2014 Fiat 500L Lounge Review
Fiat stretches its sporty subcompact into something else entirely.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: March 7th, 2014
The Fiat 500 is a fine little car. It's not great, but it's efficient and can be quite fun to spank, if you enjoy living near the red line. But much like how the Mini Countryman is an unsightly insult to everything that ever made Mini Cooper's cool, the Fiat 500L takes the basic look of the 500 and puffs it up to a size where its shapes no longer work with its new proportions.
However, this "biggie small" segment must be moving units (the Mini Countryman is the only one of the five Mini Cooper models that shows improving sales numbers), otherwise the 500L wouldn't exist. As far as utility is concerned, the 500L is more than adequate for a couple starting a family. The problem is, so is every sedan on the market with a comparable sticker price.
On the Road
We like the 500 (we even prefer the standard model - with manual transmission - to the overpriced Abarth), and we like small, efficient, affordable cars. We just don't know why anyone thinks that making them bigger is in any way a good idea.
Without enough extra power, and with the car's rather extreme height, the fun of tooling around in a sporty little subcompact is gone, replaced with a bus-like ride and a dual-clutch automatic that forces you to drive like you're hyper-miling.
And that's the one thing that can be said about the 500L - its mileage is nothing to sneeze at. With a combined 27 mpg, the L definitely has a long-term price advantage over a perhaps more sensible sedan.
The thing about design is, you can't just take the basic look of one thing and slap it on something else and expect it to work. To the extent that the 500's looks work, they work because it's a cute small car. Make it bigger and, like an adolescent teen, it doesn't look cuter, it looks like a greasy, pustulating, hormonal monster.
It's one thing to stretch a car lengthwise - that follows the aerodynamic flow of the design. But to stretch a car vertically completely distorts the entire design, which is why the 500L is an odd, bulbous, aggressively ugly car.
The interior of the 500 L is a study in mismatched materials, lines that lead nowhere, and various other design choices that seem either random or based more on cost than on style.
The 500L, both inside and out, may appeal to those with unique taste who appreciate design that is extremely quirky and not particularly, but we found its look and feel to be vaguely disquieting, and not at all in harmony with what is appealing about the 500 which, let us remind you, we really like.
Again, to be clear, the Fiat 500 is a fun little sporty subcompact. We love its energy, its Euro looks, its price, and its efficiency. But this, as they say, is not that. The 500L is a compromise car, belonging to a compromise class of cars (the small SUV/crossover/maxi mini) that, by its nature is flawed. So in a sense it's not the car's fault, or even Fiat's.
But if you really, really like the 500 but need a car that's a little roomier, and you don't mind giving up everything that makes the 500 a 500, just to have a car that kinda sorta looks like a 500, from certain angles, at a distance, then this might just be the car for you.
Specs & Price
Engine:1.4-liter inline four turbo
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic (optional)
Power Output: 160 horsepower / 184 lb.-ft. of torque
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg (city) / 33 mpg (hwy)
Price: $27,445 (as tested)
Features: Leather trimmed bucket seats, UConnect with Sirius XM, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, bright exhaust tips
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Fiat 500L, click here: 2014 Fiat 500L.