First true "expansion" of the modern-era Cinquecento line, the new 2014 Fiat 500L model makes its North American debut in Los Angeles along with the world premier of the more active-lifestyle oriented 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking variant. Going on sale here in mid-2013, these multipurpose 5-door "large" variations on the basic platform deliver increased real-world utility courtesy of their 5-passenger seating and a generous 23.1 cu-ft of stow space in the rear cargo bay.

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The new Fiat 500L is spun from a common re-engineered "small-wide" architecture that yields a platform that boasts world-class torsional rigidity and strength. For the record, it's 26.9 inches longer and 6.1 inches wider than the standard Fiat 500 hatchback -- stretches that also add about 700 pounds to its curb weight. With an additional 12.2 inches of wheelbase, the 500L boasts over 42 percent more interior volume, as well.  This more versatile iteration is fitted with a 160-horsepower version of Fiat's familiar 1.4-liter MultiAir engine that can be backed by either a 6-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed DDCT (Dual Dry Clutch Transmission) automatic.

Like the Mini Countryman, which will be a prime rival, the new Fiat 500L family puts a contemporary spin on the micro-minivan theme while still maintaining a solid visual connection with its Cinquecento donor platform. However, in this case, the 500L's bloodline can be traced all the way back to the '50s-era Fiat 600 Multipla. While the new 500L comes with 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/55 all-season rubber on the Pop, Easy and top-line Lounge models, the Trekking complements bolder fascia elements and black accenting with a 17-inch upgrade that brings 225/45 tires -- a combo that also will be available on the 500L Lounge.

Whether done in cloth or leather, the 500L's cabin reflects a more upscale appearance and features a number of unique touches in addition to bespoke trim materials for each model variant. One of the most notable additions to the mix is the availability of Chrysler's excellent Uconnect infotainment system.

Available for the first time in a Fiat product, it will offer buyers choice of a 5.0-inch or 6.5-inch touchscreen. The upline Beats by Dr. Dre premium audio package also will be part of the options roster as will the segment's largest dual-pane sunroof.

"The all-new Fiat 500L expands the reach of the Fiat brand in North America and will keep our customers within the brand as their lifestyle needs expand," said Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Brand North America - Chrysler Group LLC. "Those who love the style and performance that only the Italians can create, can now enjoy space for five, functionality, practicality and value."  As for that last item, pricing for the 2014 Fiat 500L and 500L Trekking will be announced closer to their on-sale dates. Both are expected to start somewhere in the mid-$20K range.

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