Think all Fiats are small? Check out the 2014 FIAT 500L, the “L” in its name equating to Large. A true 5-passenger, multi-purpose vehicle with as much cargo space as a compact crossover SUV, the Fiat 500L is offered in whimsical trim levels called Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. Prices start at $19,995 and top out at $29,195 with all the extras.
You might not like the way the Fiat 500L looks, but there is a degree of style applied to what is a utilitarian two-box shape. The model shown here is the 500L Easy, which includes finned 16-inch aluminum wheels that are difficult to clean, and which stick out farther than the tire sidewalls making them prone to scraping on curbs. Get the 500L Trekking model for a rugged, SUV-style look.
While the Fiat 500L might look unusual on the outside, it is conventionally laid out on the inside, with intuitive controls located where you expect to find them. The quality of the materials is impressive, too, for the most part. Note the conversation mirror at the top of the windshield. Using this, I caught Daughter #1 picking on Daughter #2 and then refusing to take responsibility. She still doesn’t know how I know.
Given the amount of space inside the Fiat 500L, these front seats could offer larger cushions with greater thigh support. They could also travel further back in their tracks, especially for the driver. Taller people with longer legs are going to feel like they’re folded up behind the steering wheel.
If you’re going for a ride in a Fiat 500L, don’t call “shotgun!” The rear seat is the best seat, and occupants sit up nice and high for an outstanding view. The seat cushion is firm and supportive with excellent thigh support, and there’s plenty of room for feet and legs. Got kids? You might want to re-think this black-and-beige interior color combination. My children left gray smudges with their shoes, especially on the front seatbacks.
A Fiat 500L can carry lots of cargo, and the 22.4 cu.-ft. trunk is seemingly designed to hold four large suitcases lined up in a row. I did have trouble stuffing a compact folding stroller into this car, though. The rear seats slide, fold, and tumble, offering a variety of configurations and a maximum cargo capacity of 68 cu.-ft. That’s as much as a Ford Escape.
A turbocharged, 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard for all Fiat 500L models, one making 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard in all versions of the car, except for the Lounge, which gets the 6-speed Euro Twin Clutch Transmission that’s optional in the Easy and Trekking. This automated manual transmission is, unfortunately, a source of constant irritation. The EPA says this test car should have returned 27 mpg in combined driving. We got 25.5 mpg, and most of the miles were on the highway.
Designed and engineered in Italy, and built in Serbia, the Fiat 500L is too new to have been assessed for quality, reliability, and dependability. Consumer Reports and J.D. Power do not give the smaller 500 model high marks in these areas.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Fiat 500L earns the top rating of “Good” in most of the organization’s assessments. The IIHS had not evaluated the 500L in the small overlap frontal-impact test as this photo gallery was published, precluding this family-sized Fiat from earning a “Top Safety Pick” for the 2014 calendar year.
In addition to a driver’s side knee airbag and blind-spot style side mirrors, the Fiat 500L Easy, Trekking, and Lounge models are offered with a free reversing camera and rear parking assist sensors…while supplies last. Once those models are sold, these safety upgrades will be optional.
In addition to a free reversing camera and rear parking assist sensors, the 2014 Fiat 500L Easy, Trekking, and Lounge models are equipped with an upgraded version of Uconnect with a 6.5-inch touch screen display and a navigation system, at no extra cost. All 500L models feature a Media Hub with a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack, complete with a rubber-lined tray for storing your smartphone.
Equipped with Uconnect Bluetooth connectivity, a Beats Audio sound system, and satellite radio, our Fiat 500L Easy test car delivered modern infotainment technology at reasonable cost. What’s missing, though, is Uconnect Access service, which includes 911 Assist and voice texting capability.
The Fiat 500L’s Uconnect navigation system is easy to use, featuring crisp graphics and intuitive operation. This is the main screen, which launches various system functions.
A reversing camera is a part of the Premiere Collection, which is free on the 500L Easy, Trekking, and Lounge during the model’s initial rollout. Once dealer supplies are gone, this upgrade will cost extra.
The Fiat 500L competes against vehicles such as the Buick Encore, Ford C-Max, Kia Soul, Mazda 5, Nissan Cube, Scion xB, and Toyota Prius v.
If you like the way the Fiat 500L looks, or you’re simply seeking something different from what everyone else drives, this remarkably roomy alternative to the status quo deserves consideration. Just make sure you take a long test drive to decide whether or not you can live with the Euro Twin Clutch Transmission’s erratic behavior.
Fiat provided the 2014 500L for this photo gallery
2014 Fiat 500L Easy photos by Christian Wardlaw