The Truth About Cars » fiat 500L The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » fiat 500L Rental Review: 2014 Fiat 500L “Easy” FWD Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:00:32 +0000 20140615_195842

“Cheap and cheerful.” It’s a phrase the Brit mags like to use all the time to describe poverty-priced cars that attempt to use design and color to mask their humble aspirations. Think Scion xB compared to Toyota Tercel — but nobody does the C&C music factory like the Europeans. The original Twingo set the template, but it’s had many a riff played on it since then.

Now we have a cheap-and-cheerful from a Euro manufacturer, built in Serbia, with as much design and flair as you can stand. Whether it’s the worst car for sale in America or one of the best depends entirely on how cheerful you need your cheap to be.


We’re reviewing a Kia Soul in these pages today, so it was both lucky and good than I rented one for last weekend’s WRL race at Texas World Speedway. I have )plenty of experience driving a Kia Soul in Houston. No, wait, I meant to post this review, the other one is fiction. In any event, the Soul also pretends to be cheap-and-cheerful. I say “pretends” because it isn’t really that cheap anymore and it’s approaching respectability in its design and execution. The deal Kia is currently making with the American public is this: you pay about what you’d pay for a Honda, give or take a bit, and we’ll throw in some warranty and some Audi-derived flair to help you get over the brand stigma. (Yes, I know who designs Kias now — Peter Schreyer.)

The 500L, on the other hand — well, when I first sat in the thing at the Hertz office I couldn’t believe what an utter piece of shit it was. Like a Toyota Corolla and about everything else nowadays, it has a three-rotating-ring climate control system. Unlike with the Toyota, however, in this car the rings wobble. They’re so loose I worried that they would fall off. Adjusting the driver’s seat gave me another case of the wobbles — the hollow-molded handles to adjust the seatback and height gave no sensation of being firmly attached to anything at all. The handbrake was bizarrely shaped and the flash lines from the plastic molding were sharply evident. There are no manual door lock actuators on the doors themselves. That would cost money. The shifter found “D” with a very Italian vagueness.

And then the engine quit.

For at least five seconds, I just sat there with my mouth open. As someone who races a variety of Lemons-spec cars across the country and who once owned a MA href=””>1980 Mercury Marquis, I am no stranger to the phenomenon known as “failure to proceed”, but in a 2014-model automobile with 4000 miles on the clock?

I re-selected Park, twisted the switchblade key in the ignition, and the car caught before dying yet again!

A third time was the charm, but throughout the weekend, the Fiat would often indicate it’s reluctance to run in the ninety-five-degree Texas weather by cutting out once or twice when started cold, always starting by the third try. Okay. We’re rolling. Time to take a look around.

Although the 500L shares nothing with the infamous Multipla wide-body CUV, the long dashboard, multiple fishbowl windows in front of the driver, and the general turret-toppedness of the thing make it hard to believe such is the case. Really, it’s a relative of the upcoming Renegade. Think Caliber to the Patriot and you’ll have the idea, sort of. There’s a lot of glass, some of it wavy, and it’s all pretty far away from you in all directions. You want Euro? You got it. This is how our nominal superiors on the Continent imagine high-seat cars, as compared to something like a modern Tahoe where you get the cockpit of an Impala mounted to the frame of an Iowa-class in an arrangement that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a Star Destroyer.

I slapped the thing into Drive again and noticed that, as is also a Euro market practice, the red-LCD display between the dials showed which gear I’d selected. This is a nice feature, one I remember with pleasure from my Phaetons. You get “D4″ or “D6″ or “D1″ instead of “D”. If you don’t like being surprised by shifting, it’s good to have. It’s also useful because when you’re low-speed cruising through town you can accurately estimate whether you’ll need to press for kickdown in order to make a move in traffic. Already in third? Probably okay. If the transmission has drifted up to fifth, you’d better ask for a shift.

Particularly if, as is the case here, you’re asking 1.4L of light-pressured turbocharged four-cylinder to motivate 3,203 pounds with just 160 horsepower. The Fiat 500L will never be confused with an acceptably rapid automobile and such is its lassitude that even I, who just got a six-point speeding ticket in another turbocharged Euro-mobile last week, frequently found myself dawdling along at 65mph on the 75mph Texas freeways. It’s clearly never in a hurry. The good news is that the engine’s relatively flat torque curve approximates a big-cube four-banger like the Chrysler 2.4 pretty well and it’s never dangerous in a merging situation. Hilariously, the twin-clutch transmission allows the thing to “brap” a bit when it’s in a hurry, just like a GTI. Again, you want Euro, you got it.

How’s it handle? It definitely does. My plans to take it around Texas World Speedway were canceled because my flight arrived late-ish and therefore I couldn’t get both this and the car I was actually going to race around the course in the allotted time, but hey, on the street it’s dynamically competent. To some degree, the 500L’s abilities in the steer-stop department are masked by the form factor and the seating. If you had a car that put up these same numbers but sat you on the ground in the manner of, say, a previous-generation Civic, you’d be quite pleased. It’s just that being up in the fishbowl makes the whole enterprise seem a bit stupid. I’m pretty sure this thing would dust most CUVs around a track, if you really wanted to make it happen.
As befits a “Fiatsler” product, the 500L has a uConnect center screen. Right now, if you buy one from dealer stock, you’ll get a better uConnect than this one, free of charge, and it will include navigation. This one’s okay, however, offering the same virtues you get in a 300C. (Incidentally, I am the only major TTAC contributor who doesn’t think uConnect is better than MyFordTouch, so take this with a grain of salt.) It was a little picky about reconnecting to my Galaxy upon startup, but overall the Bluetooth integration was solid. The sound quality was less so. Not a lot of juice in the amp.

Cargo and passenger space, as you’d expect, is excellent and from my experience it matches what’s available elsewhere in the segment. The rear seats are as comfortable as the fronts, which is to say pretty good and supportive over long drives. I covered nearly 800 miles in three days during my drive, having to fold my fractured frame into a couple of Kirkey race seats in the intervals between trips, and I was never in any pain or discomfort. It’s a good way to travel. The A/C, despite feeling desperately flimsy in operation, was up to the demands of cooling this very glazing-intensive car in Texas heat.

Overall, the 500L appears to be a very nice design put together in completely slipshod fashion. I was prepared to give it a bit of a diss-track review. The lousy quality and will-it-run business made it easily the worst car I’ve rented this year or last, in plain functional terms. As I was preparing my notes, however, I took the time to build my test vehicle in FIAT’s configuator.

This, as the say, changed everything.

Equipped as my “Easy” DCT model was, net price before discounts was $21,095. Which means out the door for under twenty grand. Were I willing to take a six-speed manual transmission over the DCT — would I be? You think so? — the net-net would be mid-nineteen grand. Compare that to a Honda CR-V EX with similar equipment at $25,320 or a Ford Escape at what is probably, given that company’s current pricing strategy, $118,255. For that money, I’d get navigation and a suite of other upgrades if I took it from dealer stock, which makes the real price gap between this and the competition an easy seven grand.

Cheap indeed.

At that price, I’ve changed my mind. If you can trade build quality away for a double helping of design whimsy, and you’d like to save something like thirty percent of the purchase price, the 500L is recommended with reservations. And those reservations are: you didn’t pay Honda money, it doesn’t look like the God-awful CR-V, don’t expect it to run forever with no problems. You say you want a Euro car? You got it. Just remember that it’s not Japanese.


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Fiat Punto to Be Axed, $13.2 billion Spent On 20 New Models Over Next 3 Years Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:30:48 +0000 Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Sources tell Bloomberg News that Fiat Spa will spend as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) over the next three years developing new models for for the European market. The Italian automaker hopes the strategy will end losses on the continent and restore drastically underutilized Italian factories to profitability. Many of the new models will be based on either the Fiat 500 subcompact or the small, low cost Panda.  A five door version of the 500 will replace the Punto. The Punto, last restyled in 2005, has long been a fixture in Fiat showrooms and as recently as 2007 it accounted for almost a third of the Fiat brand’s sales in Europe.

Though Fiat wants to use its Italian factories better, the Punto’s replacement will be built in Poland to save on costs. Sergio Marchionne believes that “made in Italy” works with upscale brands like Maserati and Alfa Romeo. The upcoming Maserati Levante SUV will be made in Fiat’s Mirafiori factory.

Not able to access the profits that Chrysler is banking because it’s not wholly owned by Fiat yet, Marchionne must find a way to staunch the parent brand’s bleeding red ink in Europe. Fiat has previously announced that it hopes to develop about 20 new models for Europe by 2016, including eight Alfa Romeos. Some of those cars are a 500 based SUV along with Italian made Jeeps to be introduced alongside the open version of Alfa’s 4C sports car.

Fiat has lost market share in Europe for the past four years, with deliveries dropping 47% over that period and market share going form 9.3% to 6.2%. The Italian automaker has had almost 2 billion euros in operating losses since 2011, including over 300 million euros in loses for the first three quarters of 2013.

Many of Fiat’s 30,700 production workers in Italy have been furloughed this year, most of them for more than five months.

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That “Small SUV” Coming From Chrysler Will Be A B-Segment Jeep Crossover Tue, 24 Sep 2013 15:40:30 +0000 Fiat500LTrekking-450x337

Much has been made over the one future product announcement in Chrysler’s IPO filing. Apparently, it will be a an SUV based off of the Small Wide platform. A bit of detective work can help us figure out what it will be.

Small Wide currently underpins the Fiat 500L and we were told that there would be more B-Segment cars coming. At the presentation for the 500L’s launch, we were shown a diagram showing a “modular” section right where the rear differential would be, suggesting that all-wheel drive is a possibility in future Small Wide products. When pressed, Chrysler and Fiat staff trotted out the usual “can’t discuss future product” tropes, but suggested that the flexibility was built in for that precise reason.

With that in mind, it seems that a Jeep B-Segment crossover is the most obvious candidate. Small crossovers are booming across the world, and Jeep is eager to expand into global markets where it currently doesn’t have a big presence. Small Wide offers the right packaging for world markets, while an all-wheel drive system is more than adequate for the kind of driving that a B-Segment Jeep will see (i.e. not the Rubicon). This will strictly be an “image” car for Europeans who want to Jeep aesthetic but not the capabilities of a true off-roader. Don’t discount the possibility of a front-drive only version either. The front-drive only 500L Trekking is a pretty good preview of what that will be like.

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Review: 2014 Fiat 500L (With Video) Fri, 06 Sep 2013 21:15:12 +0000 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-008

I have to admit, I’m a fan of the Fiat 500. Yes, I know it’s just a Fiat Panda with bubbly sheetmetal. Yes I know it’s a little peculiar. Yes I know it’s trying to ride on MINI success. It doesn’t matter, the wee Fiat makes me grin every time I drive one. Whether it’s the slow-as-dirt standard 500, the ludicrously loud Abarth, the almost-convertible 500c or the totally impractical 500e, the Cinquecento knows how to brighten my day. I was therefore excited when Fiat announced the 500′s success would spawn a four door stable-mate for 2014.  Is the 500L 40% more smiles for 20% more cash?

Click here to view the embedded video.


When I first saw the 500L at the Chicago Auto Show, I tried to keep an open mind about the exterior styling. The perfectly orchestrated lighting, booth babes and a free cappuccino mug certainly helped distract from the car’s lines. Once I had the super-sized 500 parked in the grocery store parking lot under the harsh California sun, my opinion was set. Something is wrong with the 500L.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

On the face of things, a larger 500 sounds like a great idea, I love the way the new 500 looks. The problem is: the 500L is not a stretched 500. Instead, the L is an entirely different car riding on a completely unrelated architecture co-designed by Fiat and Opel. The result is a 500 that got stung by a bee, not a 500 Xeroxed with the enlarge setting at 140%. I don’t think the 500L is hideous, it’s just awkward. Like a slightly overweight person in skinny jeans and a tube top.

If you want a 500L that looks slightly more rugged, the Trekking model gets a tweaked bumper cover featuring more black plastic. Apparently black plastic tells others you’re an outdoor sports person. The side profile is dominated by slab sides and an unusual A and B pillar location. If you can’t tell from the picture above, check out the one below. The A pillar and B pillar are up by the dashboard allowing the windshield to be pushed out towards the front of the car, improving interior room but creating a style that is far from common in America. If I might proffer an opinion: I think going for a 1950′s wrap-around-bubble windshield would have been more unique and more harmonious. Out back the 500′s raked hatchback style is out, replaced by a more practical vertical hatch. I realize that style is subjective so, so I’ll end this section by soliciting your opinion in the comment section. Ready? Set. Flame!

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


While the funky styling on the outside turned my nose up, the Euro-funk on the inside whet my appetite in a strange sort of way. (Kind of like admitting you eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and aren’t pregnant.) Cars in America are so cookie-cutter these days with every car company pulling from the same pool of suppliers are parts that the 500L stands out. In addition to switch gear you won’t find in a Ford or Toyota, the overall style is refreshingly different. Our 500L Lounge tester had the optional pleather dash in a faux-marble pattern that is on the one hand unique and the other a little strange. From the seat design to the parking brake handle and the steering wheel to the air vents, the 500L is just a little different. If you like breaking from the herd, this interior is for you.

Front seat comfort was acceptable for a car in the 500L’s price range ($19,100-$27,895) but could have been better. Part of this is because our Lounge model was a pre-production vehicle and did not have the four-way power lumbar support that is normally standard on Lounge models and optional on Easy and Trekking. I was unable to locate a 500L with the optional lumbar support so keep that in mind. Power seats are not available at any price and the manual adjustment range of motion is more limited than I had expected, but Fiat did go the extra mile and give the same height adjustment levers to the front passenger seat. The 500L’s chunky leather wrapped steering wheel and well placed controls have a premium feel to them you don’t normally find in this price range.

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L.Dykes

Logically the 500L exists to give 500 shoppers an alternative that can seat 5 and schlep more widgets. Indeed, the rear bench has three belts, is split 60/40, adjusted fore/aft and folded/flipped forward to increase cargo capacity from 21 cubes to 64 cubes. (The front passenger seat also folds flat.) Unfortunately our model was had the panoramic sunroof, a trendy $950 option. Why is that unfortunate? Two reasons. The sunroof drops the ceiling low enough that my head brushed the ceiling and I’m only 6-feet tall. The other problem is the perforated cloth sunshade. It sieves the light rather than blocking it. This didn’t seem like a problem at first, but on a 98 degree day having my head baking and my face freezing lead to a headache that wouldn’t have happened in anything other than a convertible. Except in a convertible I could have put the lid back on. Phoenix shoppers beware. It is now that I should point out I had a passenger who thought this was the best feature ever. I think her head has been in the sun too long.

Americans love cupholders because we love fast food as much as we love fast cars. This is one cultural difference that even European car companies that have been in America for decades continue to get wrong. (I’m lookin’ at you BMW.) If you’re considering a 500L as a family car, there’s a serious deficiency you should know about: the 500L has three cup holders. That’s two less than the car’s occupancy, one less than the American bare-minimum standard and three less than ideal. Yes, the cup holder that slides out of the rear armrest is sturdy. Yes it can handle a 42oz McCokePepsiDew from the drive-thru. But there is only one. Fiat kindly includes a bottle holder in each of the 500L’s doors but tells you to never put a drink without a screw cap in them. Holding your Big Gulp between your knees may be acceptable in Italy, but in suburban America it is grounds for mutiny. Trust me, I found out the hard way.

 2014 Fiat 500L


The 500L is the first Fiat to use Chrysler’s uConnect Infotainment system. (Yes, I am discounting the re-badged Fiat and Lancia models.) Because the 8-inch system found in most Chrysler vehicles wouldn’t fit the dash, a 5-inch system is used in base models while most seem to get the 6.5-inch unit. Both systems carry the uConnect name but the 5-inch system runs an embedded version of Microsoft Windows ala MyFord Touch and the 6.5-inch system runs on the same QNX operating system as other uConnect systems (and Blackberry phones.)

Despite running a different OS, the 5-inch system looks and feels very similar to the other uConnect devices and it follows Chrysler and Fiat’s new direction in infotainment: no standard CD player. Like the RAM trucks and new Jeeps, you can pay $190 for an optical drive but it will be located somewhere other than in the dash. Fiat has said the 5-inch system can also be upgraded to include GPS navigation but details remain sketchy.  If you’ve seen the 8-inch system, you’ll be right at home with the 6.5-inch version. I assumed initially that the reduced screen real estate would be an issue for my inner-nerd, but I was mistaken. The reason is that Fiat moved the permanent on-screen button bank to a row of physical buttons below the screen making the useable area almost as large as its bigger brother. If you want the infotainment deep dive, check out the video. I was unable to discern a difference between the standard 6 speaker system on the 500L Pop and the “premium” system found on the other models. I did however find the 6-speaker Beats branded system to have a strange balance with exaggerated bass and muted mid range.

2014 Fiat 500L Engine, Fiat Multi-Air, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


In many world markets, popping the hood of the 500L will reveal a 0.9L two-cylinder engine good for 79 ponies. Clearly this would have taken “Euro-funky” to a level Americans would never accept. In an interesting twist, Fiat skipped over their 1.4L 135HP turbo and gave the 500L some Abarth love the form of their 160 horsepower 1.4L MultiAir turbo. In a move that may make Abarth owners feel left out, Fiat tweaked the small four again, bumping torque from 170 ft-lbs to 184. Thanks to the MultiAir system, the turbo’s 18psi (maximum) of boost can still be enjoyed with 87 octane.

Further upsetting Abarth owners is the fact that this engine is mated to a 6-speed manual or a quick-shifting 6-speed dual clutch transmission. Unlike most of the dual-clutch units out there, Fiat’s “Euro Twin Clutch” transmission uses dry clutches rather than wet clutches as seen in VW’s original 6-speed DSG. Cost and complexity are the main reasons for the dry clutches, however shift quality is not quite up to VW’s standards as a result. Another interesting side effect of the dry clutches is driving at slow speeds, especially on sloping roads, can heat up the clutch pack enough you can smell it.

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Based on the 500L’s proportions you might be temped to think it handles like a giant marshmallow. You’d be wrong. At 3,200lbs (with the dual-clutch) the 500L is [relatively] light and thanks to the chassis stamping, the center of gravity is low. Toss in some Italian engineering and the optional 225/45R17 tires (205/55R16s are standard on all models except Trekking) and the 500L is surprisingly agile on the road. I spent a few hours behind the wheel of the base Pop model with the 6-speed manual and the 205-width rubber and came away fairly impressed even in stripper form. The 500L with the optional rubber easily out-grips the Buick Encore and Kia Soul, but if corner carving in your almost-crossover is your style, the Countryman has higher limits and better feel.

Fiat uses a modern electric power steering system in the 500L so that means we can skip steering feel for other topics at hand. Tossing the 500L into corners produces less body roll than you might imagine and the chassis is tuned to the stiffer side of this segment. The 500L’s cabin is considerably quieter than the Soul or the Countryman but not as quiet as Buick’s crossover.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Headlamps, Piicture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 6-speed manual transmission has an excellent feel, moderately long throws and a linear, but slightly spongy clutch. The shifter feel is reminiscent of the smaller 500 Abarth except the 500L gains an all important 6th gear and looes the incessant drone designed into the Abarth’s exhaust. The extra cog helps the 500L achieve a very respectable 25/33/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) EPA score which is three city and one highway MPG lower than the Abarth. Adding the dual clutch tranny drops the city and combined number by one MPG to 24/33/27. In a week of mixed driving and hill climbing I averaged an impressive 28.9MPG, several shy of the Buick Encore but 4MPG ahead of the Mini Countryman S.

Opinions on Fiat’s dual-clutch transmission are likely to be as mixed as the exterior design. The 6-speed unit has all the benefits and flaws of every other dual clutch robotic manual on the market. Because this is a manual transmission at heart, there is no torque converter. If you understand what’s going on inside the transmission, the behavior makes sense. If you’re passengers aren’t “car people” they will ask: “dude, what’s wrong with your car?” The reason is: the 500L drives like a someone driving a manual. Takes offs have a hint of clutch slip and then an engagement point, this is especially obvious in slow driving where the car is almost constantly slipping the clutch. The 500L gets hill hold assist, but if the incline is shallow, you’re pointing down hill, or you wait too long to press the accelerator, the 500L will roll. On the up side, the transmission’s shifts are fast and crisp and the Fiat unit is just as eager to downshift as it is to up-shift making it a decent companion on mountain roads.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Pricing & Competition

Ah, the bugaboo of every review. Any car can seem like a slam dunk in a vacuum (I’m thinking LS 600hL) but pricing makes the deal. With a spread from $19,100 to $27,895 (without destination), the 500L’s pricing spread isn’t out of the ordinary, but what else competes with the super-sized Fiat? I suppose you could call the $14,700-$23,400 Kia Soul competition, but are they really the same thing? It may not handle as well, be as quiet on the inside or get the same fuel economy as the 500L, but it’s about $4,000 cheaper. That’s a significant difference.

On the other side of the spectrum we have the Buick Encore and Mini Countryman Cooper S. Both the Buick and the Mini seem like better competition thanks to their turbocharged engines, mini SUV looks and more premium brand image. The Buick and Mini both have AWD options which is something to keep in mind, but the majority of their sales are FWD so the comparison is valid.  The Buick is over $3,000 more expensive and not as powerful, but it does deliver at least $3,000 worth of interior refinements in my opinion. The Mini on the other hand fails the value proposition costing $8,000-$9,000 more than the Fiat depending on the options. I’d like to say the Mini makes up for the difference, but I’d be lying. Yes the Mini does have better road manners and I like their version of BMW’s iDrive, but the difference isn’t worth the price especially when Mini continues to use some crazy cheap plastics in their cabins.

The 500L is certainly 40% more Fiat for 20% more cash, but the size increase exacts a 50% toll on the cuteness factor and a 20% reduction in fun. Once that math is done, you’re left with the Kia being cheaper, the Encore doing almost everything better and the Mini still selling on brand but delivering little else. The 500L handles well, is reasonably priced, gets good fuel economy and has the largest cargo hold of this group. Paired with a large helping of Euro-funk, I can see why someone would want to own one, I’m just not that person. If you’re torn between the 500 and 500L, get the 500 and rent a four-door when you need one. If you need four-doors all the time, the 500L is unquestionably a better buy than the Mini Countryman, and in many ways a better vehicle as well, but the Kia Soul is a better value and the Buick Encore is just a better car. I can’t believe I said that about a Buick. Someone help me find my wheelchair, I know I left it here before that whippersnapper came in the room.

Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • I know I’m the only one, but I love a dual-clutch transmission.
  • The baby uConnect system hasn’t lost what makes the 8-inch unit great.
  • Larger cargo hold than Encore and Countryman.

Quit it

  • Awkward looks.
  • Distinct cup-holder shortage in the rear.
  • The Kia Soul is a better value.

Fiat provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.47 Seconds

0-60: 8.34 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.72 Seconds @ 85.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.9 MPG over 460 miles

2014 Fiat 500L Engine, Fiat Multi-Air, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Engine-001 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-001 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-003 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-004 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Headlamps, Piicture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-006 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-008 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-009 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-010 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-011 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Fiat 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-001 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-002 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-003 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-004 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-005 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L.Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-008 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-009 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-010 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]> 114
Jeep Consolidates Patriot/Compass Starting In 2014 Wed, 03 Jul 2013 15:19:50 +0000 500x

Buyers hankering for a more macho alternative to the Buick Encore won’t have to wait too long for something to fill that void. According to Edmunds, an all-new Jeep, similar in size to the Encore, will debut next year.

The Jeep Compass and Patroit will both die in 2014 to make room for a B-segment Jeep built in Italy using a Fiat platform. The most likely donor will be the Small Wide architecture being used for the Fiat 500L, which has provisions for an all-wheel drive system built in to it. It’s a safe bet that it will be very similar to the Fiat 500X (above). Jeep’s Mike Manley cited global markets as the driving force behind this product

“The weight of that market today is outside North America, predominately Europe,” said Manley. “It is growing in China. I think when we launch our SUV here, you are going to see quite significant growth in that segment in the U.S.”

As Manley notes, the small SUV segment is explosive in world markets. Most of the examples sold are two-wheel drive car based vehicles with zero off-road capability, but Europeans couldn’t care less. That means the whole “Trail Rated” business won’t be an issue in Europe, but the Jeep faithful here may have something to say about that.

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Will The Real Fiat Multipla Please Stand Up Wed, 19 Jun 2013 17:09:57 +0000 fiat-500l-living

Hours after I longed for a return of the Fiat Multipla, Fiat delivered. The 500L Living will be a true MPV, carrying seven. The last Multipla only carried six. It will be a bit longer than our 500L and have the option of a 0.9L TwinAir engine, two diesels or a naturally aspirated 1.4L gasoline engine making 95 horsepower. I’ll pass. It’s not ugly enough to stoke my boiler. But it’s not coming to North America anyways.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Fiat 500L Wed, 19 Jun 2013 13:00:07 +0000 Fiat_Multipla_silver_front

The car you see above is actually not the 2014 Fiat 500L. For most of you, this will be a relief. It’s actually a Fiat Multipla from the mid-1990s. It is ugly. So ugly, in fact, that I love it. I’ve been thinking about importing an LPG-fueled version for use as a daily driver, so that I can fill up at the local taxi garage here for roughly $2/gallon. It’s a terrible idea, I know. Especially when Fiat now sells the Multipla’s successor Stateside.


This is the 500L Trekking, a pseudo-crossover version of the 500L. Is the North Americanized version of the old Multipla, in the same way that Domino’s pizza is the dougy, Americanized version of a thin crust Neapolitan Pizza Margherita. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh though. The 500L’s Euro-creds should be enough to excite those who cling to the notion that l’erba è più verde del continente. It is technically a small wagon, at least according to the EPA. It comes in brown, as well as a shade of brown that looks like coffee with a couple creamers added to it. It’s built in the old Yugo factory in Serbia (errm, that might be too European for some people). You can even get an honest-to-goodness three-pedal transmission, but it’s not very good.

For the rest of the populace that harbors no pretensions to living in the Eurozone, there are two automatic gearboxes; an ironically named “Euro Twin Clutch” transmission, and a conventional 6-speed automatic that will be available later on. Fiat couldn’t really give us a straight answer as to why they offered both, but using my mother as a sample size of one, it’s because she found the DSG in my Dad’s old Jetta 2.0T a bit odd after driving automatics all her life. Perhaps Fiat is prepared for an anti-DCT backlash and they tooled up a run of slushboxes. Maybe they couldn’t get the automatics ready in time? I’m not sure. The “Euro Twin-Clutch” is more like a Powershift than a DSG, but there are subtle hints that this transmission is not a conventional torque converter automatic. Tap the throttle after moving your foot over the from the brake and the revs rise briefly as if you were in a real manual. Shifts aren’t particularly quick or snappy, but they are fairly transparent. The DCT is a better choice than the balky, Novocaine-laced manual, and it does a decent job of keeping the 1.4L turbo engine in its proper powerband. Put aside any notions of the 500L sharing an engine with the Abarth. The acceleration of a 1.4T Dart is a better comparison here.

To its credit, the 500L seems massive inside, likely the result of its goofy looking proportions. Headroom is cavernous and the high driving position makes you feel like you’re in something much bigger than a B-segment car. Although I don’t have kids, I can see the appeal of this car for young families living in urban centers where parking space is scarce; you can easily get a couple car seats in and out of the rear seat, as well as the flotsam and jetsam that goes along with the baby, while sitting having room for groceries, dry cleaning and the pricey espresso maker you just bought at Williams-Sonoma.

Yuppie families aside, I’m not sure who will buy this thing or who it’s intended for. Fiat says it’s a way for current 500 owners to grow into the brand, but I’d imagine that a larger crossover might be a more practical option, albeit a less stylish one – and Fiat seems to be counting on the self-consciousness of their customers to keep them in the brand, constantly referring to the 500L as an “emotional purchase”.

Then again, B-segment tall wagon-thingy market isn’t very big, and the 500L isn’t exactly battling against any heavyweights. The Kia Soul isn’t a bad car, but the interior looks cheap and nasty after you get out of the Fiat, and worst of all for the Baby Bjorn crowd, it wears a Kia badge. The Nissan Cube is utterly dreadful in everyway, and the Countryman isn’t far behind in the “biggest turd on sale today” sweepstakes.

The base model “Pop” trim starts at just $20,195, while the top-spec “Lounge” comes in at $27,445. All trims come with Chrysler’s excellent UConnect system (with varying levels of interfaces, from a small headunit to a large touchscreen), and for the first few months of production, Fiat will throw in navigation, a backup camera and park assist on all trim levels above the Pop. Even if Fiat doesn’t sell a lot of these cars, it won’t matter. The 500L rides on Fiat’s new global small wide architecture, which is expected to underpin a whole bunch of new cars, from the upcoming 500X crossover to some new B-Segment Jeeps aimed at Chinese and European customers. Fiat will make their money back on the platform one way or another, the dealers will be kept happy with some additional product and everyone can go home happy.

Except me. Not until I get my Multipla. That’s a face that only a car writer (or Juke owner) could love.

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Fiat 500XL Forgot Its Epi-Pen Fri, 26 Apr 2013 15:51:13 +0000

The next example of the Fiat 500 range, the rather literally named Fiat 500XL, has revealed itself via a leaked photo. It looks a bit like a Fiat 500L that’s all swollen via anaphylaxis. The 500XL may not even make it to North America, but that’s ok. We’ll take the Panda instead. Apparently, the 500XL will have a third row of seats and grow to nearly 170 inches long, making it just barely acceptable for North American tastes. No doubt it will do well in Europe, which is currently in the throes of crossover fever.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Fiat 500L Thu, 07 Feb 2013 23:21:46 +0000

What happens when foreigners have been in America for a few years? They start getting fat like Americans. And so it is with the 2014 Fat 500L which has gained mass, two doors and a plumper overall visage. We found a red model strutting its chunky stuff at the back of the Chicago Auto Show For some reason we weren’t allowed inside, but we were able to caress it through the open windows.

Fiat kept referring to the 500L as some sort of MINI Clubman competitor, but I tend to think only shoppers of the Countryman CUV will be looking at the larger Fiat. On the outside the 500L looks slightly overinflated with suspicious looking bulges everywhere. The inside is a different story however with interior bits that put MINI to shame. Not that they are overly luxurious but MINI’s parts bin is a hard plastic wonderland.

Fiat says the 500L will be front wheel drive only for the moment, although the rumor mill indicates the platform has been designed with AWD in mind. The same 1.4L turbo engine from the 500 Abarth is found under the hood giving the baby crossover 160HP and 184lb-ft of twist. Also on board is a 6-speed manual or Fiat’s dual dry clutch transmission. Infotainment options are also taking a step in the right direction bringing Chrysler’s slick uConnect system to an optional 6.5-inch touch scree in the dash. I spent some time playing with the display system and it looks to be better in my opinion than MINI’s rendition of iDrive and light-years ahead of what’s in the current 500. So far, nobody is talking pricing.

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NAIAS 2013: Fiat 500L Mon, 14 Jan 2013 17:30:11 +0000

Tucked away in the corner of Fiat’s booth was the Serbian-built 500L.  The most striking part of the car was the interior – it’s much more subdued than the regular 500, lacking the flashy, colorful hard plastic dash surfaces. It looks more Dart than Fiat, really.


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500C+(2)500L = $$$: 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:31:33 +0000

Fiat dropped a product onslaught at the LA show, revealing two variants of the 500L, and an Abarth version of the 500C, so I can better sunburn my enormous bald spot.

But since you already know what the 500C looks like, let’s focus on the Fiat 500L. All three cars share the Abarth’s 160 horsepower 1.4L turbo engine. The 500L will be available in standard trim or as a pseudo-crossover known as the “Trekking” (shown above). Despite sounding horribly lame, the Trekking isn’t that distinguishable from the standard 500, and the visual changes are minimal. The 500L will launch in mid-2013, with pricing announced closer to launch.

Now, make plans to bring over the Panda!

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Fiat 500L To Launch In Soft-Roader Guise Fri, 23 Nov 2012 17:55:41 +0000

It’s an open secret that the Fiat 500L will debut in North American trim at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, but the 500L will bow in somewhat different form than what we may have been expecting.

The 500L Trekking will debut next week, with a raised ride height, a new fascia and body cladding to give it a more rugged look. Autocar reports that AWD will be absent, but a new traction control system will be added for better stability on loose surfaces. The 500T’s 135-horsepower engine is expected to provide motivation, along with a dual-clutch gearbox.

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Oh Look, It’s The Fiat 500X Thu, 05 Jul 2012 15:26:53 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Slow sales of the Fiat 500 in America have Marchionne & Co. pinning their hopes on a small crossover, dubbed the 500X, to boost sales. Our first look comes via this video. It’s a bit of a tease, isn’t it?

Looking like a cross between the Fiat 500L and the standard car, the 500X will likely use the same 1.4L MultiAir engines as its siblings, along with a rudimentary all-wheel drive system. Prepare for cries of “ruining brand values” in 5,4,3,2…

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Sergio Marchionne Confirms Third Fiat Model By 2014 – But Only For Canada Fri, 30 Mar 2012 15:33:17 +0000

Our intrepid Brazilian correspondent Marcelo got the hearts of Canuckistani readers racing after he leaked news of an expanded Fiat lineup for Canada. According to Senhor de Vasconcellos, Fiat will add new product in Canada, where 500 sales have been much stronger than the USA. The only question is what the mystery product will be, now that Fiat head Sergio Marchionne confirmed the new model at a Toronto event.

The Globe and Mail reported a whole slew of new products, stating

“Alfa Romeo cars are planned to return to Canada and North America in 2014, while the Fiat 500L five-door and all-electric Fiat 500 EV are scheduled to arrive at the end of this year, declared Fiat Group and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on Monday.

There will also be another Fiat model coming by the end of next year or early 2014, without laying out specifics…”

Marcelo’s artcile named the next generation Punto and Panda will be heading to Canada, with the 500L’s late 2012 debut coming first. Next will be the Polish Italian-built Panda, followed by the next generation Punto, if the information is accurate. The 143.7 inch Panda is actually a little longer than the 500 (139.6 inches) and has 5-doors – by comparison, a 5-door Toyota Yaris is about 10 inches longer than the Panda. Nevertheless, Canadians in urban locales absolutely adore small cars, foreign cars and anything with a “premium” image, like the Mini and the Fiat 500. The Panda, if priced right, would be a good bridge between the 500 and the much larger, Mini Countryman-sized 500L. Even better would be the new Punto, which could give the Volkswagen Golf a good run for the money. Memo to Fiat – bring diesels here. Close to half of all VW’s sold here are TDIs. We will buy them.

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Fiat USA May Expand Lineup Beyond 500L Mon, 19 Mar 2012 17:25:53 +0000

The Fiat 500L may be joined by another Fiat product, but the brand’s North American head said that it won’t necessarily resemble the 500 vehicles.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Fiat’s Tim Kuniskis said

“We won’t bring you a commodity car…”Style, for sure, will be No. 1,” Kuniskis said. “Any car we sell has got to be something different.”

Author Mark Phelan notes that while Mini has boxed itself into a corner because of its reliance on brand heritage (i.e. many different variants of the same shape), Fiat has produced a wide variety of vehicles over the years – how about a revived 124, 131 or X-19? Personally, I’d love to see the much praised Panda come over, complete with the TwinAir turbocharged two-cylinder engine. But it ain’t gonna happen.

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Geneva 2012: Fiat 500L, Heir To The Multipla Throne Wed, 07 Mar 2012 16:31:20 +0000

North America missed on the ermm…unique…Fiat Multipla, sold in Europe in the late 1990′s, but Fiat dealers, clamoring for another product, will get the Multipla’s spiritual successor, the 500L.

Although it bears the 500 moniker, the 500L is closer in size to a Mini Countryman. Built in Fiat’s factory in Serbian (making the 500L the first Balkan car to hit the U.S. since the Yugo), engine choices for Europe include both the 1.4L 4-cylinder from the 500 and the 900cc TwinAir turbocharged 2-cylinder engine. A 1.3L Multijet diesel will also be offered. These engine choices will likely not make the cut for North America – the anemic 1.4L naturally aspirated engine will be painfully slow, and both the diesel and the TwinAir, fabulous as they are, are too bizarre for our tastes. The Abarth’s 1.4L turbocharged motor is the most probably candidate.

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Fiat Delays Italian Production Of Baby Jeep Fri, 03 Feb 2012 14:32:20 +0000

Fiat will delay the launch of a B-segment Jeep, designed to slot below the Compass and Patriot. Instead, the Fiat version of the car will take precedence and launch in 2013.

The rest of the world will have to wait until Q2 of 2014 for the new baby Jeep. The new Fiat will replace the Sedici, derived from the Suzuki SX4, which sold only 14,800 units in 2011. The baby Jeep will apparently be “Trail Rated” despite its effete underpinnings, and will share its platform with the Fiat 500L as well as the new Sedici replacement. Fiat is re-tooling their Mirafiori plant to build the vehicles, as the Sedici is currently built in Suzuki’s Hungarian factory.

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Fiat 500L: A Multipla By Any Other Name Would Look As Strange Thu, 02 Feb 2012 16:39:38 +0000

Some of the B&B doubted the veracity of early renderings, but it turns out they were accurate. This is the Fiat 500L, the car that’s supposed to boost Fiat sales here in the USA and carry on the legacy of the very unique looking Multipla. Despite carrying the “500″ moniker, the 500L, like the Multipla, is a B segment car.

The 500L uses the Fiat Punto’s platform and delivers what Fiat calls the “…feel of a small SUV on the road”. Conventional logic suggests that any sporting pretensions should be put to bed with that statement. Further buttressing the “function follows form” ethos is another quip stating  that the 500L is “…is a ‘first car’ for those who won’t settle for anything less than Italian style.”

So, does that mean that the 500L is a starter car for yuppies too proud to buy a Chevrolet Sonic? Fiat gave only vague plans for engines, but a TwinAir powerplant (not for American consumption) and a 1.4L Multiair engine were mentioned – hopefully it’s not the asthmatic naturally aspirated version. It’s still astounding to think that Europe will get a 7-seat version of this car, when it’s only a couple feet longer than a regular 500.

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Fiat 500L Confirmed As New Crossover’s Nameplate Sat, 28 Jan 2012 18:25:44 +0000

Ditching the codename of “Ellezero” Fiat has given their new crossover the anti-climactic “500L” nameplate. And while Europe will get a three-row version with 7 seats, Americans will get the five seater only.

Fiat thinks that North Americans won’t buy a 7-seater as small as the 500L – and they’re probably right. At a 23 inches longer, the 500L is about the size of a Mini Countryman. Power will likely come from the 1.4l MultiAir engine in North America, with Europe getting a TwinAir variant as well as a diesel. Based on the size of this car, the third row will be great for buckling your child’s stuffed animals in – humans need not apply.

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