When Playboy.com first got behind the wheel of the Fiat 500, we were impressed by the Italian carmaker's first offering for the North American market. This week, we test-drove the roomy 2014 500L model, introduced this summer.
Not only did Fiat bump up the import’s proportions from Smart Car size to Sport Activity Vehicle, but from the styling to the features, Fiat is absolutely gunning for eccentric drivers looking for space to spare. In an unexpectedly lucrative segment that includes the Mini Paceman and Range Rover Evoque, the 500L, like the upcoming BMW X4, will further broaden the SAV market.
Despite our initial (and, to an extent, current) hesitation at the 500L design, Fiat has offered up an impressive list of features while keeping the price under the 30K mark. Moving from two doors to four and adding approximately 42 percent more space than the 500 was a good start, courtesy of 27 extra inches of length and another six inches on the height and width. Once in the driver’s seat it’s apparent how much room one has to work with, but dimensions alone aren’t responsible for this. The 500L gives passengers a nearly 360 degree view outside due to the front and back A and D pillars being largely replaced by glass, giving the car a ton more light while turning the vehicle into a movable aquarium.
Under the hood, the ridiculously efficient 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine delivers around 160 horses and 184 pound-feet of torque; it may be small by Playboy standards, but it’s an acceptable trade to get an estimated 33 mpg on the freeway. Ours was the pretty rad six-speed Euro twin clutch automatic, which handled well; stick enthusiasts can opt for a six-speed manual.
The 500L got up to speed quite nicely during our drive; the lack of brute power on the acceleration was supplemented by the uptick in torque, which allowed the fully loaded (read: heavy) vehicle to make it up the speedometer without too much of a cry. We were surprised by how well it managed to navigate sharper elbow turns in the road, especially due to its wide and tall architecture. Going in and out of traffic, the 500L’s radius gave us an advantage, but we still felt the car sway due to the height.
Across the various trim levels, from the entry-level “Pop” to the high-end leather “Lounge,” the 500L has a number of awesome features such as the massive double skylight, with one side doubling as a sunroof, to built-in USB and SD card readers should you want some media on the go.
By far our favorite aspect of the 500L, however, and in our opinion the selling feature is the UConnect 5.0 system, controlled by the 6.5-inch touchscreen, and its integration with a Beats by Dre sound system. We see a fair number of quality sound systems, and the Fiat’s proprietary Beats system compares favorably with a system in a $60,000 BMW or Audi.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is now on sale. Read more at www.fiatusa.com.