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2014 Fiat 500 Review

Dec 19, 2013

Fans of the little Fiat 500 who like the Italian styled subcompact, but who feel it's just too compact, will be pleased to learn of the 500L. It's 27 inches longer, 6 inches wider, as well as 6 inches taller, and delivers an EPA Large Car size comfortable interior.

With room for five passengers and 42 percent more space with added versatility and functionality, the 2014 500L also adds two more doors and a unique greenhouse featuring 10 windows in a segment-exclusive glass from A to D pillars. That's nearly a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings. There's also a large dual-pane glass sunroof available to further enhance the panoramic views from the 500L. The 2014 Fiat 500L comes in four trim levels with a starting price of $19,100: Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge.

The 500L's lengthy silhouette features the familiar forward-sloping A-line while adding a cab-forward approach for improved visibility and an even more dynamic look. The body side lateral section features clean surfaces, flared wheel arches and chromed door handles. Filling the wheel wells are seven unique wheel designs ranging from 16 inches to a sporty 17 inches. The 500L's liftgate design features one of the segment's lowest cargo-lift heights (26.2 inches from ground), providing easier cargo loading.

The 500L draws energy from the same engine that propels the Fiat 500 Abarth --  a 1.4-liter MultiAir, 16-valve, inline turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The potent little powerplant delivers 160 horses while generating 184 lb.-ft. of torque. The front wheels receive power geared through six-speed manual or an electronically controlled Euro Twin Clutch six-speed automatic transmission.

The interior provides best-in-class front head and shoulder room, plus best-in-class rear cargo space (with back seats up) resulting in a comfortable, airy and roomy passenger compartment. Second row seats are elevated in a stadium effect. There is also a two-position cargo floor for added versatility.

I was able to drive the 2014 Fiat 500L in both Easy and Lounge trim levels, both with the Euro Twin Clutch automatic transmission. The Easy version's base sticker was $20,195 and the Lounge model came with a base price of $24,195.  I happen to love the look of the Fiat 500 Coupe and Cabrio, and the Abarth, each model adds spirited performance characteristics along with a bolder presence. My first exposure to the new Fiat 500L was at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show and initially, I was not a big admirer.

After getting an opportunity to get up close and personal with the 500L, it instantly became a no-brainer -- especially for one who appreciates Italian styling, combined with efficiency of operation and enjoyable (not to mention comfortable) to drive factor.

Acceleration is brisk, as one would expect from the same engine that moves the Abarth. The Euro Twin Clutch transmission delivers smooth, quick gear changes via the stalk, but paddle shifters would be a plus.  The ride quality is smooth and handling is positive with an on-center steering feel. There is no noticeable torque steer as with Abarth models, and the interior delivers an amazing sense of spaciousness.

I questioned executives about the lack of the Sport button for added Turbo boost found on the Abarth models, as well as the missing scintillating exhaust note. I was told that the 500L was not about focusing on race-like performance, but rather on practical, yet enjoyable transportation.

The 500L delivers comfort, efficiency, versatile functionality and more room than its stablemates, while retaining the iconic Fiat image. Despite its Abarth engine roots, it is not marketed as an Abarth model, which seems a shame in a way. Admittedly, the 500L isn't equipped with the total Abarth package, which consists of distinctive tuning for both engine and suspension. Will there be an Abarth example in the future? I would put money on it. In the meantime, if the Fiat 500 suits you, but you need more room and functionality, the 2014 Fiat 500L fills the bill. -- Arv Voss, Motor Matters

Manufacturer Photo:   Expanding on the style, efficiency and driving enjoyment that has made the Fiat 500 an icon for more than 55 years, the all-new 2014 Fiat 500L expands the 500's appeal by offering 42 percent extra interior space with comfortable seating for five, engaging driving dynamics, two fuel-saving, six-speed transmission offerings, all wrapped in contemporary Italian design.

The fuel-efficient MultiAir Turbo engine in the all-new Fiat 500L, provides class-leading standard horsepower per liter (117 hp/liter) with an output of 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. For even more driver precision and control, the Fiat 500L features a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Euro Twin Clutch transmission.

  2014 FIAT 500L EASY
  VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD small wagon
  BASE PRICE___________________ $20,195 (as tested: $25,545)
  MOTOR TYPE___________________ 16-valve turbo 4-cyl. w/SMPFI
  DISPLACEMENT_________________ 1.4-liter
  HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 160 at 5500 rpm
  TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 184 at 2500-4000 rpm
  TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
  OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 167.3 in.
  TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 32.3 ft.
  CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,254 lbs.
  FUEL CAPACITY________________ 13.2 gal.
  EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway


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