Bigger Than a Bread Box
by Jim Corbran
2014 Fiat 500L
You’re excused if you didn’t immediately recognize this week’s test car as being a Fiat. There’s slightly more of a resemblance from the frontal view, but it’s still different enough that I think Fiat should have just gone ahead and given the 500L a different name.
As I’ve said many times, looks are subjective. Nobody can really argue with someone for liking (or disliking) them. I’m on the fence with the 500L. As a member of the 500 nameplate, I give it a failing grade. The 500 coupe is a fun-looking little car, even standing still, while the 500L looks like a coupe which made too many return trips to the buffet table. However, on its own merits, the 500L resembles more than one small crossover (maybe one more so than others), and in a lineup with the competition would fit right in. It’s tall (although there’s no all- or four-wheel drive available…yet), has four doors, chunky lines, and an option list that must give fits to assembly-line planners. The test car was painted—are you ready?—Verde Bosco Perla. You may recognize it more as forest green. And on the grille? According to the internet it has a “metal-look bar.” I’m not sure if that’s a highlight or not, but there it is.
The 500L comes in four basic flavors: Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. Although the names sound hip (do people still say “hip”?), they really don’t give much of a clue as to what they mean. So here’s a quick primer.
The Pop is the base model, starting at $19,100. It’s no stripper, and comes with: 16-inch wheels, tilt and telescoping wheel, stadium seating, a/c, KONI shocks, remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, halogen lights…you get it. Everything we’ve come to expect on a car these days. The Easy ($20,195) adds such niceties as auto/dual temperature zones, floor console, leather-wrapped wheel, six premium speakers, and back-up camera, among other things. Moving up a notch to the Trekking ($21,195—which was this week’s test car from Northtown Fiat) gets you some unique front and rear fascias, fog lamps, 17-inch wheels, and premium seats (again, and other stuff); and the Lounge ($24,195) gives you an automatic transmission, chrome exterior accents, SiriusXM radio, leather-trimmed interior w/heated front seats and power lumbar adjustment.
Driving the 500L was a different experience from the 500 coupe. The car of course is bigger, and heavier, but the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine moves it along smartly (although, I thought, noisily). The test car had the six-speed manual transmission which itself was easy to operate—some six-speeds are too closely coupled, making for some embarrassing shifting maneuvers when you hit the wrong gate. My only complaint here was the armrest; maybe my elbows are too long or too pointy, but I kept hitting the armrest when moving the gear lever into second, fourth, or sixth gears. The handling was good, especially considering the car’s high center of gravity.
Inside, there’s space enough for just about any driver. Unlike the 500 coupe, the back seat is very usable; I sat back there with no problem whatsoever, and there’s enough cargo space behind the raised rear seats for most family getaways. The dash is ergonomically laid-out, with everything reachable. The audio controls are of the touch screen variety (tsk-tsk), but the HVAC controls are of the good old knob variety. Visibility to the outside was good all around, thanks to an abundance of glass
There is still an element of fun to the 500L. It’s kind of like the 500 coupe’s older, wiser brother who’s learned a lesson or two in life. Like, sometimes you need to put people in the back seat.
More info at fiatusa.com.
Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.blog comments powered by Disqus
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