2014 Fiat 500L Living
Fiat has unveiled the seven-seat MPV version of its mini car with the official 500L Living name badge for the European market. This model is not yet on U.S. Fiat price lists, but it is expected in spring 2014 under the 500XL badge with a larger engine and optional automatic gearbox.
Much about the new 500L Living is directly derived from the successful 500L series, but a few key additions join the length stretch that puts two mini seats in the third row for the first time. The most notable are the multiple two-tone pastel plus white or black paint schemes and an in-dash espresso machine for fresh coffee.
The Lavazza coffee-maker promises individualized lattes, using a similar one-cup system best known from the Keurig K-cup series. The Fiat’s coffee maker reclaims some of Italy’s pride for inventing modern coffee practices… but then largely missing the boom in café culture epitomized by Starbuck’s global rise.
The 500L Living beats the expected MINI Countryman Traveler "Spacebox" to market by more than year but will also face competition in American dealers from the upcoming passenger version of Ford Transit Connect as well as the existing Mazda5. Secondary competition comes from base-model Dodge Grand Caravans from just $20,000 and some base seven-seat crossovers from $25,000.
Fiat is betting these competitors cannot match its quirky flair, brand image and unique European styling.
Click past the jump for the full preview of the Fiat 500L Living ahead of its anticipated U.S. arrival next year as the 500XL.
2014 Fiat 500L Living
Transmission:6-speed Manual (6-speed Auto Opt.) (Est.)
Horsepower @ RPM:160 (Est.)
Torque @ RPM:184 (Est.)
Displacement:1.4 L (Est.)
0-60 time:9.5 sec. (Est.)
Top Speed:112 mph
Despite the Fiat Panda name being unique and highly approachable for small families, the 500 name is judged by Fiat as the best bet for re-launching the brand in the critical American market. It hopes the mini 500’s charms can lend the same magic as the MINI prefix does ahead of all the line extensions from the German competitor.
The 500L Living shares many front panels with the 500L and only deviates with much larger rear doors and a pronounced rear overhang. The overall nose graphic is slightly more refined with premium-inspired lower and middle grilles. The middle horizontal air slot now features a single body-colored piece inside versus the sportier technical treatments in the 500L and 500L Trekking.
The bumper shape is more rounded with fewer styling creases, but retains the odd staggered lamp design that puts a round headlight in the top corner of the grille and the indicator in a round bumper body outward of the main lamp.
The lights and overall proportions create a vehicle with the same quirkiness that sets the 500L apart on U.S. roads. It is not a sporty look by any means, but the large, low glasshouse and low floors are practical for a family-mover.
In profile and in the rear three-quarter angle, the rear of the 500L Living stops being cute and starts being a seriously nerdy wagon. The extended rear overhang that made room for mini back seats leaves the 500L Living with a narrow and high-roof appearance that lacks poise and premium-price appeal. Comparisons to the Ssanyong Rodius are not usually a vote of confidence in a car’s style.
Where the Fiat loses to the Mazda5 for swoopy low-van proportions, it wins on the cool paint finishes that dramatically enhance the car’s appeal.
The major options are for two-tone paintjobs that blend pastel yellows, easter-egg blues and bright reds with a black or white roof. There are 19 exterior colors available and 11 two-tone configurations. Paired with the tinted windows, the two-tones are about the only place the 500L Living’s exterior design seems to match its city-chic mission.
2014 Fiat 500L Living – (Italian Market) Exterior Features:
- 16-inch glossy grey alloy rims
- 16-inch black alloy rims
- 16-inch white alloy rims
- Optional 17-inch glossy grey alloy rims
- Optional 17-inch white diamond-finish alloy rims (not compatible with snow chains)
- Optional 17-inch black diamond-finish alloy rims (not compatible with snow chains)
- Metallic paint finish
- Metallic paint finish/two-tone white
- Metallic paint finish/two-tone black
- Optional pastel paint finish
- Optional pastel paint finish/two-tone white
- Optional pastel paint finish/two-tone black
- Pastel paint finish/two-tone white
- Pastel paint finish/two-tone black
2014 Fiat 500L Living – (Italian Market) Exterior Dimensions:
|Track - Front (in.)||59.9|
|Track - Rear (in.)||59.8|
Family cars don’t have to be sexy from the outside in order to pack serious comfort, space and luxury on the inside. The Fiat 500L Living does well in all these metrics with the 500L’s practical new dashboard and built-in Uconnect systems that are not available in the smaller 500 city car. The 500L Living’s real claim to fame is its two extra rear seats, in a configuration Fiat calls a 5+2 seating layout. This generally means that there is almost zero real-world room for an adult’s legs.
In the press images, the rear seating area of the 500L Living does appear tight on the shoulder and legroom tallies, but very good elsewhere. Entry looks easy for kids over the sliding and folding middle row and the massive panoramic sunroof helps with long-range comfort levels. The low floor height and built-in cup-holders and cubbies are also a nod to the car’s family mission.
The light and airy third row is in contrast to seven-passenger crossovers like the Kia Sorento and the new Mitsubishi Outlander, where this area is dark from the high windows and high floor height.
Addressing a major critique of the 500L and the Mini Countryman crossover, the Fiat 500L Living’s cargo area is extremely large. With the third row in the floor, there is a low and flat cargo floor packing 19.8 cubic-feet of space.
This extends with the second row slid forward but still upright, and extends even more with the seats folded: up to 60.3 cubic-feet of space below the window line. The Fiat beats most small crossovers but is dwarfed by full-size minivans, like the Honda Odyssey.
2014 Fiat 500L Living – (Italian Market) Interior Features:
- Automatic dual-zone climate control system
- Rear parking sensors
- Dual drive electric power steering with City function
- height and depth adjustable steering wheel
- leather steering wheel with radio controls
- Lavazza coffee (built-in Lavazza A Modo Mio espresso machine)
- Cargo Magic Space
- heated windscreen; heated rear window
- Lavazza comfort pack (includes driver’s and passenger seat lumbar adjustment)
- Beats Hi-Fi sound system
- UConnect: 5-inch touchscreen radio with Bluetooth, Nav and DAB
- UConnect: 5-inch touchscreen radio with Bluetooth and DAB; provision for portable navigation system
- 12V power socket
2014 Fiat 500L Living – Interior Cargo Dimensions:
|EPA Cargo Volume – Behind 2nd Row (cubic-feet)||19.8|
|EPA Cargo Volume – Behind 3nd Row (cubic-feet)||5.9|
|EPA Cargo Volume - Rear Seats Folded (cubic-feet)||60.3|
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The priorities for the 500L Living are to be an easy city driver with great efficiency for such a large-capacity vehicle. It largely succeeds with low gear ratios to help motivate the mini-wagon off the line and a selectable steering assistance setting that can make the Fiat’s helm finger-tip light for easy parallel parking or parking garage access.
The Fiat 500L Living comes to the Italian market with a tiny gasoline twin-pot or two larger turbo diesel four-cylinders. None are offered with an automatic transmission and all are far too slow for American buyer demands.
The 500XL, as it is expected to be named for American consumers, will come equipped with the federalized 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo from the 500 Abarth. This little zinger makes 160 horsepower and an even better 184 pound-feet of torque.
The U.S.-market transmission options of the 500L are expected on the 500L Living: a six-speed manual or optional Euro Twin Clutch automatic transmission. This auto box will shift for itself or can be controlled via the gearstick.
2014 Fiat 500L Living – Projected U.S.-Market Mechanical Details:
|Engine Size and Type||1.4-liter Turbocharged 16-valve I-4 MultiAir|
|Peak power (Horsepower)||160|
|Peak torque (Pound-feet)||184|
|Transmission||6-Speed Manual (6-Speed Twin-Clutch Auto Opt.)|
|0-to-60 mph||9.5 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||112 mph|
|Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway/Combined)||23/25/30, est|
The 500L and this new seven-seat version have not yet been crash tested by the NHTSA and IIHS. The 500L was recently awarded with a five-star EuroNCAP performance that makes it the safest car in the class, according to Fiat.
The 500L and the 500L Living have both been designed with safety in U.S. crash tests as a major priority. This is critical in the small family segment where buyers are concerned about child safety as well as road safety versus larger SUVs and trucks.
For this reason, the 500L Living is expected to come to the American market with standard driver’s knee airbag and six other airbags to protect occupants. The Fiat also comes with a full suite of electronic safety systems like traction and stability control.
2014 Fiat 500L Living – Safety Features:
- Driver’s airbag, head protection side bags, passenger airbag, front side bags, driver’s side knee bag
- ESC Electronic Stability Control with ASR/MSR, Hill Holder, MSR, ABS+EBD, ERM, DST
- Cruise control
- Fog lights
- Automatic headlight switch-on with rain sensor
Pricing for this model is not yet available, but it is expected to include a $2,000 premium over the 2014 Fiat 500L’s U.S. prices that start at $19,100.
2014 Fiat 500L Living – Projected U.S.-Market Pricing:
|Trim Name||MSRP - U.S. Market Estimates|
|2014 Fiat 500L Living Pop||$21,100|
|2014 Fiat 500L Living Easy||$22,195|
|2014 Fiat 500L Living Lounge||$25,195|
The Mazda5 is currently the only small MPV on the market with seven seats and dual sliding doors. The Mazda is a sportier interpretation of these buyer needs but also delivers economy and value via its four-cylinder powertrains. The Mazda5 looks far better than the Fiat, but is known for poor engine/tire/wind noise suppression and below-average rolling refinement.
The MINI Countryman MPV has been previewed under the Spacebox nameplate but is more likely to be called the Traveler (if trademark issues can be resolved) when it hits the U.S. market as a late 2014 arrival. The package uses the current Countryman’s platform and engines with a taller roof and a longer tail. A 5+2 seating arrangement is likely but the MINI’s poor interior packaging mean it will be dwarfed by the 500XL for total luggage capacity.
So is the Fiat 500L Living a good choice for families seeking a (relatively) stylish, practical and economical seven-seat MPV? Yes, absolutely. The 500XL is a fantastic kid shuttle with some real advantages versus a base Dodge Grand Caravan.
The 500L Living’s interior is also chock full of unique designs like the “loft” roof concept that brings an airy and light cabin all the way to typically-miserable third-row passengers. The lack of an AWD option might seem shortsighted at first, but really makes sense when considering the 500L Living’s extremely low floor height and retractable rear seat.
The rear seat itself looks like less of a time-out punishment than the ultra-thin jump seats in the Mitsubishi Outlander. The espresso machine is innovative but will probably be tricky to use while doing sing-a-longs with kids in the back.
No, the 500L Living does not have a sporty driving character or much poise in corners, but does have a cushy ride and great visibility from all seats. It might be slow when fully loaded, but 30-plus mpg on the highway is something few non-hybrid crossovers can achieve.
Buyers will also be drawn to Fiat’s value-oriented pricing, Euro-chic two-tone paints and the quirky appeal of having a unique car in the school pick-up line.
|Driving||B||Good Ride Quality But Likely Floppy In Turns|
|Performance||B-||Not Too Quick; Twin-Clutch Auto May Not Be Very Smooth|
|Look||C||A Dash Of European Chic Via Two-Tone Paintjobs|
|Value||A||Good Value Upfront And Low Running Costs Versus Crossovers|
|Overall||B+||The Happy-Go-Lucky Fiat 500 Family Gets Bigger|