By on September 6, 2013

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?


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

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114 Comments on “Review: 2014 Fiat 500L (With Video)...”

  • avatar

    I saw one of these a couple of weeks ago here in San Antonio. It looked awkward. The Mini Countryman somehow scales the Mini look up and still maintains most of the charm. This just looked awkward. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but it reminded me of an adult playing a kid… like the “Stouie” skits on MadTV in the 90s, where an adult plays a todler straight, and it’s just unnerving.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed – its big time ugly!

      The thing that really bothers me is the whole the concept. Just like the Max-sized Mini. It would be like Honda making a larger S2000 – the four door, non convertible S2000S (“S” for sedan?) The whole point of the Mini and 500 are their size. Whether you like such smaller offerings for cuteness, handling, or MPG up-sizing such offering is an epic failure of the original mission of such designs. Either you want a small car or you don’t! If a Mini or 500 is too small for you then why buy an enlarge clone or look-a-like? Just get a complete different vehicle. I’d grab a Soul or Scion xB. I assume the 500L is the answer to a question NOBODY asked.

      • 0 avatar

        No, it’s a question you’re not asking because you’re one of these guys who seems to believe that cars under a specific brand must remain unchanged from the moment of your first impression.

        On the other hand, the Countryman is a third of MINI’s monthly sales since it came out on the market, so obviously, someone is asking this question.

      • 0 avatar

        Remove the 500L badge and attach a “600” and your argument falls to pieces.

  • avatar

    I love the 500L. The girlfriend and I went to check out a 500C Abarth recently and she noticed the 500L, so we spent about a half hour poring over it in the showroom. She’s in the market for a new vehicle and this thing went right near the top of the list.

    A few weeks later, we went to drive one. I found it unlike any other car I’ve ever driven – the amount of glass makes the view outside quite astounding. No other car has this much outward visibility these days. It’s quite refreshing, really. The sunroof is an absolute must with this car, moving from a base 500L without to a Trekking with, it’s literally night and day. But, I will agree with Alex on the sunroof shade in that it should be a solid piece and not a perforated sheet.

    The sad thing is that you’ve gotta put 91 octane in what amounts to an economy car. They should have just given it the N/A 2.0 or even the 2.4 Multiair.

    Does anybody know when the normal autobox will be available? An Italian dual-clutch gearbox just sounds like awful, expensive problems waiting to happen.

    • 0 avatar

      91 is not required in this or the Abarth, as Alex noted. My Abarth runs a little smoother on it though.

      I doubt they will ever bother with a conventional automatic. Buy the manual.

      I too like the style. It’s a CUV completely without the pretense of off-road ability, and thus is properly low to the ground. But with high seats and decent sized doors so you can get in and out of it easily. A nice little two-box people and stuff carrier. I’d rock one if I didn’t already have my station wagon. In black, to match my Abarth. Now how about an Abarth version of the 500L! Though if you took the muffler off it would probably sound just like one anyway.

  • avatar

    If I am not mistaken, the 500L is made at the Zastafa factory in Serbia. The same folks that brought you the Yugo.
    Why should we believe that they know anything new about making competitive cars?

    • 0 avatar

      Fiat bought the plant back in 2008. It is not Yugo anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Very insightful comment willbodine.

    • 0 avatar

      The mistake you make is blaming Zastava for Malcolm Bricklin’s idiocy.

    • 0 avatar

      Score one for ‘willbodine’.

      The New York Times auto writer Lawrence Ulrich tested a 500L about five weeks ago, and though I’ve read reviews for the past 40 years from all sources, his was the most scathing account of a new car test I can remember. In short, he felt that while the Yugo plant was no longer making cars there, Fiat was making Yugo-like cars there, namely the 500L. He did everything but come out and call it a POS. Pretty rare.
      It’s interesting to have read that Alex compared the 500L to the same two other cars, the Soul and MINI Countryman, and seems to have liked the 500L much more than Lawrence.

      As for the model mix of two-wheel drive versus AWD MINI Countryman’s, while this model is relatively popular here in New England, I have yet to see one either in Boston or Vermont without AWD. Folks who don’t choose AWD seem to have gone to the Clubman, coupe, or convertible, Alex.

      Because I weigh Alex and Lawrence’s opinion equally, I’d be willing to learn what more buyers in the market for this class of car think of the 500L after they’ve seen and driven one.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve read several reviews on Fiat’s ‘elle’ and a great majority of them are very positive. I had read Ulrich’s also and felt that he had started with the premise that the 500l was a second rate car and proceeded to point out everything that he saw as being negative and supported his premise. Read very little objectivity in his review.

        I like the car and think they will meet their North American sales objectives, which, I believe, are quite modest.

        • 0 avatar

          The question ought to be how many of Mr.Ulrich’s reviews have you compared the 500L piece to. You’ll find that he’s pretty even-handed in his evaluations. You’ll also find that he wasn’t in a foul mood that week, no one stepped on his paws, presumably Fiat/ Chrysler loaned him a representative example in fine condition of a 500L, in other words, no other explanation other than he found this car to be quite unsatisfactory, presumably even compared to a standard 500 coupe. My point was that one reviewer, Alex, got an entirely more positive impression of the 500L than the reviewer for the New York Times, taking nothing away from either guy.

          • 0 avatar

            My interest would be more about the car than Mr. Ulrich’s writing style or mood. In fact, that’s what this site is about. Cars right?

            I can see now that your interest may be different. I have no issues with that.

        • 0 avatar

          By now, you’ve probably gotten the same link list of positive reviews that I was sent. I didn’t doubt that some reviewers might like the 500L, my point of raising the issue of the NY Times was that the writer liked almost nothing about this model, in counterpoint to Alex’s review. I’m not weighing their value with any more importance. What was important about the NY Times reviewer is that in all other automotive reviews, he managed to find something he liked. And keep in mind that in the case of the NY Times, they use at least four different people to evaluate new cars, and this was easily the most scathing review in memory by anyone there. At the very least, anyone in the market for this type of car would want to read all of the reviews, in order to know what to check out, once they land at the dealer.
          At the risk of alienating the poster who supplied the review links, I’d be more interested in what the UK Daily Mail thought about a car if I lived there and were subjected to the versions of Fiats that are imported and the economics of life there. A factory worker at MINI in Oxford-Cowley told me they must build their cars according to 130+ different markets, so Fiat can’t be much different from them.

          ‘mrhappypants” let’s not confuse Bricklin with the Yugo factory workers. The cars were junk from day one, and Bricklin didn’t turn a wrench on one of them, he just saw a relative quick buck to be had by pawning them off on the US car buyer.

          ‘bobman’, I respect the point that you personally like the 500L – I haven’t driven this model, so can’t tell you how I feel about the 500L.

          ‘vertigo’, I know the plant is no longer Yugo. Lawrence Ulrich’s point was that, in his opinion, the poor quality he felt he discovered on the 500L he was loaned reminded him of a Yugo, but then, you knew that all along.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey @Snakebit;
            I was just wondering if you’re really Lawrence Ulrich’s sock puppet? Perhaps, trying to generate some traffic to your article. In the end, the success of the car will be measured by the number of sales it generates. My understanding is that they’re considering increasing the monthly shipments to NA because interest has been quite high. I believe the current rate is 3000 units per month. May be a little early to make that judgement though.

            Also, you and Mr. Ulrich seems to have a chip on your shoulder regarding the Serbian manufacturing facility. BTW, the ownership of Fiat Serbia is shared between Fiat and the state. They’re very keen to make a success of it since it is currently the top exporter. I think we can expect very good quality of workmanship from the factory and the supporting industries that are cropping up to support the industry. It would be nice to see this effort pay off for all concerned.

            The old days of the Yugo are long gone, although I have seen some articles on the web that claim the cars weren’t as bad as some would have you believe.

        • 0 avatar

          No, ‘bobman’ nothing up Mr. Ulrich’s sleeve or anywhere else, least of all me.

          I know that you are concerned with the popularity of the 500L. My latest information is that annual production is forcast for this model at about 140,000 when Russia begins selling it there soon. Supposedly they have a free trade agreement with Serbia, don’t know if there’s an exception for automobiles in the agreement, but Fiat Automobiles Serbia is counting on that market. I don’t know what the current forcast is for US sales for the 500L.

          If you’ll remember from the last two postings, the association I posted about the Yugo assembly plant and the 500L related exclusively to a comment by Mr. Ulrich. He alone drew that comparison. I just related what he wrote to TTAC.

          As for the implied feeling that I have a grudge against Serbia, it’s both wrong-headed and wrong in general. I was cheering on Novak Djokovic last night at the US Tennis Open(No, don’t have it in for Spain, either. Sorry bigot mongers, choose another target).

          As I wrote before, I haven’t driven the 500L yet, so I’m reserving judgement. I do know a little of Sergio Marchionne’s thinking. He’s a hard-working, straight shooter ,aware of and capable of joking about the past Fiat reputation in the US, fully in charge of Fiat-Chrysler worldwide if he needs to make any changes to product, and unlike Bricklin, a lot less wild ego and a lot more dedication to making a go of both brands in the States. I’d like to think he’ll do right by bringing us the 500L and other Fiats.

          As for Mr, Ulrich, it was a very condemming evaluation, but it was just one. Don’t dwell on it, think about the other reviews in the mix. You’re not going change his review, he’s not going to change your opinion of the 500L.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        Score for “willbodine”??? More like a strikeout.

        Plenty of favorable reviews for the 500L are on the Internets. Here are some.

      • 0 avatar

        I can assure you that that writer Lawrence does not know from Bee shit to wild honey! The 500L is, dare I say, fun to drive, with an astounding interior space. When I drove the Buick Encore it felt almost claustrophobic, while in the 500L (which I now own) you feel as if inside a midsized SUV. My biggest problem with the 500L is the perforated moon roof cover. The extra light (which adds to the very airy feeling) makes it difficult sometimes to read some of the dials.
        I agree with Alex review, except that I LOVE the exterior look. As they say in Russia – on taste and smell there are no friends.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Major automakers have been moving production to Eastern Europe for years. Your comment makes no sense.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Sounds promising.

  • avatar

    Comes off as trying too hard to look cute. If you need a lot of space in a small footprint why not get a Cube? Cars like this should have a sense of whimsy which I find completely lacking in the 500L.

  • avatar

    How could anyone “hit or quit” such a sad homely lookin’ thing? The poor little… little, what is this anyway?

  • avatar

    Tiny tires and wheels, crappy steering… Get a Kia if you want style or Mini if you want style and performance.

  • avatar

    Is there no way to get a flat load floor? Looking at the pictures, if you fold down the seat backs, there’s a 3 inch gap between the seats and luggage shelf. If you flip the seats forward and remove the luggage shelf, there’s a hump in the floor.

  • avatar

    Looks to me like a reboot of the PT Cruiser. It is no beauty queen but certainly less of an eyesore than the baby elephant Encore.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX (formerly gslippy)

    Yuk. It’s a car with no good-looking angles, weak Dart 1.4T engine, awful DDCT transmission.

    FWIW – I wouldn’t characterize the 500e as ‘totally impractical’. Every review I’ve read has liked it more than any other version of the 500. Too bad it’s only a California compliance car; from that point of view it’s impractical for the rest of us.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say that the 500e is the only one of the bunch that is practical. EV is the practical way to go in a city car which is all that I could see a 500 being for me.

    • 0 avatar

      Weak? This econohatch runs 16s in the quarter. That’s more than adequate and actually kinda fast for an economy car.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX


        On paper, the Fiat 1.4T looks good. But in practice – such as driving around town – you have to hammer it like a quarter-miler to get any movement out of it. There is absolutely no low-end torque in this engine. I found it very unpleasant for city driving.

        On the other hand, the Dodge 2.0 in the Dart is actually the better city driver since it has no turbo lag.

  • avatar

    I like Alex’s reviews, as they’re easily the most comprehensive of anything available on the net, but:

    “looses the incessant drone”

    I think he means “loses.”


    “drops the city and highway number by one MPG”

    According to the figures provided, it appears to drop the city and combined numbers by one MPG each, not the highway number.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Damn my fat fingers. Thanks for catching that!

      • 0 avatar

        Also, “Indeed, the rear bench has five belts” – If it was a seven seater with 2 in front and 5 on the rear bench, I’d be impressed.

        I test drove one of these about a month ago and was really disappointed. One note on the manual – in addition to feeling like it had way too much hydraulic assist and a far-too-high engagement point – the funky, Euro parking brake is directly underneath the center armrest and there’s no easy way to get to it when parking or starting the car without raising the armrest completely out of the way.

        • 0 avatar
          Alex L. Dykes

          My my. What was I smoking?

        • 0 avatar

          I sat in one of these at a local autoshow. The parking brake gets my nomination for one of the worst designed features in a modern automobile. It is a handle where your knuckles are facing the shifter located around your hip point. It pivots upward in a 70* sweep on a short arm. You absolutely have to push the armrest up before using it because the motion you have to make to set the brake with the armrest down is like trying to punch someone that is behind you in the crotch in some sort of backwards uppercut fashion. You can’t get enough leverage to make it work. Terrible!

  • avatar

    This thing makes the Juke look sexy.

  • avatar

    Fiat Multipla Redux

  • avatar

    I strongly agree with your comment about the old ’50s wrap-around windshields. I wish every car had them. The A pillars of most cars get in the way of my vision when I take a moderately sharp corner.

    I drove a standard 500 with slushbox for almost a month a year and a half ago. It is cute–one of the better pieces of contemporary styling, although that’s not saying much–and I was sure happy to get out of that thing. The driving dynamics were very underwhelming. It felt like the Mazda2 I had four months later for a week in Seattle (ugh). If these things drove like a MINI they might sell a bit better.

    • 0 avatar
      Andy D

      The worst thing about the huge A pillars is that they block sight of crossing pedestrians until you are past them. Liked the FIAT 500, I rented for 2 weeks. But I felt vulnerable due its small size. Maybe that was just residual paranoia after being rear ended though

  • avatar

    Jesus whoever thought this would sell in America didn’t do his homework.

    Also the steering wheel looks like it belongs in Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter haha!!

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Your avatar is from the company that produces roadgoing abominations like the X6 and the 5 series GT.

      A saying about people who live in glass houses comes to mind.


      A BMW owner.

  • avatar

    The first time I saw those A pillar quarter lights I flashed on the Suzuki SX4, sold in many markets as the Fiat Sedici. I suspect that the 500L is simply a retro style facelift of the late and occasionally lamented Suzuki. That said, I think the Kia Soul is a much more honest vehicle than the bloated faux retro Mini Countryman or the Fiat 500L so I would probably end up driving hamster.

  • avatar

    The front end makes me want to crank that emblem to 350⁰.

    Better pull on the front bumper and grab the cookie sheets first.

  • avatar

    For the size of the car I wouldn’t call the MPG ratings respectable at all, I’d call them down right poor as a 4cyl AT Camry can beat or at least match the 500L with either transmission. Yes I guess I’m one of those people who like to buy their vehicle by the pound at least when there is a MPG penalty to the smaller car and no savings on the purchase price.

    The windshield/front quarter windows design is terrible, I can’t stand the look of vehicles that use a front quarter window nor the visibility of looking out of them.

  • avatar

    Maybe it looks better in colors other than white…interior is not bad at all and does not remind me in any way of a cell phone, which is nice.

    I wonder what is the function of that enormous pod out of which grows the interior rearview mirror.

    Diesel, manual trans, in brown, anyone?

    • 0 avatar

      PS I don’t mean to insult our tireless auto journalists, but must every review in depth START with the “Infotainment” section? Are these cars or rolling offices? I confess that I rapidly skim through them to get to the real CAR stuff.

  • avatar

    Compare it to the Soul all you want, but starting in 2014, no Soul besides the stripped out 1.6 liter will be available with a clutch.

    Cross the Soul off my list :(

    • 0 avatar

      That is a terrible decision by Kia. OTOH, my 2.0 6MT will now be a rarity. Call now, collectors!

      • 0 avatar

        Truckducken, “now” your 2.0 6MT Soul will be a rarity? Ever since Kia announced it would be available I’ve searched dealer inventory online every couple months. I’ve never seen one, and there’s 4 local Kia dealers I can think of off the top of my head within 35 miles.

  • avatar

    I haven’t liked the looks of this thing since day one but I’ve finally figured out what looks “wrong” about it. It looks like those cars they used to put in 8 bit video games. Those always bothered me as a kid, is that a minivan, a station wagon, or WTF is that?

  • avatar

    I like it, I like it, I like it. Did I say I like it?

    I like the engine, I like the size, I like that it’s a sort of minivan and doesn’t try to look like an SUV. I like that it doesn’t try to emulate CUVs.

    I like the exterior. I like the slab sides. Have to confess though the less square wheel arches would be nice. I like the size and design of the headlights and backlight.

    I love the interior. Reason enough to buy one. Like Alex said, out of the norm, which is wonderful. Can you get the inside matching the outside like a 500? Have to agree with the commenter that the steering wheel design isn’t the best. But Fiat steering wheels are usually chunky and good to handle.

    I really don’t think the Soul is any competition. The Soul is not a family car. Good enough trunk for a couple and a kid, but the 500L can hold a family’s luggage.

    Finally, I don’t like that it’s not on offer in Brazil. If it were, and all things go well, could see getting the wife into one.

    Can not having the UConnect thingy a possibility? I don’t have a need for that.

    Thans Alex, fine, and honest, review as per usual.

  • avatar

    Best thing I can say about it is it’s not quite as ugly as the regular 500.

    I’m so happy I don’t have to drive something like it.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a lot of the regular 500’s around here. And I live in a city with a fair bit of chique/fashionst yuppies so you get a lot of Land Rovers, Jaguars, Minis, and even a Tesla here and there. I’ve even seen 2, yes 2, Murano Cabriolets. But I’ve yet to see one of these anywhere in this city. Even around the “fashion parks” (malls filled with overpriced garbage).

    I think this car bombed.

  • avatar

    For utility, same problem as the Soul; too little rear overhang to provide ample cargo room behind the rear seatbacks.

    But at least the rear roofline is tall enough for a decent hatch opening.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’m no fashionista, but this thing is pretty cool. Serviceable.

    The sight lines are pretty spectacular.

  • avatar

    If anyone wonders why the Italian Economy is in the Dumpster, one only has to look at Fiat and all the “Junk” they try to export to the Nations of the World!

  • avatar

    Since SUVs are discouraged in European governments, the 500L fills the role as family people hauler. The idea was to graft the style of the very successful Fiat 500 on a larger utilitarian car and hope that the cool factor rubs off. Clearly it didn’t as the style looks awkward and, even in a higher trim, the interior can’t hide its economy car roots. If anything, by naming this as part of the 500 range it taints the original (and very cool) 500. It also doesn’t make much sense in the US where better looking CUVs are plentiful and affordable. This leaves the 500L in a very small niche of vehicles designed for Euro aficionados who are looking for something quirky and different. This is not a big segment so don’t expect it to break sales records.

    Most folks will skip the 500L and go straight to a CX-5, RAV-4, CR-V or Escape.

    • 0 avatar

      I absolutely agree with you about what people will buy – AND THEY WILL BE WRONG. The 500L is at least a foot shorter than all the above mentioned cars. This makes it a terrific people hauler in city driving. I drive the 500L 95% of the time in stop and go traffic and still manage 26+ mpg. I also like its “weird” look, but what do I know?! I owned and LOVED a Pacer when it came out! :)

  • avatar

    “$19,100 to $27,895 (without destination),”
    I paid less than that for a fully loaded Honda CRV w/ leather, powereseat, AWD, destination, and tax. It has almost the same curbweight, more power, and more space…

    whoever buys one of those Fiats for the price must be high. It isn’like they have a reputation like BMW. In Europe they are considered like Dodge. I think all Europeans are laughing their asses off seeing how Americans pay premium prices for Fiats. A 500 in Europe is for somone who can’t afford a larger Fiat, and the larger Fiat is for people who can’t afford Opels or Citroen. VW isn’t even in that territory.

    Explain to someone that in the US a Fiat 500 has the same price as a VW Passat.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think there’s a premium on any 500 model as compared to European pricing. In fact, NA pricing is usually a lot less than what I’ve seen in Europe. Sometimes we get much more in the model features than the same model there.

      You should check your facts before insulting over 100K Fiat 500 buyers and accusing them of being high. Perhaps the people you see laughing over there are laughing at you.

      • 0 avatar

        Fiat has sold 100K 500L in the US already? I want to see those facts.

        I’m not comparing prices in europe vs. the US since that is irrelevant. I’m comparing US prices to US prices since that is what a potential car owner in the US will have to do. And a Fiat 500L for the same amount as a Honda CRV in highest Trim, or a Ford fusion hybrid (or some other highest trim) is just insane.

        I’m not principally agaisnt Fiat as I’m often accused of. But the price point for Fiat should be 10-20% less than for a comparably equipped and sized Honda/Ford/VW/toyota/Nissan. Definitely not higher. The Fiat 500 is a good car for $12K, the 500L is a good car at $14K with decent equipment, not $27K.

        realize once you buy a european car you have to be ready to pay a premium. but you do that for European premium brands, not Fiat.

        • 0 avatar

          “In Europe they are considered like Dodge. I think all Europeans are laughing their asses off seeing how Americans pay premium prices for Fiats. A 500 in Europe is for somone who can’t afford a larger Fiat, and the larger Fiat is for people who can’t afford Opels or Citroen. VW isn’t even in that territory.”

          This is what you wrote. You were referring to Fiat 500. So was I. If you want to include the 500L, go ahead. They’re all 500s. Laugh all you want.

          • 0 avatar

            the ridiculous upcharge applies to both 500 and 500L. correct. Fiat is in europe what Kia is in the US.

            not saying Fiat/Kia are really bad. Just saying Kia (rightfully) sells a t a lower price point than hyundai/Honda/Ford etc. and so should Fiat.

          • 0 avatar

            So, the 100K+ folks who laid their money down for a Fiat product in NA paid too much, they should be laughed at by Europeans and, most likely, they were high when they made their decision, at least, according to you.

            Just wondering, did you bother to read Alex’s article? Have you ever driven the car? I would suspect that you didn’t do either. In fact, I suspect you didn’t even bother to view the video. No, your opinion was already formed and you seem to be quite happy living with your prejudice.

            Fiat isn’t marketing themselves as the cheapest here in North America. Their campaigns have been designed to present the brand as a fun and practical car to drive. If you go by the numbers, I would say they have been successful in obtaining their sales goals. The ‘elle’ will help them continue with their drive. It’s a very well built car and provides a lot of value and innovation.

        • 0 avatar

          Fiat is a rebadged Ferrari. Enough said. LOL.

  • avatar

    Wait….I’m confused. Did you “break” the “brake” handle, or vise-versa.

  • avatar

    I think all Europeans are laughing their asses off seeing how Americans pay premium prices.

    And vice versa you catch what GM Europe flogged there as Cadillac?

    My metropolis plenty 500 and MINI yet to see a 500L. It wouldn’t be my first choice.

    • 0 avatar

      maybe GM is trying to play the same trick, you are right. But Europeans are not falling for it since Cadillac has exactly 0 sales success in europe, unlike fiat in the US.

      To each his own. The more people buy Fiat, the fewer will compete for real cars and drive their prices up :)

  • avatar

    Normally I’d glance over this and the Mini Countryman, but both are complete betrayals of the original ideas behind the classic 500s and Minis to the point were I wonder why they even bothered to recycle the names.

    I’m not saying this to the new regular 500 and the new Mini, those are all okay. These bloated minivan variants are just idiotic.

    • 0 avatar

      You are one of several who have called this a minivan. I’m not sure I follow the connection.

      The car is 163.0″ long by 70.1″ wide, and 65.4″ tall.

      A Kia Soul is 162.2 x 70.3 x 63.4

      A Scion xB is 167.3 ” x 69.3 ” x 62.6 ”

      The more I look at it, the more it looks like a Scion xB (2nd generation) wearing a latex Fiat 500 skin, like the generic NASCAR bodies with graphics to tell you what car it’s supposed to be.

      But I don’t see minivan. It’s about two feet shorter in length than even the tiniest US microvan (Mazda5). Heck, it’s STILL longer than the Nissan Axxess and Mitsubishi Expo microvans from the 80s!

  • avatar

    “… parking break handle …”? Yep — still a Fiat.

  • avatar

    Here is what I don’t like about this car… Taking a minivan and making it look stylish reminds me a bit too much of the Aztec…
    Here is what I like. It is, to me, more honest than the Mini and more useful than the Soul.
    BTW those strange double A pillars have a very good reason for being that way, it is in order to not obstruct vision and to maintain roof strength in a roll over situation.

    • 0 avatar

      +1: The 500L is just Euro people mover with some 500 trim applied in an attempt to make it cool. The result is an awkward and overinflated looking hatchback that tries way too hard to imitate the 500.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that the US rollover requirements are the cause of a lot of the problems we have seeing out of cars without enough glass area nowadays. I never would have thought that we would return to the days of trying to see out of a cave, like I felt in my first car, a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline 2-door.

      • 0 avatar

        Not a US thing at all. Super fat A pillars that you could not see though was a problem recognized some years ago as a result of Euro safety standards. I believe the first “car” to go the double A pillar route was The Citroen Picassa (also a van). Not that I know this for sure but Citroen is a French company so…

  • avatar

    I assume the 500L doesn’t have the same enthusiastic exhaust note as the 500 Abarth and Dart Rallye that share the turbo’d MultiAir? Because a family-sized 500 Abarth really appeals to me. I’m still intrigued enough considering there’s such a shortage of small wagons in North America, although it is awkward looking.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    recently CR compared it to the new Soul and their reaction was that this appears to be from the last century while the Kia is completely up to date.

  • avatar

    It’s lost the cheerfulness of the regular 500, the only thing that makes that car appealing.

  • avatar

    There is no better vehicle reviewer on this planet, Alex L. Dykes is the standard I measure all these other wannabes against. A head scratcher that this stuff is for free. Alex needs a button we can click to buy the guy a beer, a bottle of wine or a video monkey. Well done Alex and company!

    • 0 avatar

      Alex, if your family members are going to post to your website, could they at least use their real name ( he said under a nom de plume).

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        If it were my family member the post would have gone something like: WTF? A foreign car? You should always buy American. Real American, not fake American like Fiat/Chrysler contraptions, Fords made in Mexico, blah, blah.

  • avatar

    They should have called this the Multipla. I like that it’s unique. But then again, I liked the AMC Pacer when it was introduced.

  • avatar

    Give me a GTI & call it a day.

  • avatar

    Have a couple of pals who work at one of the local Chrysler dealers – they darn near got me to buy an Abarth last fall, what a giggle, just $8K too expensive since the Dart has the same engine with 24 more lb-ft of torque and a 6 speed manual. Of course the Dart is crap to drive by comparison with 700 lbs of extra weight. Same as this thing – 3200 lbs.

    Come and see the 500 L they said: so I trundled on down to be confronted by this visual nightmare. Pal 1 points out the room, Pal 2 the trunk room. I told ’em, keep it, I’ve got a good memory and would always be thinking of the horrific visage. Didn’t even want to try out the driver’s seat. It’s rubbish too, you sit on it, not in it like the Dart.

    I cannot imagine how the Italians who generally evince style, could have come up with this thing. The whole front end needs redoing, pronto.

    What a no hoper, they’ve sold one since May.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Oh I don’t know. I saw one for the first time earlier in the summer in a public display at a street fair. No preconceived notions about it. It didn’t look bad, but my association was: PT Cruiser. PT Cruisers didn’t look bad either, but they were horrible cars, and the association is there. Not fair, but that’s where it is for me.

    You notice Vertigo who was actually in the market kind of liked it. Good visibility counts for a lot. For some reason car writers would rather write about the screen size on the infotainment system. I could see how a good sunroof could make an ordinary car a lot more palatable. The sunroof-equipped Isuzu Troopers being the prime example. Other subtleties make a difference, like a fun shifter. I’m convinced that one of the reasons Toyota outsold Nissan year in and year out before Japanese cars really took off, was because they had a much better feel to their manual transmissions.

    The writer helpfully did an excellent cost-benefit analysis compared to the competition. It clearly is in the thick of things in this area (I was actually a little surprised at the low price on the street-fair example I saw). With some artful discounting, they might make a go of it.

  • avatar

    Call me Captain Slow, but I’d rather just have a Panda.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised Alex didn’t address the HUGE EMBLEMS issue on the rear, which was the first thing I noticed upon seeing one in the wild for the first time a couple weeks ago. It was this color as well.

    And here, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of an over-styled car which won’t age well. Five to seven years from now it’ll just look very old and tired. Sort of like an SX4.

    And the front is grinning like an idiot and has dimples.

  • avatar

    I came away with a very favorable impression of the 5-speed 1.3L diesel 500L I rented for a 3-week camping trip in northern Spain and Portugal. Granted, my Fiat expectations were based on a 126p and a Panda from the 80s!

    – averaged better than 40mpg (6L/100km).
    – clear layout, good materials, comfortable
    – very competent basic “stereo” with USB (iPhone)
    – good visibility out
    – good headroom (no fancy roof)
    – shifting wasn’t Mazda/BMW precise, but much better than my Peugeot 805 experience.
    – handled well
    – good engine & road noise
    – stored camping gear easily and discreetly

    Features which seem to be missing from the US dashboard are
    – City-mode (overboosted) steering
    – headlight height adjust (?)
    – rear fog lamp
    – start/stop system (which i turned off after some ill-timed “stalls”)

    Had a Kia Soul rental in California a few years ago, and I prefer the Fiat.

  • avatar

    Well, I’m biased as a Fiat fan (drove a 131 Mirafiori as a teenager – my Dad enjoyed driving it so much he bought a brand new 1979 Fiat Brava (gutless but fantastically chuckable), so we were a 2 Fiat family, a true North American rarity, even in 80s NorCal). We were meticulous with the routine maintenance so both cars were very reliable by the standards of the time.) and I really like the 500L.

    This is my wife’s current favorite car and if we were in the market (she loves her 2010 Mazda 5 GS) this would be top of the list. Personally, I like the styling, and I’m deeply sympathetic these days to anything that doesn’t look like everything else.

    I agree with the comments that Fiat want very much to succeed here and the 500 and 500L are both high quality products that are well engineered and well manufactured. The site of the manufacturing plant is almost irrelevant now, and I get a little tired of some TTAC commenters rabbiting on with cultural stereotypes about what comes from Hermosillo, Puebla, Toluca, Serbia or wherever. 500C production is now moving to Poland. You boys want to start with the jokes? Everything comes from everywhere now. The Buick Encore is made by Daewoo (GMDAT) with nearly 25% Chinese parts. Yet my personal inspection shows it to be, IMO, a higher quality product than just about any Buick I’ve ever seen. As it happens, the Fiat Serbia plant was completely rebuilt after the old Zastava Yugo plant was destroyed in the Yugoslavian conflict in the late 90s, and it is a state of the art factory.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I just returned from a week in Germany. When the Hertz people in Frankfurt told me my car was going to be a 500L I had a bad feeling about it and I was right. Nothing says “disappointed” like finally getting to drive the legendary autobahn and finding you’ll be doing it in a Fiat 500L. This thing is a Scheissewagen.

    When it was time for the high speed run, the thing scared me so badly at 150 km/h that I called it off and stuck to 130 or so for the rest of the week. It’s tippy and unstable at speed. But given that, it’s so underpowered it would be down to 70 km/h at the top of long hills. Its acceleration is so week that pulling out into left lane to pass required longer than usual advance planning and still annoyed more than a few German sport sedans. In short offering one of these on the rentsl line for driving on the Autobahn is almost criminal negligence.

    The transmission sucked too. I am a lifelong stick shift driver but on this one I often missed gears or simply couldn’t find them at all.

    I literally coukd find nothing to like about this car and feel it ruined my Autobahn driving experience.

    • 0 avatar

      “… I am a lifelong stick shift driver but on this one I often missed gears or simply couldn’t find them at all. …”
      If You arrived to miss gears in an Euro 500 L it is better that You excercised a little bit more with manual gearboxes.
      What model did You rent? Did You switched off wheel “city” mode?
      And Autobahn driving (highway driving) is very easy, maybe in mountain roads You’ll not be even able to make few miles with a stick and a clutch.

    • 0 avatar

      I sympathize with you, but I think that the American version would have suited the Autobahn much better, since it has a more powerful engine. Still, the 500L is a city car mainly/

  • avatar

    If anyone is looking at this vehicle they need to also look at the 2014 Soul. The new Soul is a much improved vehicle over the last model. While it does have slightly less interior space and maybe not as agile but it bests the 500L in every other category and being $3000 less doesn’t hurt either. If one is in the market for such a vehicle the KIA is the better deal, and it looks a lot better than the frumpy 500L. It is obvious why KIA sells so many since it is a overall good utilitarian vehicle that ticks many boxes. I recently looked at both cars, but decided I didn’t like either, and that I want a conventional hatchback. The Mini Countryman is too expensive.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree looking at 2014 Soul (not the 2013-harsh ride & loud) especially the Exclaim ! trim with Whole Shabang. For 30K out the door it is pretty well loaded. I found it to be more comfortable than the Mini Countryman and even the quality I thought better with the plastics and leather dash material to be padded. Mini had cheap looking plastics. Space was better in the Soul back especially carrying large dogs. I could have gotten a Countryman cheaper but it was not available with a good infotainment system at the time. (I understand the new ones this spring will have something more competitive with other manufacturers).
      Yes it would have been pricier if I checked off all the options boxes to make it more comparable to the Soul features. I found the Soul’s ride better and it was quieter, just felt like a better quality vehicle. Saw the Fiat, ok looking but horrid seats & very questionable quality. Reviewing it found lots of transmission problems.

      I decided reliability/quality of the Soul was more important than prestige of the Mini (not to mention it has the worst reliability record).

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