Home » The Fiat 500L Is So Unloved Even One Used By Da Freakin’ Pope Isn’t Worth Much

The Fiat 500L Is So Unloved Even One Used By Da Freakin’ Pope Isn’t Worth Much

Popes Fiat 500l Ts2
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An unfortunate truth for Italian cars in America is that unless equipped with prancing horse emblems, they’ll probably depreciate catastrophically. For instance, the Fiat 500L people mover isn’t known for its tremendous resale value. However, there are a few outside-the-box ways of potentially fixing that. Like, what if the Pope rode in it?

Yep, His Holiness Pope Francis rode in this car on American soil back in 2015, and it was kept by the Archdiocese of New York until 2016 when it was auctioned off for charity. Last weekend, it was auctioned off again as part of the “Dare to Dream” collection, amid all manner of stereotypical exotica.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

In case you banished the 500L to the same memory hole normally reserved for incidents like walking in on your parents, allow me to give you a refresher. Think of this thing a bit like a Fiat 500 run through Rick Moranis’ growth ray. It’s actually based on the larger Compact Wide platform shared with the current Dodge Hornet, a DNA link that’s both weird and yet entirely on-brand. If there’s one automaker capable of re-using the same platform across multiple model cycles, it’s Stellantis.

Fiat 500L pope

Sold in America from model years 2014 through 2020, the 500L was widely mocked, albeit perhaps not entirely deservedly. Alright, so the available dry-clutch DCT wasn’t brilliant, but did Car And Driver have to call the 500L a “five-door mop bucket”? It’s at least a jelly mold, or the faceplate for one of those fancy-ass motion-sensing air fresheners.

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Fiat 500L Pope

For what it’s worth, you could sidestep the DCT by choosing to row your own gears (this one, sadly, isn’t equipped with a manual) or by waiting a few months after launch for the Aisin six-speed torque converter automatic to show up, and then the 500L is a practical, capacious monobox with a cute squircle-themed interior. The squircle’s the spork of shapes, and just as endearing. Sure, the 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine felt strained once you loaded the 500L up with family members and their things, but for urban transport, it hit the nail on the head.

Screenshot 2024 06 03 At 9.40.56 am

Anyway, refresher over, let’s talk a little bit more about this particular 500L. Not only was it auctioned off by R.M. Sotheby’s, it was even shown off with a replica Pope installed in the rear seat. Think of the things you could do with a replica Pope! No, not like that. Or maybe. I don’t know, you do you. At the same time, with fewer than 800 miles on the clock, it’s basically new. Combined with the papal provenance, that was enough to fetch $28,000. That’s only a few thousand shy of beating inflation!

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The craziest part of all this? A nearly new Fiat 500L with papal provenance is only about $7,000 more expensive than a nice 2020 500L Trekking. Specifically, this 500L Trekking, listed on Autotrader for $20,895 with 56,475 miles on the clock. How much of that value add is the replica Pope? How much is mileage? Who knows. Either way, that’s still substantially cheaper than a new Fiat 500e, and that one hasn’t been on “Pope or No Pope” yet. I think.

Fiat 500L Pope

While celebrity provenance can add value to collector cars, this sort of provenance on this sort of car clearly yields limited results. It is what it is, but who knows? Maybe this 500L will be mega-collectable someday.

(Photo credits: RM Sotheby’s)

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Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
6 days ago

With this Fiat, you’re taking a real bath financially

Not papal investment grade like this is
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1270591288/pope-on-a-rope-soap-bubbletown-novelty

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
16 days ago

I have a soft spot for the L. In green with the brown interior, ideally, but there’s a other spec with a light interior that – to me, having never been to Italy nor skiing – seemed like it was reminiscent of an Italian ski lodge. I appreciated its airy cabin and sizeable greenhouse. But the front end leaves a lot to be desired, and they didn’t offer an Abarth version here.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
16 days ago

I have a 2016 500L Trekking with a manual transmission and it is an excellent car!

The Abarth spec turbo engine is rev happy and entertaining, the suspension tuning is near perfect, the interior is attractive, it has room for 4 large adults, and the full length glass sunroof fantastic. Despite being FWD, driving it reminds of my long ago BMW E30 (upright seating position, lots of glass, firm but not stiff ride, engine that loves revs, small outside – big inside). Mine also feels similarly solid and stable on the road, although it does lack that near perfect E30 steering feel.

The base model rental spec car is pretty awful, but the Trekking is a huge step up. The interior is genuinely nice, the suspension stiffer, and with the 17″ wheels the handling is direct and predictable with tons of grip. The DCT automatic is god awful, incredibly troublesome, and must be avoided at all cost, but the 6 speed manual is decent, and it lets you keep the sweet revvy turbo engine in its 3-6k rpm sweet spot.

Calling it the 500L and trying to turn “500” into a brand was incredibly stupid, and launching it in the US with an automatic transmission that worked poorly and failed in American traffic even stupider. I once viewed the 500L with the same disdain shown by many of the commenters here, but after test driving (on a whim) the one I now own, I realized that in the right spec these are special cars and great fun to drive.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
17 days ago

While I grew up with stories of quirky European city cars, helping me build an appreciation for them, I can’t understand why anyone in the USA would buy a 500L. I at least sort of get the regular 500 (especially in Abarth trim) and maybe the 500X (though I think the Jeep Renegade is a far superior version of it), but the 500L is ugly and doesn’t do anything better than its competition except be awkwardly proportioned and ugly. For tight European roads, I can see the value. But for wide American roads, even in large, congested cities, there are better options for the money.

Vc-10
Vc-10
17 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Trust me, we think the 500L is shit on this side of the pond, too. How it ever got to America I do not understand.

I had the misfortune to be given one by Avis once in Barcelona as an ‘upgrade’ on the ‘Ford Fiesta or similar’ that I’d booked. Thankfully, it stank of cigarettes, so I walked straight back to the rental counter and insisted on having something else, and got given an Audi A1, which is an actually decent little car. The prospect of having to drive a 500L for a week was going to ruin my holiday…

Patrick
Patrick
17 days ago

I’m not sure papal provenance adds much tbh, unless it’s his personal vehicle. If I’m not mistaken, Benedict xvi had a mk4 Golf (German pope, checks out) and Francis also was of modest means. I can’t remember what he drove, I just remember it was a small cheap econobox, which fits the character’s narrative of being “close to the people”.

Anyway, about actual popemobiles that served in duty, I don’t think they are worth that much as there would be quite a few with every visit (albeit with age he limits his travels). A couple summers ago when he came to Canada (2nd papal visit after J-P ii in 84?) I remember reading a bunch of articles that detailed his different popemobiles across the country (he made a few stops in this vast land, including in my city). Each vehicle might have been used once or maybe twice, for a few km of hand waving? Unless tied to a significant event, I doubt they would ever fetch much more than an equally mint vehicle.

While on the topic, I went to see his drive-by-and-wave public bath (he is by definition a historical figure) and I was even an arm’s length from his bodyguards, so two arm’s lengths from a popemobile being used by the pope LIVE! (lol) For the record, it was a modified Jeep Wrangler with a huge bulletproof “COVID shield”

Protodite
Protodite
17 days ago
Reply to  Patrick

Yeah unless it decked out with the papal seal and custom white and gold color options it isn’t there for interest

Park
Park
17 days ago

I always thought these would be perfectly sized for city taxis

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
17 days ago

I see a lot fo these in Europe because of their combo or practicaly and economy.

My wife and I rented a manual turbodiesel in Italy and we loved it! It was cavernous inside, extremely comfortable, stable on the autostrada and felt very sturdy. Also, the 1.3 TD delivered low 50s MPG on the freeway. The base models look like they’re on roller skate wheels, but always liked the Trekking models, especially in cool colors. Kinda reminds me of an old VW bus.

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
17 days ago

Holy Hatch? More like Holy Crap.

Live2ski
Live2ski
17 days ago

perfect for the HOV lanes!!

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
17 days ago

I fixed my 500 Abarth with a cylinder head robbed from a 500L. So hey – the 500L has value as a parts donor.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
17 days ago

I always liked the 500L, but probably because it’s bizarre, and sort of awful. But those traits go a long way in my book.

Give me an interesting color and some sort of warranty coverage and I won’t complain.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
17 days ago

There was a Spanish (Seat) open topped popemobile based on a 1982 Fiat Panda 4×4.

Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
17 days ago

I still like these cars. Really practical. I drove one with a stick and it was totally fine. I also appreciate that it’s unabashedly nerdy. I would have rather had a real Panda, but we don’t get quirky European cars anymore, so I appreciate the 500L’s presence here.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
17 days ago

Technically, it’s a Serbian car with a historically Italian brand name on it, but those aren’t really known for retaining value, either

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
17 days ago

The 500L sucks, but if you’re lucky, you can find a manual with a big sunroof (and a cool color too)

A. Barth
A. Barth
17 days ago

Holy driver

The pope is the guy in the Holy See
Oh what’s becomin’ of me
Drive the Fiat
Got a good Carfax and the inside’s clean
Oh don’t you see what I mean?

(apologies to RJD)

How much of that value add is the replica Pope?

Woohoo, HOV lane!

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
17 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Oh, gee, thanks, now that is gonna be stuck in my head all day.
Get away, get away, get away.

A. Barth
A. Barth
17 days ago

Somewhat sorry about that. 🙂 Here’s a good cover that might help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR7dG_m3MsI

Fun fact: Mr. Dio himself heard this version and stated publicly that he loved it. “\m/”

Last edited 17 days ago by A. Barth
MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
16 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Killswitch Engage?!? Harumph! Here is the definitive cover of Holy Diver…
(127) Holy Diver – YouTube

Guido Sarducci
Guido Sarducci
17 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Bless you my son.

V10omous
V10omous
17 days ago

I realize a few weirdos might be drawn to the nameplate from nostalgia, but generally the idea of taking a car known for being small and cheap, then blowing it up to a larger size while keeping the styling and name seems insane to me.

The same issue plagues the larger Minis.

Imagine if you can the reaction of a normal person (not the small car lovers who dominate discourse here) to the idea of Chevy calling its small SUV Cavalier L or Spark Max, or of Nissan replacing the Kicks with the Versa XL. It’s non-sensical and goes against every rule of branding.

No one in the US has fond memories of Fiat in any case, and especially not of a 500. Utterly baffling that a mistake like this was made. Whatever its actual merits, the 500L had no chance.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
17 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

Yeah, Fiat in North America got backed into the same corner as MINI with the same retro 1950s sausage/different lengths product planning strategy, they just reached the limitations of it much faster

Naming everything 500something and trying to give it the same Nuova 500 styling was a huge mistake. As was, maybe, trying to sell Fiat in the US at all. The retro 500 should have just been the “Dodge Fiat 500” or “Fiat 500 Imported by Dodge” and sold through the existing sales channel with no separate divisional management structure

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
17 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

The 500L could have made for an interesting PT Cruiser successor… the Chrysler QT Cruiser?

Beater_civic
Beater_civic
16 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

I actually know someone who stated their dream car to be “a Pontiac Wave, but an SUV.”

So they are shooting at the rare buyer indeed who likes small cars, but NOT for their fuel economy or driving dynamics. Misreading the Jasons of the world, perhaps.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
17 days ago

I’m holding out for Pope Pinion IV
https://pixarcars.fandom.com/wiki/Pope_Pinion_IV

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