Considering the Kia Soul, MINI Countryman, or Nissan Juke? You might want to hold out another few weeks as there'll soon be another strong rival to throw in the mix: The new Fiat 500L begins arriving to dealerships this next month, and it's now been very competitively priced against those models.
The fashionable 2014 Fiat 500L will start below the $20,000 mark.
And perhaps most importantly, it's more than just the little Fiat 500, stretched out a few inches in length. This is actually a different car entirely—with four doors, seating for five and, at least in part, different underpinnings.
Fiat has boasted that the 500L is a full-size car by EPA standards, even though it's still a subcompact if you go by its parking footprint. It's just 163 inches long, but that's 23 inches longer than the Fiat 500.
Power is provided by a 160-horsepower version of the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder engine, delivered with a standard six-speed manual gearbox; all versions have front-wheel drive for now, but we wouldn't rule out an all-wheel drive option in the future.
We haven't driven the 500L yet, but with the 160-hp engine and a chassis borrowed from the sporty Fiat Punto hatchback—and details like Koni frequency-selective damping front struts and rear shocks—we're expecting an engaging driving experience.
So how does the $19,900 500L match up against the Kia Soul or the MINI Countryman? Price-wise, the Soul is still the value leader here, with a starting price of $15,175. Even a top-of-the-line 'Soul!' with the Premium Package (leather, heated seats, automatic climate control, nav, push-button start) totals just $23,175.
The MINI Countryman costs quite a bit more, though—and you don't get as many features. The base front-wheel-drive 2013 Countryman runs $22,700, and just getting the ALL4 all-wheel-drive version steps up to $28,000.
We'd also throw the Nissan Juke in as a competitor; it starts in the same range--$21,070, running up to $27,730 for a top-of-the-line 2013 Juke SL AWD.
The 500L is offered in Pop, Easy, Trekking, and Lounge models. At the base level, the 500L Pop includes air conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, steering-wheel controls, tilt/telescopic steering adjustment, and a multi-position cargo-area panel. Six-speaker sound is also included, with the Uconnect 5.0, offering a five-inch touch screen, voice commands for the radio, hands-free calling, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a media hub with USB and aux-in ports.
The so-called Fiat 500L Easy adds 16-inch alloy wheels (replacing the steel wheels in the Pop), plus tinted rear glass, a front-seat center console and armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, special cloth upholstery, a vinyl-wrapped instrument panel, and 520-watt sound. Above that, Trekking models add lots of 'rugged' appearance extras, including special wheel moldings, larger 17-inch wheels, fog lamps, and two-piece front and rear fascias, plus a unique-to-the-model, two-tone black/brown interior with low-back bucket seats.
Lounge models are at the top of the line, at $24,995, and they include power heated leather seats, driver lumbar adjustment, split-folding rear seatbacks with rear fore-aft adjustment (and recline/tumble), fog lamps, and a dual-zone climate control system—plus the Euro Twin Clutch six-speed automatic transmission.
For the 500L's first year, there's more value. All models but the Pop will be optioned up with the Premier Package—otherwise $1,700 but included for free in the 2014 500L. It includes ParkSense rear park assist, a rear backup camera, and the larger-screen Uconnect 6.5 system (including an SD card reader and text-message reader).
Catch all the latest information, as well as driving impressions and other details, by visiting our review pages on the 2014 Fiat 500L.
(c) 2013, High Gear Media.