ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Let me start by saying this: I've been a fan of dual-clutch transmissions since they launched, but this one is not so good. On my first acceleration out of the parking lot it felt like it was slipping between first and second, like it couldn't decide which gear to go into.
The 2014 Fiat 500L has almost the exact same interior volume as the Mazda CX-5, which is my go-to comparison in these situations, but a lot less style. The L does get a tad better gas mileage, though.
The interior is just a little too cartoony for my taste. The multicolored seats, and dash and bubbly gauges are a bit much. After all, driving is serious business!
The seat heaters on the outside of the seats threw me for a minute, but the radio setup is good and easy to use. I had no problem connecting my iPod and fast forwarding through tracks with the slider. Not many cars have that. Visibility is good; the L feels a little like a fishbowl when driving.
The brakes were a bit grabby, but that may go away when the car gets broken in more. I did enjoy the tight steering. It also took potholes hard -- bruise-my-kidneys hard. The recently driven 2014 Kia Soul was much easier over our rough winter roads.
Overall, the 2014 Fiat 500L Easy isn't for me, but it's priced right and does offer extra utility with the high roof. But there are cars that do that just as well and are a lot more fun. Take a drive before you decide and check out the competitors before you open your checkbook.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: We tend to like minivans around here -- they're more honest than crossovers and they tend to have more room, too (not to mention nifty, practical features like fold-flat seats and built-in vacuums). One of our perennial favorites? The Chrysler Town & Country.
So maybe it's not too surprising that the product of Chrysler-owning Fiat is a surprisingly competent mini-minivan. I liked it with a manual last year, and I still like it with the “Euro Twin Clutch” -- though I'd probably opt for the stick for maximum European-ness.
Fiat hasn't really done a good job selling these cars to the American public, and this is an area where it can't really stumble if it has hopes of moving more than a handful. Since we don't get many MPVs, the 500L's character has to feel awfully foreign to the typical buyer over here: It's not trying to be a fake SUV or even a wagon. It's just a boxy, upright, cheerful little people-hauler.
Yes, there are some areas where it gets cartoonish, and yes, there are some angles that don't flatter this design. The inside doesn't take itself too seriously, though you'll be pleased to find features like heated seats without having to shell out for leather. Uconnect has, by this point, proven itself to be one of the most intuitive and robust infotainment systems on the market. That's a nice plus, though I feel like you'll adapt to whatever you ultimately buy.
I didn't think the twin clutch was as gawky as Jake did, though I wasn't expecting quick performance. In fact, considering the engine's 160-hp output, I thought acceleration was more than adequate. Brakes bit a tad too hard, but they'll soften up a little with use.
Is the whole vehicle too cartoony? Jake is certainly right about driving being serious business -- for enthusiasts, at least. (Not that “fun” and “serious” are necessarily mutually exclusive.) The 500L isn't an enthusiast car. Most cars aren't, because most people aren't enthusiasts. And as far as non-enthusiast cars for non-enthusiasts go, the 2014 Fiat 500L Easy is a good value. That it doesn't take itself too seriously is an asset in my book.
2014 Fiat 500L Easy
Base Price: $21,195
As-Tested Price: $25,195
Drivetrain: 1.4-liter turbocharged I4; FWD, six-speed dual-clutch sequential manual
Output: 160 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 184 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,254 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 24/33/27 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 26.4 mpg
Options: Premier package including Uconnect 6.5-inch touchscreen, radio with GPS navigation system, rearview backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist ($1,745); six-speed Euro twin-clutch transmission ($1,350); power sunroof ($1,100); easy premiere package plus Beats including one year of SiriusXM radio, Beats audio six premium speakers plus subwoofer, SiriusXM satellite radio, black cementite seats, cementite (gray) instrument panel boards ($700); Nero roof ($500); heated front seats ($350)
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