By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 6.4
For those who love the diminutive Fiat 500's looks and charm, but just can't make its tiny interior space work, the all-new 500L is the Italian automaker's fine answer. Like its provisional competitor, the Mini Cooper Countryman, the 500L has the whimsical, retro styling of its subcompact sibling, but a lot more room. Though still small by most standards, the 5-passenger 500L boasts interior space in spades, with a versatile rear seat that's comfortable for adults. The 500L is not as dynamic or fun to drive as the Countryman, Nissan Juke or Kia Soul, but it feels more comfortable and quiet when cruising at highway speeds. With a starting price under $20,000, the Fiat 500L also brings value with its Euro charm.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is an all-new car, and marks the second major model in Fiat's U.S. lineup. Compared to the Fiat 500 (aka the Cinquecento), the 500L has 42 percent more interior space.
If you're hoping for Mini-like go-kart handling and zippy performance, you're better off sticking with the Mini Countryman or, for those on a tighter budget, the Nissan Juke. Those requiring all-wheel drive should also look to the Countryman or a Nissan Juke, since it isn't offered in the Fiat 500L.
Driving Impressions The Fiat 500L uses the same turbocharged engine as the 500 Abarth, but the 500L does not share that smaller car's feisty traits. The 500L is a bigger, heavier vehicle,...... and that's quickly evident when you drive it. In the low-rev range, the 500L takes its time getting up to speed, and acceleration in general is nothing to boast about. Neither are the handling dynamics. The 500L doesn't beg to be thrown around corners like a Mini. Where the 500L does excel is in ride comfort. While other small cars can succumb to jitteriness at freeway speeds, the 500L feels solid and at ease. Unlike the Mini's stiffer suspension that can be jarring over rough roads, the 500L's softer setup tames imperfections with aplomb. The 500L's 6-speed manual transmission is a smooth, clean-shifting gearbox, and its optional Euro Twin Clutch automatic shifts in a non-intrusive manner.
The 500L is the first Fiat to include Chrysler's well-respected telematics system. Audio, hands-free communication, navigation and more are controlled via a standard touch-screen system that's responsive and easy to use.
Just as impressive as this 4-door hatchback's interior volume is its lack of volume in the other sense – cabin noise. The 500L's passenger compartment is quiet, a trait that will be especially appreciated by drivers with longer commutes.
Here is where the biggest difference lies between the Fiat 500L and its 500 sibling. Technically, the latter has four seats, but the two rear ones are very tight. The 500L, though, has a 3-person rear bench that can comfortably fit two adults. Rear legroom is impressive at 36.7 inches, nearly three inches more than a Mini Cooper Countryman. What's more, the 500L's rear seats recline, slide, flip and tumble forward for cargo/passenger versatility. Headroom in all seats is sky-high. Outward visibility is good thanks to design elements such as a front pillar split by glass and wraparound rear windows. Dash controls are easy to discern and use.Exterior
Next to the 2-door 500, the 500L looks downright bloated. An extra pair of doors, taller profile and voluptuous rear will do that. Despite the design tradeoffs inherent in this car's pragmatics, the 500L has its own share of cuteness. Who could resist those doe-eyed headlights, "floating" roof, and propeller-like front grille piece encircling a big red "FIAT" logo? Those seeking a slightly tougher 500L should take the Trekking model, which features beefier front and rear aesthetics, and larger, 17-inch wheels.
The 500L is available in four trims: Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. At less than $20,000, the Pop comes comfortably equipped with power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, and Uconnect telematics with a 5-inch touch screen, Bluetooth streaming audio, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB and auxiliary inputs. Easy models add 16-inch aluminum wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 520 watts of premium audio. Trekking models include 17-inch wheels, a 2-tone interior and premium cloth seats, while top-line Lounge models come with the 6-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission and leather seats (heated and powered up front). All 2014 models (except Pop) receive the Premiere Package free, which includes a 6.5-inch touch screen, navigation, a rearview camera, and rear-park assist.
Music lovers will appreciate the Beats Audio system that includes six premium speakers and a thumping subwoofer. Leather seating is also available, as is a dual-pane sunroof, power front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and HomeLink universal garage door opener. Trekking models can be outfitted with heavier-duty cloth seats, and all 500L models except the base version can be had with a black or white roof to give it that "floating" design.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is powered by a small, efficient, turbocharged engine that drives the front wheels. Initial transmission choices are a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Euro Twin Clutch, which operates like an automatic, but offers higher fuel efficiency. A traditional 6-speed automatic transmission is set to be available at a later date. The Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine can run on 87-octane gasoline, but premium 91-grade is recommended.
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy, estimated: 25/33 mpg (manual), 24/33 mpg (twin-clutch automatic)
The 2014 Fiat 500L offers quite a bit of style and substance for the money. A base Pop model has a Manufacturer's Suggest Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $19,900. Well-equipped Easy and Trekking models start at $20,995 and $21,995, respectively. Top-line Lounge models begin at $24,995 and include the twin-clutch automatic transmission, which is a $1,350 option on Easy and Trekking models. The Fiat 500L's starting price is below that of the Mini Cooper Countryman, which begins just under $23,000. The Fiat's price is similar to that of the Nissan Juke, and above that of the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul. Also less expensive is the slightly smaller Honda's Fit, a subcompact hatchback that also boasts a roomy, flexible interior. Before buying, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for the 2014 Fiat 500L. As the 500L is an all-new car, we can't yet predict how its resale value will hold up.
By Greg Carlton on Thursday, August 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "power, handling"
Cons: "instrument panel for speedo is bad"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great performance, good handling and cool styling inside and out. I'm 68 and have had many cars in my life and this car has surprised me a lot. The only change I would suggest is a better instrument panel design."
8 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Teedub on Sunday, July 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cost, handling, spacious interior, head turner"
Cons: "turbo lag"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Awesome car - as much cargo room as my old Isuzu Rodeo. Real conversation piece where ever I go. Love the front view. BEATS stereo ROCKS. Turbo lags a little, but 6 speed manual is a blast to drive. VERY responsive handling. Would get 35 mpg if I could get my foot out of the turbo, but too much fun. Didn't break my bank to buy it with ALL the bells and whistles either."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By FIATDude on Saturday, July 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,900overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, just like our 500 Pop!"
Cons: "You may not want to stop driving!!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"In 2012 we purchased a 500 Pop. Found it to be a awesome commuter car. The wife loves for back and forth to work. Gas mileage is in the upper 40's. When the 500L came out I drove it, fell in love with it. Traded in a Saab 95 Aero and never looked back! Ride is great, handling is great, fuel mileage is great. When you get inside the 500L you find yourself immersed in quality and a cavernous like cube. So many cool touches they provide, even in the base model is awesome! And the turbo, oh boy the turbo! BEWARE! If you drive one, you will buy one!"