Fiat came on the US automotive scene in a big way just a few years ago. It was 2007 when the Italian car maker introduced their new 500 Cinquecento with a global launch. Sure, it had been selling a few cars before that time in North America, but this worldwide push caught the attention of consumers in the United States.
Now, the Italians are coming on strong, as the television ads announce. The Fiat car maker invited a number of automotive journalists to Baltimore, Maryland for their introductory launch of the 500L model. Why Baltimore? It was a simple answer. The Port of Baltimore will be the incoming area for this new 500L model into the United States.
The impressive surroundings were not lost on those journalists present for the event. We had the opportunity to test-drive the 500L through the downtown streets of Baltimore as well into the surrounding countryside. The adjacent Fort McHenry, home of the Star Spangled Banner during the British bombardment, added additional meaning to the ‘British Are Coming, the Italians Are Coming’ television advertisements.
I first had a chance to see the new 500L at the Dallas Auto Show early in the spring. It drew a lot of attention then and I could hardly wait for the invitation to test-drive it. My anticipation was not diminished by the actual behind-the-wheel experience. It was terrific.
The all-new 2014 Fiat 500L is two feet longer than the Fiat 500 and offers 42 percent more interior space and two additional doors. That increase allows more comfortable seating and can accommodate five passengers, although three adults in the back seat is a bit crowded. There is a new 160-hp 1.4-liter Turbo engine that can be mated with a choice of two fuel-saving six speed transmissions. The surprise pricing sets this at a starting MSRP of just $19,100 plus $800 delivery and destination charges.
The 500L is not just a 500 made over into a slightly larger vehicle. It is a different vehicle and competes directly with the Mini-Cooper Countryman. The Scion xB is also viewed as a competitor. The Ford C-Max and the Kia Soul are only slightly out of the loop in comparison.
“The all-new Fiat 500L expands the reach of the FIAT brand in North America, appealing to customers who like the contemporary Italian style of the Fiat 500 but need more space and functionality to match their lifestyle needs,” said Jason Stoicevich, Head of FIAT Brand North America, Chrysler Group LLC. “The Fiat 500L offers the whole package, with best-in-class interior space, class-leading horsepower, exclusive technology features and the style that only Italians can create.”
The 2014 Fiat 500L is available in four distinct model choices: Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge. Each of these models will leverage the technology, efficiency, style, and convenience features that are synonymous with the Fiat 500 brand. I spent most of my driving time in the Trekking model, which is only available in the North American market. It is designed more for the the wants and wishes of the American consumer. It offers a little bit more versatility and quite a few more extras. The Trekking model has more of an aggressive, athletic style and design.
The Fiat 500L Pop model is the lower-end of the new model line-up and offers a wide range of personalization options. Included are steering wheel controls, six-way driver seating, 60/40 split-fold rear seat backs, recline and tumble feature, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cap-less fuel door, floor mats, and much more.
The 500L Easy model offers the versatility and efficiency of the Pop model but adds more styling and comfort features. The Easy model adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, body-color exterior mirror covers, deep-tint rear glass, a front-seat center console with an armrest, vinyl-wrapped instrument panel, and a six-speaker premium audio system.
The top of the 2014 Fiat 500L model line-up features the Lounge, which is designed for those individuals wanting to express a more stylish lifestyle. It adds premium appointments and convenience technologies such as an innovative Euro Twin Clutch six-speed transmission, premium heated leather front seats, two-way driver’s lumbar, integrated armrest with cup holders, automatic dual-zone climate control, and automatic-dimming rear-view mirror. The Lounge model has a starting MSRP of $24,195.
Fiat is offering a very special first year Premier Package as an added incentive. This $1700 value Premier Package will be included at no additional cost on the Easy, Trekking, and Lounge models. The Premier Package includes, during this limited-time launch period, a rear-park assist, back-up camera, U connect with a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen, navigation, text message reader, auxiliary jack, and USB inputs.
The Fiat brand embodies the passion of self-expression and is known as ‘small car that lives big, rooted in heritage, with an Italian heart.’ The cars are known for modern but simple designs that blend their form with function. The portfolio includes the high-performance Abarth, Abarth Cabrio, and the Fiat 500 Turbo. Later in 2013, a full-electric version of the 500 will be introduced.
So, what does that ‘L’ stand for, anyway? Use your own imagination. My journalist friends have called it everything, including lengthy, larger, longer, lifestyle, likeability, and love-it. It is all of that and more.
Bottom line, the new 500L is a family-oriented vehicle, yet maintains the robust energy of the Fiat brand. It is low-priced, yet offers so much that it cannot be overlooked by consumers wanting a versatile, utilitarian, economical small vehicle. It is a small, yet sporty people mover.