By Kristin Varela on December 26, 2013
I recently had a stint in the 2014 Fiat 500L with my family, which includes a 6-foot-2 husband and three growing daughters ages 9, 11 and 13. I wasn't expecting much more than a fun and novel week driving something instantly recognizable, but the truth is that the 500L is much more functional for families than one would think.
In a world full of large, practical SUVs that start to look and feel the same, I really enjoyed previous weeks in both the Fiat 500c and the 500 Abarth. I was concerned that the 500L would sacrifice the fun factor and uniqueness of the little Fiats, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does it look great in the flesh, but it also proved to be very practical. While some of its competitors in the "cute little car" market have grown without gaining significant, practical everyday space (Mini Countryman, anyone?), the 500L is an exception.
After loading my three girls in for the first time, I was shocked by the amount of legroom they had: 30.7 inches to be exact. While this was more than enough for my girls and their backpacks, in fairness, this is 3 inches less legroom than in the Mini Countryman. However, the Fiat definitely takes the cute-car cargo-space cake. Its looks are deceiving from the outside, but once you open up the trunk, there's 23.1 cubic feet of space for your junk behind the back seat, compared to just 16.5 cubic feet in the Countryman.
In addition, with the 500L's seats folded down, there was a significant amount of space for those odd times when you need to cart an armoire out of storage, not that my husband knows anything about that.
Speaking of my husband, that tall guy who loves large SUVs that fit his frame, he looked and felt very comfortable in the 500L's European-designed interior. I think it brought out the inner young Italian man in him zooming around Rome or Paris.
The panoramic roof's huge expanses of glass made the car feel like nothing else on the road today. Everyone had a great view, and it was a treat to take a nighttime drive with the whole family to admire the start of the holiday lights season.
The only negative that my family and I noticed was a slightly flat feeling engine while trying to get up to speed on the highway at our high-altitude home base when fully loaded with the family. Perhaps I was expecting a punchier, more Abarth feel.
Both the functionality and the decidedly European look of the 500L were appealing to my family, and not in a cheap Euro-trash way. When you add together its usable space, comfort and snappy looks, the 500L would make an ideal contender for small city families looking for something maneuverable with a unique yet classic urban vibe. The 500L checks all those boxes.
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin