2014 Fiat 500L Review: Spacious, Super-Efficient and Surprisingly Fun to Drive
I absolutely love the modern Fiat 500. Whether in basic form or built with the unique convertible design, the 500 is one of the best options in the subcompact segment in terms of standard features, price, efficiency and fun to drive factor…but it is tiny. While it does have a back seat, it isn’t much good for anyone other than small children so those 4-person families will almost certainly find the 500 far too tight to fit their needs.
That is where the Fiat 500L comes into play, with many of the same features and comparable design applied to a larger vehicle that can very comfortably seat four tall adults and still have a ton of space for cargo. Best of all, thanks to the standard turbocharged engine and the low riding chassis, the 500L is a surprisingly fun little vehicle to drive while also being very comfortable in all driving situations.
My 2014 Fiat 500L test vehicle was the top of the line Lounge trimline with the Lounge Collection 6 option package so it is basically the absolute most well-appointed 500L you can buy right now with every individual option available with the exception of the engine block heater. Even with the advanced touchscreen infotainment system, the heater leather seats, the stunning retracting glass roof and the standard turbocharged engine mated to a dual clutch transmission – the price as tested for the 2014 Fiat 500L was just $28,245. The first reaction is that a price of almost $29k is high for a Fiat, but when you consider the capabilities of the 500L and the long list of features, the biggest Fiat is a great bargain family vehicle.
The Fiat 500L is an unusual vehicle in terms of its basic design. It really isn’t a station wagon, but it really isn’t a crossover and it really isn’t a minivan. It sits fairly low to the ground while having a high roofline that gives it the silhouette of a crossover, but it just doesn’t sit like a crossover. Regardless of what it is, the 500L has the same Italian charm as the smaller Fiat 500 hatchback and while it has a striking face that draws some criticism, I like the overall exterior look of the 500L.
While opinions on the design language varies from one person to the next, the 2014 Fiat 500L has a collection of exterior features that give it a very high tech look including projection headlights with soft LED trim and soft red LED taillights. Joining those projection headlights up front is a set of marker lights and low mounted fog lights that all give the 500L a familiar design to the smaller 500. There is also plenty of chrome and gloss black up front to give the “L” a higher end feel.
Along the sides, the 2014 Fiat 500L has a sporty form for a vehicle of this size, with a sharply angled windshield leading up to a long, sloping roofline and that sport shape is accentuated by the color scheme with the red body, the black pillars and the white roofline. The Lounge package includes a spread of chrome trim on the mirror caps, the door handles and through the middle of the doors that work with the 17 inch silver painted wheels to bolster the luxury line feel.
Out back, the 2014 Fiat 500L has large LED taillights that are trimmed in chrome with a huge chrome “500L” badge and a chrome trim piece across the surface of the rear fascia. Nearly the entire back end of this supersized Fiat is door, so this smallish utility vehicle has a massive entry to the rear cargo area.
The 2014 Fiat 500L may not have a design language that everyone loves, but the Italian automaker did a great job of designing a family utility vehicle that is stylish and sporty.
The most significant feature of the 2014 Fiat 500L is the level of spaciousness as, while this is still a compact car, it makes great use of every bit of interior space. The low floor and high ceiling creates a very tall seating area so even those folks who are incredibly tall will have plenty of head room whether they are seated in the front of back. The level of adjustment for the front seats quickly allows for a change from a 4’10” driver to a 6’5” driver and while elbow room across the narrow center armrest might be a little tight with two tall people, there is ample room in every other dimension of seating space.
Better yet, unlike many compacts that offer lots of front seating space, the 2014 Fiat 500L also offers an incredible amount of rear seating space, even for a pair of 6 foot tall passengers. The back seats have a slightly elevated position that gives the folks in the back seat better view of the world around them and whether you are seated in the front or the back, you are sure to love the massive retracting glass roof.
The 500L has a huge roofline and Fiat made the most by having one of the most impressive sunroof setups on the market today. Oh, there is also a massive rear cargo area that is big enough to comfortably hold 400 pounds of bagged horse grain. In short, the 500L offers a stunning amount of space in pretty much every measurable dimension for a vehicle with such a relatively small overall footprint on the outside.
Finally, while the 2014 Fiat 500L isn’t going to blow you away with high end interior technologies, it also doesn’t make you settle for a basic radio setup for a vehicle with such a low price. As part of the option package, my 500L had a big, bright touchscreen infotainment system that provided me with access to the sound system, the media player, the navigation software and the hands free phone system.
This system comes with a small collection of hard knobs and buttons that work in conjunction with the touch screen, but there are also a few basic controls on the steering wheel and there is the option of voice control for the navigation system and phone system. Best of all, the 500L also comes with a Beats sound system that pounds out the tunes. All included, it might be among the most impressive systems in a car of this size and this price. Of course, there is also that gorgeous sunroof that I just plain loved.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is powered by a turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir 4-cylinder engine that is similar to the one that motivates the Fiat 500 Abarth (which is one of my favorite cars on sale in the US). This mill sends 160 horsepower and 184lb-ft of torque to the front wheels by means of a similar 6-speed dual clutch transmission that is also featured in the high performance Abarth. This drivetrain is promised to deliver 24 miles per gallon around town, 33mpg on the highway and a combined figure of 27mpg. During my time in the 500L, I found that I was very easily able to hit those expected numbers and with a slight biased towards more highway driving, I was able to average closer to 30 miles per gallon. Considering that I do not drive with a light foot, I expect that most drivers will be able to see great fuel economy for a vehicle that will offer this level of spaciousness.
Best of all, the 2014 Fiat 500L has the spaciousness of a crossover, but it rides and drives like a sedan. If you have avoided a larger vehicle like a crossover or minivan because you don’t like the way that they feel like a large vehicle on the road, you will absolutely love the 500L. If you couldn’t look around and see that you are in a big, roomy utility vehicle, you could just as easily be zipping around in a smaller sedan. The small footprint allows the 500L to maneuver nicely through tight spaces such as parking lots or tight city traffic while the low stance and longer wheelbase allows for solid handling and a very comfortable ride. Mind you, the 500L won’t cut through the twisties like the 500 Abarth, but for a vehicle that will seat four adults with room left for cargo, the 500L handles very well. In addition to handling well in tight quarters, the 500L also rides beautifully on the highway and it will clip along at speeds in excess of the posted limit without much trouble.
The 500L isn’t the quietest highway car I have tested, but it is among the quietest of the small cars or cars in this price class. It is quiet enough and, more importantly, it offers a nice, smooth ride whether you are cruising on the highway at 75 or riding around town at 35. At lower speeds, it also handles rough roads as well as any compact I’ve tested and with a fair amount of ground clearance, the 500L did well on the local unpaved roads.
While I don’t know that I would call the Fiat 500L fast, it has a very solid amount of acceleration for a utility vehicle that will easily offer 30mpg on the highway. The turbocharged engine provides plenty of torque to get you away from a stoplight with some urgency and when cruising on the highway, putting the gas pedal to the floor will motivate the 500L to climb up well past the posted speed limit in a big hurry. This isn’t a race car – but for a vehicle of this type, it packs a surprising amount of power so driving it isn’t as punishing on those who love to drive as some other compact family vehicles.
The Final Word
While I like the styling of the 2014 Fiat 500L, the basic look is really the only thing that can be complained about with this roomy Italian import. This is, in my opinion, the most attractive total package when it comes to smaller vehicles that can truly seat 4 adults comfortably. The 500L combines real seating for four adults, real 30mpg capabilities and a surprisingly strong set of driving characteristics that make it fun to drive.
If you are looking for an affordable, efficient family vehicle that won’t bore you to death while driving it, the 2014 Fiat 500L should absolutely be on your short list. The infotainment system is impressive, the seats are comfortable, the cargo area is huge for a car of this size, the sunroof is incredible and the turbocharged drivetrain makes it surprisingly quick. Before making your next new car purchase, the Fiat 500L is a car that you have to drive and see for yourself.