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We drive the Fiat 500L

by Ali Arsham
Wednesday, February 05, 2014

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Fiat 500L
In case you have missed it, Fiat is back in the US after a long holiday.  The first Fiat was the Fiat 500 which was a very cute small car.  There have been several different versions of the 500 so far and the latest one is also the biggest one, the 500L.  The 500L promises more room for families with four real size doors which makes it a lot more practical.  The extra size does not make the 500L into a boring family car and the car keeps its original charm and fun.

The 500L comes in four different flavors starting with the Pop, Easy, Trekking and the top of the line Lounge.  The Easy model gives you features such as 16 inch aluminum wheels, different color roof, rear park assist system and back up camera, 6.5 inch touch screen radio and Bluetooth and leather wrapped steering wheel and shift handle.  The Trekking adds more exterior colors, 17 inch tires and fog lamps and some unique styling touches.  Our top of the line Lounge came with a six speed dual clutch automatic transmission, 16 inch aluminum wheels, leather interior, dual zone climate control and more. 

The 500L is 6.1 inches wider and a full 27.7 inches longer than a regular 500 which translate into terrific rear space.  In fact, the rear seats are well sized so that adults can fit back there comfortably.  And with the rear seats up, there is still a roomy trunk back there to swallow your luggage.  The additional space is instantly noticeable when you get into the 500L.

Visibility is great from inside the Fiat 500L
Something else that you notice when you get into the 500L is the panoramic view.  With the A pillar pushed far forward, the B pillars start at the base of the dashboard.  The added glass feels a little strange at the beginning but it does aid in visibility and really gives the 500L an airy and open feel.  Coupled with the tall roof, that gives NBA size players plenty of headroom, the 500L feels huge inside.

First seen on the Fiat 500 Abarth, the fuel-efficient 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder engine finds its way into the Fiat 500L as the single engine offering, delivering 160 horsepower, 184 lb.-ft. torque.  Structurally, the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine starts with a durable cast-iron block and a structural aluminum bedplate. The bore is 72 mm and stroke 84 mm for a total displacement of 1,368 cc. At the bottom end, a forged-steel crankshaft with select-fit main bearings is supported across five main journals. The crankshaft has been designed with lightened counterweights to reduce overall mass for high engine rpm operation. Durability is ensured with the use of lightweight forged-steel connecting rods that have been designed with a unique cross section to minimize the longitudinal and lateral bending of the rod.

Lightweight cast-aluminum pistons, with a compression ratio of 9.8:1, contribute to the overall efficiency of the reciprocating assembly and the engine’s high rpm capability. Full-floating piston pins are used for added strength. Piston cooling jets, located at the bottom of each cylinder, contribute to fuel economy by squirting oil on the bottom of the pistons to help maintain cylinder temperatures and reduce the possibility of hot spots along the cylinder walls or at the top of the piston, which could lead to spark knock.  This high-performance 1.4-liter engine also is fitted with a structural aluminum oil pan with a crankcase capacity of 4 quarts and a dry filter.

The high-performance 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine features Fiat’s exclusive MultiAir intake valve technology.  Unlike engines that rely on direct action from fixed lobes on the camshaft to control intake valve opening and closing, MultiAir is an electro-hydraulic system that can control intake air, cylinder by cylinder and stroke by stroke, depending on the precise operating conditions and the demands from the driver and engine control system.

The actual opening of the valves is controlled by a small actuating piston and hydraulic fluid running through a narrow passage that is controlled by a dual-action solenoid.  When the solenoid is closed, under highway speeds or full acceleration, intake valves are fully open much like a traditional engine for maximum power.  At lower speeds, the solenoid opens precisely during the intake stroke, allowing oil to bypass the passage, thus decoupling the valves.  This allows for infinite control of the valves and controls the amount of fresh air into the cylinders, reducing wasted energy that is common with fixed intake lobes on a camshaft.

Fiat claims that MultiAir technology on normally aspirated 1.4-liter engines provides up to a 15 percent increase in low engine rpm torque, up to 7.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 7.5 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

500L models come standard with a six speed manual transmission but the Lounge model’s standard transmission is a new twin clutch automatic.  The transmission is very typical of such dual clutch units with very quick shifts but a little jerky when starting off.  You can shift manually using the shifter and the pattern is opposite of most manufacturers requiring you to pull down for upshifts which is the same way as racing transmissions. This pattern may be odd to some people but actually makes great sense.

The powertrain works really well and creates a car that feels very zippy and fun.  The turbo boost kicks in very quickly and the car has a great throttle response.  The best part is that you can get an EPA estimated 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway which is pretty good.

The Fiat 500L Pop model starts out at $19,195.  The Easy bumps up the price to $20,195 while the top of the line Lounge goes up to $24,195.  Our car had a few small options that brought the total up to $27,445. 

That is a pretty good price for what is a lot more than just an economy car.  It is a car that has style, performance, economy and room.  That is tough combination to beat and in a world of boring under $30,000 cars, the 500L is a great choice.

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