The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

HEELS ON WHEELS: 2014 FIAT 500L REVIEW


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Fiat 500L



HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE FIAT 500 VEHICLE
The reintroduced Fiat 500 features unique European styling, an affordable price – and with the all-new 500L – four doors and two additional feet of length for a compact wagonette now toting workable cargo and passenger space dimensions.

I drove a 2014 Fiat 500L with the only available engine, a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir engine boasting 160 ponies and paired to a six-speed Euro twin clutch automatic transmission. Available in four trims – the base Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge – my Trekking test drive came with the following standards: Uconnect telematics system; Bluetooth; leather-wrapped steering wheels with controls; USB and auxiliary jacks; seventeen-inch wheels; fog lamps; and unique fascia and trim. Without options, total vehicle price as described came to $21,395.

The Fiat 500L is an all-new model, a welcomed addition to the lineup due to its extended length. Competitors include the MINI Countryman, Nissan Juke and Kia Soul.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: Fit-and-finish has its highlights and downsides – the center console and dash design is stylish and intuitive, while interior materials boarder on subpar (faux-chrome dials and knobs). Inside the standard Fiat 500, dimensions are large enough to hold a car seat with some cargo room; but it’s a cabin focused on comfort for the front passengers. Yet sit inside the Fiat 500L and taking a backseat not such a chore, especially with a four-door system. My test drive also featured several equipment groups, like a $700 Popular Equipment Group (dual-zone climate controls, lumbar adjustments for driver, rear seat armrest with cup holder); the $1,350 upgraded automatic twin clutch; a $1,100 sunroof; $350 heated seats; and a $1,745 Premium Package (6.5-inch touchscreen, rearview backup camera, park assist, and navigation).

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2014 Fiat 500L earned ratings of “Good” in all areas but small overlap front, which was labeled “Poor” by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Just out their website if you want to see what that looks like as they now post photos of the cars tested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the model year. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, hill-start assist, electronic stability control, child seat anchor system, and an advanced airbag system.

Cost Issues: The 2014 Fiat 500L base Pop trim starts at $19,195. My Trekking test drive reached $26,045. Just to feel out some other prices and sizes, the small-sized Nissan Rogue starts at $22,490; the base 2014 Volkswagen Beetle Coupe at $20,295; and the Ford Fiesta S sedan at $14,100.

Activity & Performance Ability: With an automatic Euro twin clutch transmission, basically you get the same expertly timed shifting that would with a manual but without the hassle of a third pedal. This helped the Fiat 500L retain a sporty attitude, as did the lightweight build of the Fiat – making that160-horsepower engine feel sprightly. Although quick to respond, the powertrain did show its limits under hard acceleration and the brakes were rather grabby.

The Green Concern: The Fiat 500L gets an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24-city and 33-highway for a combined 27 miles-per-gallon. This can be concerning when you realize a small crossover like the Honda CR-V or Hyundai Tucson can deliver around 25-combined with all-wheel drive (and 26-combined without). Keep in mind the Fiat 500 with a 101-horspower 1.4-liter gets 30 miles-per-gallon city and 38 highway for a combined 33.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2014 Fiat 500L extends its Italian charm several feet and adds four-door practicality to a hatchback that is equally cute and functional. You won’t get the same handling of a sportier compact or the cargo space of a smaller crossover; yet the Fiat 500L does have a stronghold in the compact market.

©2014 Katrina Ramser