Review: The 2014 Fiat 500L

DSCN3791The Italians started out to make a larger Fiat 500 for a larger American market, and the 500L is the result.

They’ve added two more doors, more wheelbase, shaved 50 lbs., and found more cargo space.  They’ve even given it the peppy 1.4L Multiair Turbo engine from the Fiat 500 Abarth.  Yet for all of that, the Fiat 500L is a car with an identity crisis.

It can’t decide if it’s trying to be a small, fuel-efficient economy car or if it’s more of an attempt at a mid-size sports sedan. In the end though, it’s neither.

Small, fuel-efficient economy cars do not generally retail at $27,445, which is where my Lounge trim level tester is priced.  That’s more the price range of an entry-level sports car, like the Ford Focus ST. The 500L also tops out at 33mpg highway, a fairly unimpressive statistic given a wide range of better options.

But the 500L isn’t a small Italian sports car that sacrifices fuel economy for the rip-roaring fun of high horsepower and loads of twist.  The 1.4 liter MultiAir turbo engine only makes 160 horsepower, which is an adequate amount of power.  Again, the, Ford Focus ST is priced just a couple thousand dollars higher, but comes with 252 horsepower, or 92 more than the 500L’s MultiAir turbo engine. Still, I love this engine in the Fiat 500 Abarth, though the 500L is no Abarth, that’s for sure.

The interior space in the 500L is impressive, where the regular 500’s backseat is a joke; while it will hold two child safety seats, it makes the driving position incredibly uncomfortable.  The 500L holds both child seats and has enough room for the driver to fit comfortably, a marked improvement over the standard 500.  The driver’s position feels like they’ve used Time Lord technology (“It’s bigger on the inside!”).  The rear seat can also be moved forward to create more cargo capacity.

Yet at the end of the day, I would not shop a Lounge trim level of this car.  It’s just too much money for what you get.  The Pop trim level starts at $19,100, and the customer gets the same 1.4L engine and a manual transmission. You can add in an automatic for just $1,000 more, and I’m much more comfortable with that price range for the 500L.Still, it’s hard not to argue for some of the cheaper, more fuel-efficient competitors.

Base Price: $19,100

As Driven: $27,445

Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged 4-cylinder, 160 horsepower

Transmission: 6-speed Shiftable Automatic

Wheelbase: 102.8 inches

Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs.

MPG Rating: 24 city/ 33 highway (premium recommended)

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.