Review: 2014 Fiat 500L

Thursday March 13th, 2014 at 9:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Incredible Greenhouse, Two-Level Rear Trunk Platform
Gripes: Pulsation in Steering, Uncomfortable Rear Seats

The L version of the Fiat 500 is a completely new offering for 2014. Although it shares many styling cues with the 500, like a snub nose and bobbed tail, the 500 is substantially larger, hence more practical as a family transport. Parking the L next to a standard 500 drove home the size difference in a way no set of statistics could. With the tails of both Fiats aligned, the L’s nose projects half a parking slot past that of the 500. The extra length of the L gives you 21.3 cubic feet of storage with seating for 5. The 500 offers just 9.5 cubic feet when 4 are seated. Unfortunately, what’s been lost in the enlargement is cuteness. Where the diminutive 500 looks adorable from any angle, the L looks like a 500 that’s eaten too much pasta. In fact, the L is reminiscent of the Multipla, an inflated version of the original 500 Fiat built back in the 1960s.

When you buy an Abarth version of the 500, Fiat reminds you of that fact with close to 20 separate ID badges. When you buy the L, which is powered by the same 1.4 liter turbo that propels the Abarth, you won’t find a single indication of that historical lineage. Like the Abarth 500, the L produces a healthy 160hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more than enough to expedite freeway merges. Even back roads passes are possible, provided you’re in the right gear for maximum acceleration. Our test Fiat’s base price of $24,195 included a 6-speed “Euro Twin Clutch Transmission” which was both a blessing and a nuisance. In the blessing department, the automatic saved us from miles of clutch thrashing during a rush hour descent toward the Golden Gate Bridge when 5 lanes merged into 2 at rush hour. On the other hand, we would have preferred the available 6-speed manual gearbox for most of our week with the L because the automatic was frustratingly slow to respond to specific gear selection commands. Having driven an Abarth 500 with a manual stick shift, I know how much fun this engine package can be. In comparison, the L’s Euro Twin Clutch is rather a disappointment.

When seated in the cockpit of the L, you feel like you’re flying an airplane. The view from the front reminded me of a glider flight I piloted thanks to the greenhouse-like airiness of the Fiat’s window structure. In particular, a couple of enormous vent window panes promote vision to frontal quadrants usually obscured from view. A similar pair of panes wrap around the rear pillars of the roof, affording excellent sight lines to the rear. A $950 optional Power Sunroof completes the transparency formula. Out on the open road, the L buzzes along in the 60-70mph range with minimum wind and road noise. Thanks to its interior spaciousness and its all around vision, the L is much easier to drive on the freeway than the cramped 500. Lane changes in the L are especially easy. By contrast, the post behind the driver’s door in the base 500 makes every lane change a dicey proposition. Handling, however, is just adequate, even with extra cost ($500) 17 inch alloys wheels with 225/45R17 Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires. A curious pulsation in the power steering system on curvy roads eroded confidence in the L’s level of grip.

After 3 straight hours in the L on an extended drive from San Rafael to Carmel, the new Fiat proved its mettle by using just half a tank to reach destination. In fact, I made the return trip on the same tank as well, and averaged close to 33 MPG for the duration of my week with the car. However, extended time in the back seat is definitely not recommended. The seat cushions are rock hard, the back rest angle is barely adjustable and too upright, and there are no courtesy lights for reading. This hostel-like lack of amenities is a shame, because rear leg room is spacious. The front seat situation is considerably better, thanks to supportive lounge chairs with standard heating, one-touch electric power windows, and remote keyless entry, all included in the base price.

You do, however, need to insert the switchblade-like folding key into the ignition slot in order to get started. A minor ergonomic annoyance develops when you manually position the steering wheel in its lowest position. This setting, which is the least bus-like of those available, obscures the upper half of the dashboard from view. If it weren’t for the digital speed read out, which duplicates the hidden speedometer needle, you’d never know how fast you’re travelling.

Despite such minor ergonomic quibbles, the 500L is a practical, sizeable and affordable addition to the Italian brigade. While it may not be as cute as its little brother, the L will prove infinitely more practical to own in the long run.

2014 Fiat 500L

  • Engine: 1.4 liter Inline 4 MultiAir Turbo
  • Horsepower: 160hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,445
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Fiat |Tags:, , || No Comments »

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

Tuesday January 1st, 2013 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Turbo Transforms the 500
Gripes: Invisible Tachometer, Poor Side Vision

It’s been a long time since the name “Abarth” meant anything to motorists in North America. Back in the 1960s, Karl Abarth’s tuning firm, which got its start in Italy by modifying Fiats for road racing, also sold high performance exhaust systems for almost every economy and sports car. These exotic looking exhausts were expensive, but worth the extra cost for the great improvement they provided in sound if not actual performance. When Fiat recently returned to North America to sell the diminutive 500 sedan, it was only a matter of time before they resurrected the Abarth name for a high performance version of the 500. The resulting combination of Fiat style, Abarth performance and bargain pricing has resulted in the performance deal of the year. And yes, it sounds great when you gas it.

In basic form, the Fiat 500, with its 101hp “MultiAir” 1.4 liter 4, is a beguiling car to behold, but ultimately unsatisfying to drive, due to the performance limitations of its underpowered engine’s 98 lb.-ft of torque. The new Abarth version retains the same small displacement 4, but turbocharges it to gain an extra 35hp and 52 lb.-ft. of torque. At 135hp, the Fiat 500 Abarth becomes a much more interesting prospect for drivers seeking kicks. Turbocharging infuses the performance envelope with such a rush that the Abarth will gleefully scoot through openings in traffic that simply don’t exist for the base model 500. Ladling out further enjoyment is the close ratio 5-speed manual transmission, which seems to have a cog for every occasion and a gate precise enough to preclude missed shifts.

Although the Abarth still sits a little high, and thus feels a bit tipsy, its contact patch grip level is substantially augmented by the addition of Pirelli P Zero Nero tires (205/40R17) at each corner. These rubber G-force generators mount on $1,000 optional 17 x 7 inch “Forged Aluminum Hyper Black Wheels” which carry an Abarth inscription on the rim and an Abarth Scorpion insignia on the hub. Inside each black rim glows the red painted caliper of a disc brake. On a “Rosso” red car like our test vehicle, the contrast effect is beguiling. The Abarth is the perfect car for an owner suffering from an identity crisis. There are no less than 19 separate “Abarth” ID medallions, stickers or signs adorning the little speedster, including 8 on the wheels, 6 on the body, 1 under the hood, and 4 more inside. If you like scorpions, you’ll love the Abarth 500. I loved all these medallions.


At an all-in price of just $26,200, the Abarth is a terrific buy. You can even shave the price by eliminating the $1,000 optional “Performance Leather Trimmed High-Back Bucket Seats” which look great in black with red piping, but don’t offer as much side bite as the Fiat’s chassis does. If you can live with just 17 Abarth ID tags instead of 19, you can drop the bottom line price by $350 by eliminating the “Black Mirror Caps With Body Side Stripes.” If you need a navigational aid, Fiat offers a unique Tom Tom which uses an adaptor to slide into a receptacle on the dash top near the steering wheel. This extra will cost you $400.

There is room for improvement on a couple of fronts with the Abarth. The instrument cluster places a large speedo front and center with a tachometer mounted inside the speedo. In daylight, the tach is difficult to read, and at night, impossible, since the gauge glows the same color red as the tach needle. Fiat has thoughtfully provided a separate boost gauge, hung off the left side of the dash where it is easy to see and read. Why not switch the positions of the tach and the boost gauge?

For spirited drivers, the Fiat 500 Abarth is THE performance deal of the year: affordable, cute and nasty all at the same time.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4, 16 Valve MultiAir Turbo
  • Horsepower: 135hp
  • Torque: 150 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,200
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Fiat |Tags:, || No Comments »

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

Wednesday April 18th, 2012 at 8:44 AM
Posted by: berrichondanny

By Danny Chang

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
BASE PRICE $21,500 (est)
PRICE AS TESTED $23,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door hatchback
ENGINE 1.4L/160-hp/170-lb-ft turbo SOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2564 lb (64/36%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 144.4 x 64.1 x 58.7 in
0-60 MPH 6.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.3 sec @ 89.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 117 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.9 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 27/32 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONS, city/hwy 125/105 kW-hrs/100 mi (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.67 lb/mi (est)

Read more:

  • Endearing styling
  • Rev-happy engine with good MPG (30/38)
  • Fun 5-speed gearbox


  • Lackluster interior doesn’t match great exterior styling
  • Tight rear seat
  • No trunk space

Although Fiat introduced the Nuova 500 back in 2007, 2011 is the first time the cleverly styled mini-compact is coming to the US. With its arrival, Fiat makes its return to the American market. The new 500 is styled after the original rear-engine Nuova 500 introduced in 1957. Although the new one is front-engine and front wheel drive, it looks like a giant next to the original city car. But that doesn’t mean it’s big in any way. The 2012 Fiat 500 slots in nicely between the Smart ForTwo and the MINI Cooper.

Read the rest of this entry »

page 1 page 2

Posted in Expert Reviews, Fiat |Tags:, , , || No Comments »

2012 Fiat 500 Hatchback Review – Italian movie star on four wheels

Monday July 25th, 2011 at 3:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman


  • Sublime retro design
  • Fuel economy
  • Wow factor


  • Poor side vision due to fat B-pillar
  • Sunroof shade insufficiently opaque
  • Unnerving dance over grooved concrete

Do you remember when New York’s Museum of Modern Art hung an Olivetti typewriter on a gallery wall and called it art? Before that, they did the same thing with a Cisitalia sportscar. Now they can add the Fiat 500 to their collection of Italian appliances that transcend function to achieve lasting beauty. This diminutive sedan, with which Chrysler hopes to revive the Fiat nameplate in America, is more fetching than a MINI, more stable than a Smart, and more practical than any motorcycle. If you’re hunting down a small package to transport two in comfort or four in pain, the Fiat 500 has got to top your shopping list.

Read the rest of this entry »

page 1 page 2 page 3

Posted in Expert Reviews, Fiat |Tags:, , , || 3 Comments »

Rebadged Dodge Journey Lives On as 2012 Fiat Freemont for the European Market

Tuesday January 25th, 2011 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: aquadog

2012 Fiat FreemontThe partnership between Chrysler Group and Fiat will unveil the new 2012 seven-seat crossover Fiat Freemont at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The Fiat Freemont features the body of a Dodge Journey but is rebranded with a Fiat logo, new bumpers and grille, and includes different engine choices that have been developed by Fiat PowerTrain (FPT).

For FWD manual transmission models, a Fiat 2.0-liter MultiJet turbo diesel engine with 140- or 170-horsepower will be offered. Being released later will be the AWD 4×4 models with a 2.0-liter MultiJet 170-horsepower engine and Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 276-horsepower engine, both with automatic transmissions. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Press and News |Tags:, , , , , , , || No Comments »

New Cars On the Horizon for 2010

Friday January 15th, 2010 at 3:11 PM
Posted by: ggaillard

Lotus EvoraBy Greg Gaillard

If 2009 was a year of uncertainty, manufacturers’ products certainly didn’t show it. Buyers were able to choose from two new class-leading hybrids, a couple of new pony cars and several other creative designs that all pushed the boundaries of their respective segments. Despite the economic downturn with accompanied scrambling for solvency, the trend toward smarter, efficient cars took root and stood firm.

The list below includes exciting new products scheduled for production during calendar year 2010. From the buyer’s perspective many will be worth the wait as they represent new thinking and technology that are expected to carry manufacturers through the industry’s transition to Electric Vehicles (EV) as well as new form factors that suit today’s economy and lifestyle. If 2009′s LA Auto Show is any indication of what to expect in 2010, the trend toward efficiency and driver involvement will continue. And in some cases manufacturers are counting on strong sales to justify new partnerships and changes to old-school business practices. Even more than 2009, 2010 will focus on product first and provide consumers with several choices worth waiting for.

Read the rest of this entry »

page 1 page 2

Posted in BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Feature Articles, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen |Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , || 6 Comments »

Fiat May Have Technology to Save Chrysler

Friday July 3rd, 2009 at 7:77 AM
Posted by: m35man

Fiat 500

Rinaldo Rinolfi may just have something up his sleeve to make Fiat SpA’s partnership with Chrysler Group LLC work.

The 62-year-old engineer, who designed the Fiat diesel engine in the 1990s that became an industry standard and powers some of Europe’s most energy-efficient cars, has a new invention he says will cut fuel consumption by at least 10 percent. His work is at the heart of the Fiat technology that Chrysler said was worth $10 billion when they formed their alliance.

“We needed to do something radical with the gasoline engine,” Rinolfi said in an interview at Fiat’s research center in the northern city of Turin, the company’s headquarters.

Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, seeking to turn around Chrysler after two previous owners failed, has engineers flying between Detroit and Italy every other week on the project as Fiat prepares to offer models that meet stricter consumption and emissions levels required by President Barack Obama.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chrysler, Fiat, Press and News |Tags:, || No Comments »

A Brand New Day for Chrylser

Friday June 12th, 2009 at 7:66 AM
Posted by: m35man

Sergio MarchionneChrysler Group LLC employees officially met the new boss earlier this week–and he’s not anything like the old boss – which is probably a very good thing, indeed. Chrysler is now run by Fiat, and the first item on the new agenda is profitability—something the old bosses didn’t seem to be all that concerned about.

In his first day on the job, CEO Sergio Marchionne announced sweeping changes including his senior management team and a reorganization that will force every brand to be profitable on its own.

This is the age of bailouts and acquisitions. And a bailout is a weird thing, because it’s a happy moment, yet so many questions arise. Will it be a success? Whose heads will roll? Who will get hired to turn things around? It represents a new beginning, but one burning question keeps coming up—will it be better this time or will the mistakes of the past repeat themselves?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chrysler, Fiat, Press and News |Tags:, , || 1 Comment »

President Has Had Bad Luck With Cars

Friday June 5th, 2009 at 7:66 AM
Posted by: m35man

President Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama will tell you that he hasn’t had the best luck with cars in the past. In fact, he claims, he’s had some real clunkers along the way to the White House.

“The car I learned to drive on was my grandfather’s Ford Granada,” the president told an Indianapolis radio station during the campaign. “It may be the worst car that Detroit ever built. … This thing was a tin can. They wanted to keep the cars big, so they made them out of tin foil. … You basically couldn’t go over 80 (miles per hour) without the thing getting out of control.”

Now, we find out, courtesy of Bloomberg News that Obama drove a Fiat during college. During a meeting on Chrysler’s planned tie-up with Fiat SpA, the president “recalled the mechanical problems that plagued his old car.”

Better luck may await the President, however. Obama bought a Ford Escape hybrid during the campaign and regularly touts the vehicle including most recently at a White House event where he was surrounded by other auto CEOs and Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally.

Posted in Press and News |Tags:, , , || No Comments »

Fiat & Chrysler: A Match or a Mistake?

Thursday May 28th, 2009 at 9:55 AM
Posted by: m35man

Fiat Chrysler

The future for Chrysler LLC remains unknown after a hearing to sell its assets to a group headed by Fiat SpA ended late Wednesday evening without resolution.

During testimony in a packed Manhattan courtroom Wednesday, the value of the Auburn Hills automaker was central to arguments heard in U.S. bankruptcy court here. Lawyers for Chrysler said the sale of the assets was critical to the company’s future and that without approval by June 15, it would result in the liquidation of the company.

How will this play out? Will Fiat get what it wants? I believe they will, primarily because they seem to be the only company willing to take on Chrysler. Sure, Fiat will end up getting a lot of concessions. But, that’s what you get when you’re buying a ticket on the Titanic. If Fiat is willing to take on this problem child, they deserve some major breaks, the way I see it.

The hearing was to continue today before Judge Arthur Gonzalez. If he approves the sale of the assets, the new company, Chrysler Group LLC, will prepare to start operations to build and sell Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles as soon as possible.

Posted in Chrysler, Fiat, Press and News |Tags:, || No Comments »

« Previous Entries

Latest Reviews

Select a Category