Italian design, Italian brands, Italian fashions, and most of all, Italian cars are all romanced around the world and into our memory banks. The Fiat car has taken the U.S. market by storm and about a year ago, the Italian automaker added to their portfolio by introducing their new 'L' model.
I had my first chance to see the new Fiat 500L at the 2013 Dallas Auto Show, followed by a media event ride-and-drive. After a year-long wait, I finally had a week-long test-drive of the 500L which proved everything I had hoped for in this little car.
The Fiat 500L is two feet longer than the regular 500 and is a four-door model. This offers 42 percent more interior space, allows more comfortable seating, and can easily accommodate four adults. It probably could squeeze in a fifth person in that back seat, but it would be tight.
This increased size and offering four doors allows the Fiat 500L to compete directly with the popular Countryman by Mini-Cooper, the Scion xB, Kia Soul, and Ford C-Max.
Fiat put in a new 160-hp 1.4-liter I4 Multi-Air Turbo engine and is matched with a choice of two six-speed transmissions. My test-drive model was equipped with the standard manual transmission, which I generally prefer for the smaller cars and fast sports cars.
The test-drive car was the 'Easy' model, second in the listing of four available choices – Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. The Easy model configuration offers the same versatility and efficiency as the Pop model but adds extra comfort features and a little bit more styling, including 16-inch aluminum wheels. The exterior color was called Grigio Chiaro (aka: Graphite Metallic). The interior was also a deep, rich black.
The test-drive model included a Premier Package at no additional cost, although valued at $1745. This included a Uconnect 6.5-inch screen, radio touchscreen with GPS Navigation system, rear-view backup camera, and ParkSense Rear Park Assist.
Jason Stoicevich is Head of the Fiat Brand North America, Chrysler Group, LLC. He commented, “This car is for customers who like the contemporary Italian style of the Fiat 500 but need more space and functionality to match their lifestyle needs.”
I definitely like the Fiat 500, but this L model with the four doors certainly offers much more flexibility. It handles extremely well, for a small car, hold the road, and is easy to get into and out of, especially with young children. The cargo area in the rear is just about the right size for a small car, offering adequate room for groceries or overnight bags.
I have been asked, “What does that L stand for, anyway?” Fiat does not tell us, but use your own imagination. My short list would include Larger, Longer, Lengthy, Likeability, Lifestyle, and maybe Love-It. The Fiat 500L is all of that and a lot more.
The MSRP for my test-drive car was $20,195. With the $800 destination charge, the bottom sticker price was only $20,995. It is EPA rated at 28 mpg combined and 33 mpg on the highway. I achieved a week-long average of 31.5 mpg.
Bottom line: This is a fun car to drive, is highly versatile, and most importantly is low-priced. The Fiat 500L is a family-oriented vehicle but retains the robust energy found in the Fiat brand. This is a sporty people mover for young or old alike.