Thursday, March 6, 2014

New 500L Lounge: More Fiat for the money

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

This review originally appeared in the February 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California   Say Fiat 500 and most expect: tiny car, limited horsepower, a handful of perks.

Not so with the all-new 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge, a four-door, five passenger car with some saucy lines to make it stand out.  Think of it as the Fiat 500 with something extra … a lot extra to be truthful.

The “Lounge” version is the top end of four trim 500L levels, and my tester looked ready for battle on 17-inch wheels resting under flared wheel arches and an aggressively sculpted front end to knife through the wind.

All this made the 500L Lounge look about twice the size of the previously tested, standard Fiat 500.  Happily, there’s more horsepower under the hood to put the 500L Lounge through its paces.

Power comes from a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine with a max horsepower rating of 160.   That certainly was enough to make most of my driving efforts enjoyable, although there was a slight lag in time between mashing the accelerator to the floor and delivery of somewhat noisy full power.

Handling was nimble, and the car showed that it was capable of quick lane changes at high speed, sans any wiggle on the back end.  Very nice.

The turbo did little to hurt the fuel mileage, which came in at a respectable 24 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the open road.

Interior room was good, way better than the basic Fiat 500, and the layout of controls was nicely done, with the comfort of the driver in mind.  One thing I did have trouble with from the cockpit was a double A-pillar arrangement in the windshield.  It looked stylish, but it definitely affected visibility, particularly on left-hand turns.

The list of standard features was pretty impressive for this class, including knee-bolstering airbags, reactive head restraints, a tire pressure-monitoring system, dual zone climate control, heated front seats and a fancy chrome/leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Naturally, you have to pay a little bit more for a Fiat that offers more.  Starting fare on the tester was $24,195, boosted to $27,445 on the bottom line due to extras that included a $950 power sunroof and $500 worth of enhanced audio speakers.

So, if you’ve been wanting a Fiat that has more than a major cute factor going for it, this 500L Lounge is likely worth a serious look.  This vehicle is right out of the Mini Cooper playbook – a beefier version of the basic ride.

I can’t argue with that proven strategy.  And this 500L Lounge had enough to make me want to spend more time in it.

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