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2014 Fiat 500L Review By John Heilig +VIDEO

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2014 Fiat 500L

By John Heilig

REVIEW: 2014 Fiat 500

Model: 2014 Fiat 500L

Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged I4

Horsepower/Torque: 160hp @ 5,500 rpm/184 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Wheelbase: 102.8 in.

Length x Width x Height: 167.3 x 69.8 x 65.7 in.

Tires: P225/45R17

Cargo: 22.4/68.0 cu. ft. (behind 2nd row/behind 1st row)

Economy: 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway/25.4 mpg test

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.

Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs.

Sticker: $27,445 (includes $800 destination charge, $2,450 in options)

The Bottom Line: Adding almost two feet to the basic Fiat 500’s overall length is a definite plus with the 500L. However, sticky brakes and a noisy engine detract from the charm.

Adding a few extra inches to the miniscule Fiat 500L converts it from a mini car to a “small station wagon” or Multi-purpose wagon, according to Fiat. Well, it is small and you could consider it a wagon, but not in the class or a Chevrolet Caprice or our old Ford LTD. However, it does the job for 90 percent of carrying jobs.

Fiat has done just about everything it can to get extended use out of the base 500, much as Mini has done with its one basic model. While all the other Fiat variants are basically the 500, the 500L is a whole new animal. Adding six inches to the wheelbase and 23 inches to the overall length totally transforms the vehicle.

The 500L is more Mini-sized. It is longer than the standard 500 and has twice the doors. Driving it on the same highway as big semis does give you a bit more confidence. And with a maximum of 68.0 cubic feet of carrying capacity, it is far more useful than the original.

There are a couple of drawbacks, though. At first I thought the shifter was just a couple of inches too short. I wasn’t looking for a NASCAR-height shifter, but I would have liked it to be longer. After a while, I became accustomed to the shortness, but at first it was a bother.

Fire up the engine and it exhibits a definite overall noisiness. All the time. Sometimes a four-banger will seem to quiet down once you get going, but the 500L’s engine was always noisy.

There was more than enough power under the hood, so you can learn to live with the noise, just as you can learn to live with the shorter shifter.

What I never learned to live with, though, was the tacky brakes. Normally they’re fine. But exert just a little extra pressure on the brake pedal – like when you see a car suddenly appear with the intent of crashing into you – and the car jerks to a stop. It has this same response at traffic lights and stop signs. It got so that I was constantly aware of the brakes, when they should be invisible in a car of this size.

Ride comfort is decent with firm front seats. They did the job on longer rides in that there were no back aches after the trip. There is a tilt-up arm rest between the front seats. On winding roads there was a tendency for the 500L to lean on the front tire opposite to the direction you are turning. That’s the left front on a right turn, etc.

Watch the presentation of a special edition Fiat 500L at the LA Auto Show

The rear seats have decent knee room, another advantage to the extra length. There’s a flat floor in the rear with four assist handles to aid entry and egress.

The Beats audio system had the usual choices. On screen they were standard, with USB and AUX plugs in a small cubby at the base of the center stack.

On the same screen, the navigation system was easy to program. The screen map gave names to roads in the vicinity so you know what you were crossing. Other nav systems also do this, but the Fiat’s seemed to be done better.

The instrument panel has the speedometer on the left and tachometer on the right with an information panel in between

What distinguishes the 500L from the 500 is the presence of “wing windows.” Unlike the classic movable wing windows., these are large glass panels that are an extension of the front windshield, separated by a vertical bar. The extra vision they offer is excellent.

I’d have to rank the Fiat 500L as the best Fiat to return to American shores. With its added length and carrying capacity, it’s a completely different animal from the base Fiat 500, and, as Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”

2013 The Auto Page