Forget about the Fiat 500 when you look at the 500L, because the two Cinquecentos are quite different vehicles. The 2014 500L, a uniquely Italianesque twist on the compact multipurpose vehicle (MPV) theme, is of B-segment dimensions. It’s also the first Fiat product to use the company’s “small/wide” architecture. The A-segment 500 is, of course, built on Fiat’s Mini platform.
Following its global unveiling at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show last March, Chrysler saved the 500L’s North American debut for Nov. 28 at the L.A. Auto Show. The uniquely styled five-door MPV with two-row seating is produced at Fiat’s Kragujevac plant in Serbia. It went on sale in Europe Oct. 12 of this year and will be a 2014 model for the U.S. when it hits showrooms next summer. Main competitors include the Kia Soul and Mini Countryman.
The 500L comes in two variants: standard and Trekking, the latter with unique front and rear fascias and trim to give a more aggressive, quasi-SUV look. Both models are front-wheel-drive only and share a 163-in (4140-mm) overall length and a 102.8-in (2612-mm) wheelbase. Front and rear track are 59.1 in (1502 mm) and 55.4 in (1510 mm), respectively.
Base curb weight of the 500L is 3250 lb (1474 kg).
The North American version contains 645 new parts that will enable it to comply with U.S. safety and emissions regulations and to meet customer requirements, said Art Anderson, Fiat’s Chief Engineer for the NAFTA region. Powertrain and safety engineering head the list of unique changes.
The 500L’s powertrain mates the turbocharged 1.4-L Multiair inline four, rated at 160 hp (119 kW) at 5500 rpm and 180 lb·ft (244 N·m) at 2500-4000 rpm, with a choice of Fiat-built 6-speed manual and 6-speed dry-clutch DCT. The 1.4-L turbo engine is not available in the European market 500. Engine choices for the 500L in Europe include Fiat’s parallel-twin-cylinder, turbocharged 0.9-L TwinAir, rated at 103 hp (77 kW) as well as four-cylinder gasoline and diesel units.
Anderson’s development team engineered a significant passenger-safety equipment package to enable the 500L to meet the phalanx of U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 201 (interior head impact), 301 (fuel system integrity), 214 (side impact), 216 (roof crush resistance), and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s new “small overlap” frontal-impact test. There are seven airbags.
Other new components on the North American 500L include projector headlamps; larger brakes—the vented front rotors measure 12.0 x 1.10 in (305 x 28 mm), the solid rear rotors are 10.4 x 0.4 in (264 x 10 mm); Continental Conti ProContact or Goodyear Eagle LS2 all-season tires in 16- or 17-in sizes; and unique materials on the seating surfaces.
The car’s signature greenhouse design is wrapped with 16.1 ft2 (1.5 m2) of glass and features a fully structural twin-A-pillar configuration. It was influenced by Fiat’s 1956-65 Multipla, a compact, rear-engine people mover that was considered unusual, forward-looking, or just plain odd in its day. (Google “1956 Fiat Multipla” for more information.)
But rather than have a minivan-like seating position, Fiat Design boss Roberto Giolito designed the 500L’s interior to be more car-like, with a lower seating H-point. Total U.S. EPA interior volume (passenger and cargo) is 99.7 ft3 (2.82 m3). EPA front row seating volume is 54.6 ft3 (1.55 m3).
The 500L’s suspension is MacPherson struts, coil springs, and stabilizer bar in front, and a rear twist-beam axle with coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers. The electronic power steering has a 17.2:1 ratio.
Front/rear weight distribution is 61/39% on both the 500L and Trekking models. The fuel tank capacity is 13.2 gal (50 L).