2015 500L New Car Test Drive
There's no doubt the all-new 2014 Fiat 500L will turn heads. The second model to debut since Fiat re-launched in North America, the five-seat 500L boasts stylish Euro design at an attainable price. And unlike the original Fiat 500 which some may dismiss as too tiny, the Fiat 500L boasts cavernous passenger and cargo space, while maintaining a compact footprint and signature Fiat looks.
Built on an all-new platform, the body of the 2014 Fiat 500L shares no common parts with the Fiat 500, yet the family resemblance is clear. Fiat designers say the L in the 500L stands for Loft, and the wagon's spacious, upright design was meant to mimic the high ceilings and artsy vibe found in urban live/work units. Square and rectangular shapes with rounded corners can be found everywhere, from the steering wheel to the taillights.
Compared with the original Fiat 500, the 500L is nearly two feet longer, six inches wider, and six inches taller. Aside from being bigger, the 500L is distinguishable from its smaller predecessor by its stretched-back, oval headlamp housings and its three-piece panoramic windshield. Four versions of the 2014 Fiat 500L are available: Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. Trekking models have a unique, toothy front grille, as well as different bumpers and side moldings, giving it a rugged look.
All models are powered by a 1.4-liter Multi-Air turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the same found in the sporty Fiat 500 Abarth. It makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Gearbox choices include a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed Euro twin-clutch transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 24/33 mpg City/Highway with the twin-clutch gearbox. Fiat said a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission will be available.
Spaciousness inside the Fiat 500L is surprising. On the road, the wagon looks relatively compact. Yet inside, the feeling is open and airy, ideal for drivers who feel constricted in smaller wagons and crossovers. However, those who prefer a cabin that envelops its occupants may feel a bit lost in the interior of the 500L, as if they're sloshing around with room to spare.
Standard features on the Fiat 500L are pretty basic, but look for special deals on a package with navigation, rearview camera and rear park assist.
Cargo space is plentiful with 21.3 cubic feet with all seats in place, and much more with the rear seats folded down, making it the roomiest in its class. The rear seats do not automatically fold flush with the rear cargo area, but the cargo floor can be raised to make a completely flat surface.
On the road, the 2014 Fiat 500L offers ample power for everyday driving. The turbocharged engine provides enough oomph for lane changes and uphill climbs. Suspension is firm but not teeth-chattering, and the car stays composed around corners, unless pushed hard. Not everyone will like the feel of the Euro twin-clutch transmission, but it's a good alternative for those who don't want to row through the gears, especially since the point of engagement on the clutch pedal is unusually high on cars equipped with the manual gearbox.
Competitors to the Fiat 500L include other small wagons like the Mini Countryman, which offers its own unique styling and the cachet of the Mini brand, but at a higher price, and boxy, compact utility vehicles like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. For those willing to live with a few idiosyncrasies, the 2014 Fiat 500L is a good alternative for those who want space and practicality in a distinctive package.
The 2014 Fiat 500L comes in four trim levels. All are powered by the same 1.4-liter Multi-Air turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed Euro twin-clutch transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 24/33 mpg City/Highway with the twin-clutch gearbox.
Fiat 500L Pop ($19,100) comes with fabric upholstery, manually operated air conditioning, manually adjustable seats with driver and passenger height adjustment, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, power windows, remote keyless entry, trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, the a six-speaker audio system with Fiat's Uconnect interface, a USB port, auxiliary audio jack, heated power outside mirrors, rear window wiper and 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers; a 6-speed automatic is standard. The Euro twin-clutch transmission ($1,350) is optional.
Fiat 500L Easy ($20,195) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and front and rear. Wheels are 16-inch aluminum. Options include a Preferred Package ($700) which adds dual-zone automatic climate control, power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 115-volt power adapter and rear seat armrest with cup holder; a power sunroof ($950), heated front seats ($350) and a contrast-colored painted roof ($500). The Easy Premier Package plus Beats Audio ($700) comes with a premium 6-speaker audio system with subwoofer, SiriusXM satellite radio with 1-year subscription.
Fiat 500L Trekking ($21,195) gets premium cloth bucket seats, unique interior and exterior trim, floor mats, and 17-inch aluminum wheels with wider 225/45R17 all-season tires.
Fiat 500L Lounge ($24,195) comes standard with the Euro-twin clutch transmission plus automatic dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, four-way power adjustable driver's seat with lumbar, 60/40-split folding rear seats with fore-aft adjustment and a recline and tumble feature; integrated armrest with cup holders, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass, fog lamps, chrome body trim and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
A Premier Package ($1,745) for Easy, Trekking and Lounge models includes an upgraded 6.5-inch touchscreen with navigation, rear back-up camera and rear park assist.
Safety features on all models includes multistage front airbags, front seat- mounted side airbags, side-curtain front airbags, driver's knee airbag, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control, hill start assist. Rear park assist and a rearview camera are optional.