First Drive: 2014 Fiat 500L
If you've noticed an uptick in the number of diminutive runabouts populating the roads, you are not alone. The subcompact city car is ganing popularity, from Mini to Smart and now Fiat. But while these brands make their bones on the small car core, profit is earned through expansion and when you deal with city cars, the only way to expand is upward. Hence Mini's recent explosion of newer, larger models. Fiat is taking a page out of this growth playbook with the all-new Fiat 500L- a multi purpouse vehicle that may share little with the standard 500, but is the perfect key to the Italian automaker's American invasion.
My, How You've Grown: First thing you need to know, the four-door 500L actually does not share any major components with the standard 500. It is actually a re-skinned version of Fiat Europe's Panda. You can quickly tell that the 500 and 500L are different animals. the 500L is 20 percent longer, 11 percent taller and has a kindov-obvious 121 percent more cargo space. The purpose of the 500L is to offer Fiat owners who may have started a family an opportunity to stay within the brand while going upmarket. The European underpinnings allow the 500L to have a small footprint while maximizing space in a way that almost seems unimaginable in a car this size.
Cabin space is the 500L's defining feature. There is plenty of head and shoulder room for this writer's 6'3" frame. It was never cramped, even in the rear seat. The latter is a rarity even in larger cars. The trunk area, while not cavernous has enough space for several bags. Moving of large items can be accomplished by flipping down some seats.
A Posh Lounge: The 500L is offered in Pop ($19,100), Easy ($20,195), Trekking ($22,195) and Lounge ($24,195) trims. All models come standard with Fiat's 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged inline-4. It makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque Power is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed twin-clutch driect shift gearbox. This engine never wheezed when getting up to speed, and is the ideal powerplant for the job. Fiat's next engine down would have had its hands full with the 3,000-pound 500L.
Speaking of that weight, the 500L reveals the product of its porportions in turns, where the well tuned suspension has to kneel in before settling down. Taking an off ramp produces body roll but is an overall composed machine. For city driving, the 500L will pull off the same dart-about-traffic maneuvers as its little sibling. For the first year of production, Fiat is hooking up 500L buyers with the goods. Anyone that purchases Trekking or Lounge models will recieve the Premier Package as a complementary add-on. It includes the larger Uconnect 6.5-inch touchscreen, no-charge navigation system, backup camera and backup sensors. The Beats Audio System is not complementary, but with a crisp sound and punch to the bass, its a worthwhile option.
People love the Fiat 500 for its nimble dimensions and Italian flair, but it doesn't offer much for space. The 500L keeps with the flair, and even has a small footprint while delivering impressively usable cabin room, and a seemingly impossible management of dimensions and space. It makes us wonder what the heck other automakers are up to with such limited cabin room in larger cars. For city dwellers with growing families or anyone that just wants a different take on daily driving, the 500L is an affordable, versatile hauler that live's up to Fiat's lively persona.
THE BASICS Make: Fiat Model: 500L Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged I4 HP: 160 MPG: (Manual) 25/33 (Twin-Clutch) 24/33