Saturday, August 3, 2013

First Drive: 2014 Fiat 500L

When the Fiat 500 went on sail in mid-2011 in the United States and Canada, it marked the return of the Fiat brand to these markets. A Fiat has not been sold in these markets since 1984. In addition to the Fiat 500, the US and Canada markets would also get the 500C, 500 Abarth, 500C Abarth, and 500 Turbo. Starting in 2012, a Fiat subcompact/MPV started its production run. This new Fiat became the Fiat 500L. The Fiat 500L would be available internationally during late 2012. The UK and US markets started selling the 500L in Spring 2013. The Fiat 500L is a front engine, five-door hatchback. I got my first look at the Fiat 500L at the 2013 Houston Auto Show. During one Friday in June 2013, I took one out for a test drive. I drove one with the easy trim level and came with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters (a $1,350 option). The Fiat 500L is also available in pop (the basic trim level), trekking, and the top of the line lounge trim levels. The 500L comes with a six-speed manual transmission as standard.

On the outside, the Fiat 500L has a good exterior for a subcompact/MPV. The 500L shares some front facial features with the standard Fiat 500 grill and headlights on the bumper. The front bumper for the Fiat 500L extends out, past the grill. The 500L also features some nice lines going along the side of the car. It is not sporty, but the 500L is not a sports car. The 500L has a nice interior to it. I drove one with the easy package. That includes navigation, an excess speed alert, back-up camera, bluetooth functions, and media hub that includes a USB port. It is also very open and roomy. I was sitting in the back of one on a showroom floor and I had plenty of headroom and legroom in the rear. I was very comfortable behind the seat. The driver seat was comfortable. I had very good headroom and good legroom behind the wheel. What I like about the 500L is the visibility inside the car. It just feels open and not much is blocking your view when you are seeing nearby cars on the road.

The Fiat 500L is powered by a turbocharged 1.4L I4 engine that produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and reaches a top speed of 120 mph. The Fiat 500L has adequate acceleration and good top speed, especially for a subcompact car. The 500L has a smooth ride quality. It drove nicely on the Houston roads and freeways. It was also very quiet inside the car. But most of all, this is a fun car to drive. Prices for the Fiat 500L starts at $19,990, which also includes a $800 destination charge. The price of the 500L I test drove was $22,345, including a $800 destination charge.

Overall, this is a good car. It gets adequate power from the turbocharged 1.4L engine that came fromt he Fiat 500 Abarth. It has adequate acceleration. It also has a good top speed, especially for a subcompact/MPV. It has a smooth, quiet ride. The car is very roomy. It has great visibility. For the price, you get comfort, a good interior, good styling for a subcompact/MPV, a good ride, and adequate performance. Most of all, this car is fun to drive. At first I was skeptical about this car. When I first saw it, I was not impressed. I feared that Fiat would use the 101 hp engine found in the standard Fiat 500. But that fear was gone when I found that this has the Fiat 500 Abarth engine. I am glad that Fiat went with the Abarth engine. It is a perfect match for the 500L. Fiat did not make the same mistake Mini/BMW made with the Countryman. The Mini Cooper Countryman used the same engine found in the standard Mini Cooper Hardtop, which really hurt the Mini Cooper. When you make a larger version of a car and keep the same engine, the performance of the larger vehicle suffers. Good job for Fiat for not making that mistake with the 500L. After driving both the Fiat 500C and Fiat 500L, I hope to see more Fiat models make it to the United States.

Photo was taken by a camera phone.
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