2014 Fiat 500L
2014 Fiat 500L. Click image to enlarge

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Preview by Lesley Wimbush, photos courtesy Fiat

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2014 Fiat 500L

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Tearing a page out of Mini’s playbook, the Fiat 500 has expanded its lineup to include an extended version of the Cinquecento.

Now, in addition to the diminutive 500 that has sold more than one million vehicles globally since its 2007 launch, comes a longer, wider version with room for five passengers.

Unveiled for the first time in Canada at the Montreal Auto Show (and at LA before that), the Fiat 500L adds choice and versatility to a nameplate that has enjoyed icon status for more than five decades.

Like Mini’s Countryman, the 500L offers a crossover-like vehicle for those who don’t really want a crossover.  Those added doors significantly increase ease of entry and exit, and the rear cargo bay, while not exactly Home Depot voluminous, will easily accommodate a load of groceries with 654 litres of space.

2014 Fiat 500L2014 Fiat 500L
2014 Fiat 500L. Click image to enlarge

With 42 percent more interior room than the regular Cinquecento, the new Fiat 500L “extends the reach of the Fiat brand in North America and will keep our customers within the brand as their lifestyle needs expand,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Fiat Brand North America”.

You might think that the “L” designation stands for “longer” and you’d be right – but it also stands for a host of alliterative nomenclature.

“Leveraging” – a marketing move to expand the brand’s desirability to a wider range of people by offering a vehicle with more room and two more doors, yet with the same Fiat 500 DNA.

“Large” – Designed on a new “small-wide” platform, the 500L is 660 mm longer, adds 152 mm in length and width to increase interior space by and provide more leg and head room.

“Loft” – an airy, interior environment that features contemporary Italian design, while providing a nearly 360-degree panoramic view through its unique glass.

“Litres” – Fuel efficiency combined with power, thanks to a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder engine.

“Lifestyle” – Available in four different models to accommodate a variety of tastes, Pop, Easy, top-of-the-line Lounge and a rugged and versatile Trekking model as a nod to those with an active lifestyle.

“Light” – to improve the quality of life by adding “lightness” (and we thought that was Colin Chapman’s job at Lotus), a host of “human-friendly innovations” like Uconnect 5.0 and 6.5 touchscreen interfaces, eco:Drive and a fuel-saving and emissions-reducing MultiAir valve technology.

Like the original Cinquecento, the latest Fiat will offers style combined with tight European handling and quick steering. The 1.4L turbo engine (the same one powering both the Abarth and the Dodge Dart) produces 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox, or an available six-speed dual dry-clutch transmission.

2014 Fiat 500L
2014 Fiat 500L. Click image to enlarge

“From Gucci to Abarth, our Fiat 500 and now all-new Fiat 500L illustrate the different personalities and capabilities the Fiat brand can deliver from the same basic sheet metal,” said Kuniskis. “And with the rugged personality of the Trekking, we will attract a wider cross section of customers while keeping intact all the great benefits of the Fiat 500L.”

While still one of the smallest and cutest cars on the road, the 500L can compete with the Ford Focus in terms of power, size and interior space.

The 500L Trekking is mechanically the same as the standard model, but features more aggressively styled, black-accented front and rear fascias.  Black-clad wheel arches and body mouldings give it a more rugged appearance coupled with larger 17-inch aluminum rims.

The cabin has a more upscale touch than the basic 500 with a two-tone interior, and the addition of a standard Uconnect 5.0 infotainment interface with Bluetooth handsfree calling and voice-command controlled radio or an optional 6.5 system with its larger touchscreen and intuitive map navigation.  The “Beats by Dr. Dre” premium audio package is available as an extra option.

2014 Fiat 500L
2014 Fiat 500L. Click image to enlarge

In addition to the unique, panoramic greenhouse, is an optional 1.2 m2 (20.7 sq. ft.) dual-pane sunroof contributing to the overall “loftiness” of the interior.  Other available options include a rearview camera, nine colour choices for seating and trim, a choice of leather or cloth upholstery and a white or black roof.

With fuel prices surging ever higher, buyers may just be ready to embrace a whole new range of smaller cars such as the Fiat 500L that still offer the versatility of the larger, gas-guzzling crossovers.

The new Fiat 500L is manufactured in Kragejevac, Serbia.  It should arrive in Canadian showrooms mid-2013, and while prices have yet to be announced, we predict they’ll probably start somewhere around the mid-$20,000 range.

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