By Cars.com EditorsAugust 6, 2013
About the video
Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays says the 2014 Fiat 500L might be just what car buyers are looking for in a small four-door hatchback.
(rock music) Hi, I'm Kelsey Mays for cars.com, here with the 2014 Fiat 500L. This is the most unique spinoff of the 500 so far. We've driven it and I got to say, this is the 500 that Americans will actually want to consider. We'll tell you why.
For starters, Fiat says the 500L and the 500 share very little in common. The L comes off the automaker's small, wide architecture. It's a new platform and it makes for a car that's about two feet longer than the 500. It's nearly six inches taller and wider, as well. The 500L has a very comfortable ride height. It's nice and high up, easy to get into and out of and headroom once you're inside is very good. Cabin materials, kind of mixed. Some nice silvers here along the door handles, along the steering wheel. There's an optional dash padding section here along the middle. Unfortunately, the upper doors where you might rest your arms and your elbows, not padded in any trim level. Decide whether or not you like the dashboard styling. It's a little bit cartoonish, but it is very upright, which makes for good room to kind of spread out your knees here. Now, editors were a little bit mixed in their opinions on the front seats. Some said that the seats were fine and reasonably comfortable. Others found the backrests were kind of stiff. The seats didn't offer a lot of lateral support and the lower seat cushions could be tough. A little bit short for taller drivers. Visibility, a good thing here. Fiat says there's glass A pillars. These are segment exclusive. They're more like just glass panels here between a split A pillar, but they do create very good visibility, kind of looking around up front. Also, there's a very tall, upright windshield. That helps as well. A couple of nice things here. There's a conversation mirror. This is taken out of minivans. It allows you to keep an eye on kids in the back seat. There's one touch power windows. That's kind of a nice premium touch you don't often find in non-luxury vehicles. A couple of annoyances. The parking brake here sits right underneath the optional center console. Kind of can bang into it if you're not looking here. The optional heated seats buttons are on the outboard sides of the seats. That means you're going to have to tell your passenger to turn off his seat before he gets out so the next guy doesn't roast himself. Big thumbs up for the back seat here. The seats have a nice high seating position, so adults knees won't be kind of dangling up in the air. Also, good headroom. Often you have to trade one for the other. This is a win-win situation. They move forward and backward a few inches. They also recline a few degrees here. That's a provision the rival Mini Countryman offers, but few other four door hatchbacks do. The seats fold and tumble forward like so. Fiat says with the seats down and everything, there's about 65 cubic feet of maximum cargo room. Pretty impressive in this class. Under the hood is a 1.4 liter turbo charged four cylinder engine. Same engine as you get in the Fiat 500 Abarth and the Dodge Dart. Dodge is with Chrysler, Chrysler is with Fiat. Kim is with Kanye, that sort of thing. In this car, it makes 160 horsepower, 184 pound feet of torque. Those are nice numbers, but power takes a little bit long to kind of come up after some turbo lag. There is enough power to get past slower traffic, but the 500L doesn't exactly scoot off the line. Now, as for transmissions, there's a standard six speed manual transmission. Pretty clunky. We're not big fans of it. It's got kind of a long, clumsy throw shifter, a long awkward gearing, especially at lower gears. There's an optional six speed dual clutch automatic that's actually a pretty smooth shifter. Gas mileage, nothing to write home about. An EPA 27 miles per gallon combined with the automatic transmission. Also, Fiat recommends premium fuel for the best performance. Another mark against the car in terms of its overall efficiency. Part of that might have to do with curb weight. This car is about 3,200 pounds, give or take. About 150 pounds more than a Mini Cooper S Countryman. It's about 300 to nearly 500 pounds heavier than competitors, like the Ford Focus hatchback, the Subaru Impreza, the Hyundai Elantra GT. And it feels that way, too. You cut into corners real hard. And the 500L leans a lot, kind of feels off kilter when you're on curvy roads. Redemption does come once the road straightens out. Over bumpy roads and on the highway, the car does show pretty good overall composure. The two-door Fiat 500 had its appeal, but it wasn't really the car that mainstream American shoppers wanted. We thought too small on the inside, too skiddish to drive at highway speeds. The larger Fiat 500L, though, I think is going to be that car that those people want, especially because you can get it with things like an automatic transmission, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a backup camera, a navigation system, all for around $22,500, including the destination charge. That's a lot of car for the money. And if you're shopping a small four-door hatchback, this might be the Fiat that you should check out. (engine revving)