L.


The Golf was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” for 11 of the last 11 years. The 500L has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

Motor Trend selected the Golf as their 2015 Car of the Year. The 500L has never been chosen.

The Volkswagen Golf/GTI outsold the Fiat 500L by almost 33 to one during the 2017 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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