When it comes to affordable newer cars for college students your choices typically range from a subcompact hatchback to a compact sedan. The one challenge with both these types of vehicles is that the storage room is often too limited, a problem that becomes apparent when you are traveling from home to college and back with all your gear packed in. The Fiat 500L is one vehicle that may provide the solution to this problem. It is an affordable small wagon-like vehicle that can be had for under $20,000 new.
Fiat 500L Overview
Introduced for the 2014 model year, the Fiat 500L shares its name with the tiny 500, but it sits on a separate platform than its junior brand mate. What you have here is a four door utility-type vehicle with a huge lift gate. Priced from $19,195, the 500L retails for approximately $2,750 more than the base Fiat 500.
The 2014 Fiat 500L is sold in base (Pop), Easy ($20,395), Trekking ($21,595) and Lounge ($24,395) editions. All models are powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine making 160 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed twin clutch automatic transmission is available.
Highlights and Analysis
If you are looking for the best value among all 500L models, the Pop edition may be it. This vehicle comes with bi-halogen projector headlamps, daytime running lights, 16-inch steel wheels, power heated side mirrors, a spoiler, air conditioning, cloth seats, front cup holders, a 12-volt outlet, bottle holders, and a UConnect infotainment system with audio.
The amenities grow as you move up through the model range. The Easy edition adds body color mirrors, deep-tint sunscreen glass, a front arm rest with storage, an upgraded instrument panel, a black leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system and cast aluminum wheels.
Choose the 500L Trekking and your vehicle receives additional exterior embellishments including body color door moldings, fog lamps, and 17-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, the Trekking comes with package options including a 115-volt power outlet, illuminated vanity mirrors, a fold-down rear arm rest with cup holder and upgraded infotainment and audio packages.
When your choice is the 500L Lounge you get body color door moldings with chrome accents, chromed mirrors, illuminated sun visors, leather seating, SiriusXM Radio, power lumbar front seats, an interlocking parking brake, upgraded wheels, and HomeLink.
All Fiat 500L models come with a solid body color. Also available is a white roof option for every trim level except for the Easy.
On the Road
Choose any Fiat 500L with a manual transmission and you will find a smooth shifter at the ready. The combination of a turbocharged engine and a manual shifter gives the driver improved control, helping bring this model up to a decent speed in no time.
The ride is fair, at times bumpy and the the 500L feels small because it is small. Its wagon-like shape and tall profile give this vehicle a larger than life look, but it is still a compact model.
Where the Fiat 500L shines is in interior room and storage. This vehicle seats five comfortably, with stadium seating to the rear. Interior volume measures 98.8 cubic feet with 22.4 cubic feet of standard cargo space. Fold down the second row seat and you have access to a generous 68 cubic foot storage compartment.
Crash Test Rating
In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2014 Fiat 500L performed “good” in four categories: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints and seats. Good is the highest rating offered by the IIHS. The 500L performed “poor” in the institute’s new small overlap front test. The NHTSA has yet to rate this model.
In all, the Fiat 500L offers a good package for the college student or recent graduate.
With a 4-year, 50,000-mile new vehicle warranty you get good support. And, a 3-year, 36,000-mile basic maintenance care package provides annual oil changes as well as wheel rotations.
Photo Credit: Auto Trends Magazine
See Also — You Can Buy a Used Car For a College Student