2014 FIAT 500L Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Big-car passenger and cargo space
- good outward visibility
- lots of European personality inside and out.
- Quirky behavior from automated manual transmission
- unpredictable brakes
- rear seats don't fold flat
- uncomfortable ride quality.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Trekking 4dr Wagon (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
We've had our 500L for 2 years now, though have only put on 14K miles so far, and it's my wife's daily driver. Ours is the Trekking trim with the 6 speed Dual-Dry-Clutch Transmission. In response to an earlier recent review where the reviewer gave the car just 1 star, my experience couldn't be more different. To start off, I love the transmission, but I've adapted my driving habits to ensure its longevity. It is, after all, an automatically shifted manual- not a slush box. What I'm talking about is, for example, to select the gear you want using the manual mode when in stop and go traffic, in particular when you're creeping along, and I always put it in neutral if I'm going to be stopped for any length of time. The reasons for driving the DDCT in this way are a bit technical, and maybe that's why dual clutch transmissions haven't caught on so well stateside. In any case, for 2015 all but the Pop trim come with the Aisin slush box if you opt for an auto transmission. I've had no problem with the car rolling backwards on a slight incline when pulling away from a stop, and hill hold assist works well when on any incline greater than "slight". The engine has proven to be plenty quick enough for merging with traffic etc. and frugal if you're easy on the gas. I've gotten upwards of 39 mpg when on back roads with no traffic, 34 or so on interstates, 25 to 27 in town (lots of cold starts routinely, so the economy suffers a bit for that). Some criticize the 500L for having too firm of a ride, but to me it is sublime, giving a very nice balance between ride and handling. The steering weights up nicely as you turn in, though I wish the turn-in response were a little sharper. It is very stable once into a corner, and it's fun to hustle it if you're in the mood, though the car is really excellent at just cruising on a sunny day, esp. if you've opted for the panoramic roof. The 500L is reasonably quiet at highway speeds, and for our small family it's a great road trip car. The upright seating position gives us long term comfort, and the expansive window area provides for an excellent view in all directions. We've found the front seats to be very comfortable with excellent adjustable lumbar support, though folks of longer inseam are more likely to have an issue with proper thigh support. For 2015 the front seat bottom cushions have been lengthened to address this issue. How I have the driver's seat adjusted allows me full view of the instrument binnacle, though I can see where some might have issues with that- perhaps running a lower seat height and a bit more recline would do the trick for them. The parking brake handle works OK, though ergonomically it could be better. Infotainment is intuitive, simple, and has been trouble free for us. It synchs up with my 160gb ipod classic pretty quickly too. I've had Honda's, Acura's, VW's etc. and this has become my favorite. We decided to buy a MOPAR extended warranty just for peace of mind. Our's has been stone reliable save for the recalls for an airbag and a transmission re-flash. Update: We've begun our 4th year of ownership of our 500L now, and I continue to enjoy driving it. So far we've accrued 22,780 miles and counting, so slightly less than 8,000 miles driven per year on average. It's given us zero problems, its economy continues to be excellent (about 27.4 mpg lifetime) considering that it's had a life of cold starts and short trips. The dual dry clutch transmission continues to perform flawlessly, no chattering that I've experienced when driving other makes' cars equiped with dual clutch transmissions. I continue to stick it in neutral at stops, manually select 1st gear when creeping along in traffic, etc. - these driving techniques are second nature to the point I don't really think about it, done primarily in the interest of minimizing clutch wear, however I personally enjoy the extra engagement in driving our 500L this way. The seats are awesome, and the interior has held up very well- looks almost new still, despite our Havanese's best efforts to scratch it up. And it is a solid car- no squeaks or rattles whatsoever. The suspension rides as new, which is to say, excellent. I would have to say this car has more European character, for better or for worse, than most euro imports, but there is nothing about it that is so different that you can't come to terms with it. It just feels a little special and different. If I were to down grade it relative to what is out there in the marketplace today, it would be for the tech, though that could be said of most vehicles of the 2014 model year. Spy reports show Fiat giving the 500L a face lift for the 2018 model year, and it should be available with most, if not all, of the tech you could want, including all the safety nannies- though that's just speculation on my part. update August 2018- Our 500L is now my commuter car, averaging about 15K miles/yr. Fuel economy is now averaging 34.8 mpg.
Easy 4dr Wagon (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
Like someone else said, this is one of the most underrated small cars on the market today. It's well documented that Americans don't like wagons or minivans for that matter. Well apparently neither do most auto journalists because this car is lambasted in every pupublication. Just go drive one for yourself, these are TONS of fun. In Colorado here at this elevation Turbos and their forced induction rule the land. Maybe in Texas at sea level this car seems pokey, but in this thin air this 1.4 direct inject turbo runs hard and is a blast to drive. I upgraded from a Mini Clubman and LOVE the fact I can fit 3 car seats wide. To be fair I have the 6 speed manual so no automatic problems here.
Lounge 4dr Wagon (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
I really like my new 500L but it does not like me. After 6 days, 350ml, it broke down in stop and go traffic on I-25 outside Denver. The twin clutch automatic heated up, smoked and therefore the system shut down. Had roadside assistance tow it back to the Fiat dealer. After setting for three days the car started okay and was drivable. The dealer could not find any problems, the engineer in Italy could not find any problem with the readout data. Their comment was that with the stop and go traffic the 500L twin clutch automatic acted "normally". So what am I to do?? Not drive the car in USA stop and go traffic?! Fiat USA is still working with me so hopefully there will be a positive outcome.
Trekking 4dr Wagon (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
CAR--2014 FIAT TREKKING MANUAL trans; BEATS Audio; fully LOADED (no sunroof, heated seats or visor-built-in garage door opener) PAID: $14,595 + tax/fees. (Last 2014 left on lot June2015, $9k discount.) NOTE: CAPS are used for easy reference of points in article. REPLACED--2003 VW PASSAT wagon 1.8lT ABOUT US—This is our SO CA 'family' car. We’ve owned mostly German cars (BMW & MB), my European husband was reluctant to buy it. This car cost half of the Subaru Outback wagon we intended on purchasing. We both have lived in Europe, so the look, size, & power of the car are not strange to us. We installed a THULE roof rack, a FIAT garage installed trailer-hitch for our Thule hitch-mounted bike rack. We are 5'8" & 6'3". SHORT REVIEW—We are impressed & got a great deal. I can’t stress enough: FIND A GOOD FIAT STUDIO/DEALER/GARAGE, as this will directly affect your satisfaction. INITIAL REVIEW-- The GOOD--Great bang for the buck. Fun to drive. A comfortable ride with DECENT SUSPENSION. PASSENGER SPACE comparable to our Passat with better headroom (friends 6’5” sat in the back, & another 6’6” in the front comfortably). Both front & rear seats are adjustable to customize needs and comfort. Intuitive layout & usage of COCKPIT & CONTROLS. We are enjoying the technology: SAT NAV, tech ports, 110v plug, dash trip computer, etc. Good use of SPACE (for a car this size). THE WEIRD-- Strange PARKING BRAKE. Stalled 1-2xs daily for first few weeks getting out of FIRST GEAR (different than other cars we've owned). Optical illusion of SIZE & SHAPE--Car is much roomier inside than appears. 6 MO REVIEW-- OVERALL—Still enjoying the ride & options. Car is now broken-in (& so are we), so we aren’t stalling out of first gear beyond normal occurrences. We’ve gotten used to the PARKING BRAKE. The GAS MILEAGE is decent (22-23/city & +26/hwy, with nearly 30mpg on long hwy trips. Seems to be improving.) The Trekking’s FABRIC SEATS (leather not available on this model) are more self-regulating than I would have assumed. After our hot SO CA summer and now our ‘cold’ weather, all is well. (I don’t miss having heated seats.) A 500L’s sunroof’s screen is perforated, so it will not fully shut out the sun even when closed, and roof racks are not compatible, so I am doubly glad we don’t have one. CRITICAL—NO DEAL-BREAKERS. But…The DOORS lack a ‘stop’ mechanism, they don’t ‘fly’ open, but don’t open in a controlled manner when exiting your vehicle. The BLUETOOTH: good as an mp3 player, bad for talking on the phone. The MIC picks up too much sound from the dash vent & such. We had the ‘DEAD BATTERY issue’ (as noted by other owners) because of a SOFTWARE UPDATE that didn’t take (our FIAT studio’s garage checked-off as ‘done’), which was remedied by another FIAT garage. This other garage is a combo FIAT/JEEP, so they had the knowledge & know-how to install our TRAILER HITCH. So,—FIND A GOOD FIAT STUDIO/DEALER. Many negative reviews stem from issues with a dealership rather than the brand. Hopefully FIAT can remedy this somehow, as they put out a decent product. We have heard about some transmission problems, but we since we have manual, we are hoping to avoid that.