The 2014 Fiat 500L is all-new and is the first generation of the model. Fans of the brand, however, will recognize that the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine comes straight from the Fiat 500 Abarth hot hatch...
The 2014 Fiat 500L is the second model line in Fiat's U.S. portfolio. Although the Italian brand offers numerous different models overseas, it started here with just the diminutive 500 hatchback and convertible. Despite sharing the 500 moniker and similar design cues, the 500 and the 500L share almost no engineering and mechanicals. That said, the concept of a larger Cinquecento variant more adept at ferrying people and stuff isn't new. Even before the introduction of the original 500 in 1957, Fiat's lineup included the 600 Multipla minibus. That original Multipla had the same essence as the new Fiat 500L: a Cinquecento with more space for those who need it.
The design of the 2014 Fiat 500L was equally as inspired by the Cinquecento lineage as it was by the 600 Multipla and the late-1990s Multipla. The more recent Multipla debuted with strange, two-tier styling, a bulbous greenhouse, and lights mounted at the base of the A-pillars, although it eventually underwent a face-lift that toned down the styling. The Fiat 500L looks like it could be the follow-up to the 1998-2010 Multipla. It has a similar short nose, long and raked windshield, and large glass area. Like previous Multiplas, there's an excellent use of interior space despite a small exterior footprint.
With the 2014 Fiat 500L, the brand is looking to capitalize on its chic and cheeky 500 microcar and appeal to folks who were shut out from the Italian hatchback due to its small size. The 500L rides on Fiat's new "Small U.S. Wide" platform, which is an enlarged version of the underpinnings from the Europe-only Grande Punto compact hatch. Powering the Fiat 500L is a 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4 sourced from the sporty 500 Abarth; in the 500L, the turbo four-cylinder is rated for 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options both offer six speeds -- a manual gearbox is standard, while a dual-clutch automatic (called the Euro Twin Clutch) is a $1350 standalone option. Fiat has promised that a traditional six-speed automatic is in the works for the beginning of 2014. We prefer the manual transmission, as the dual-clutch shifts clunkily and is slow to respond to inputs; the manual has long throws and the clutch is overly light, but it feels distinctly European and helps make the most of the 1.4-liter's power. Buyers looking for a fun, funky compact people mover who don't mind giving up some dynamic capability for an all-around more usable package may find the Fiat 500L to be the best in its class.
While the powertrain won't wow most drivers, the cabin will. The design is a bit staid -- especially when compared to the expressive exterior design -- but Fiat's engineers have added glass panels to help enhance visibility around the pillars. Add a full-length glass sunroof (a $950 option on all but the base Pop model), and the cabin feels almost convertible-like, minus the wind-in-your-hair experience. Combine that with a seating position that's higher than most cars but lower than an SUV, and the Fiat 500L has great views in all directions. The cabin is light, airy, and open, which is a welcome foil to the competition's dark and encapsulating interiors. With 21.3 cubic feet of cargo space, the Fiat 500L also has more room behind the rear seats than its competition from Kia, Mini, Nissan, and Scion.
- Kia Soul
- Mini Cooper Countryman
- Nissan Cube
- Scion xB