It doesn't sound like much: An extra 27.7 inches of length, nearly 6 more inches of height, two additional doors and four more panels of window glass on a small car badged "Fiat 500L".
But the not-quite-14-foot-long, four-door, new-for-2014 Fiat 500L is a unique small car ride — odd to some, stylish to others and more spacious inside than just about anyone expects.
The interior airy feel — some might liken it to riding in a bubble — is especially noticeable when the interior is splashed with outside light from a roof-size, optional, power sunroof.
Also noteworthy: The 500L's high seat positions and big door openings that make for easy entry and exit. These can make the 500L comfortable for someone suffering back pain and who winces at the thought of getting in and out of a regular car.
Best of all, this largest version of a car badged as a Fiat 500 to come to America is affordably priced.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $19,900 for a base, front-wheel drive, 2014 500L Pop model with 160-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and traditional-operating, six-speed manual transmission. This base model includes air conditioning as well as cruise control, remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors, power windows, power door locks and seven air bags.
The lowest starting retail price for a 500L with a six-speed, Euro-twin clutch that a driver can operate like an automatic transmission is $22,345 because buyers must move up to a 500L Easy model.
A conventional six-speed automatic is planned to be available on the 500L during the 2014 model year. Its pricing is not yet released.
In comparison, a base, 2013 Fiat 500 — without the additional space of the L and with just two side doors — is $16,900 with 101-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission.
Competitors to the 500L include other small, tall, five-door hatchbacks.
For example, the front-wheel drive, 2014 Kia Soul has a starting retail price of $15,495 for a base model with 130-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual.
The base, front-wheel drive, 2014 Mini Cooper Countryman with a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $22,895 has a 121-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission.
While the 500L carries the 500 name, it uses a different "small-wide" architecture than the smaller Fiat 500, so it's not exactly a blimped-up 500.
Another distinction: The 500L is built in Serbia, not the Mexico assembly plant that produces the 500 for U.S. consumers.
While the 500L has the face of its smaller namesake, it's on a larger hood and body and arguably just isn't as cute and endearing as the smaller Fiat 500.
Indeed, pictures of the 500L don't do it justice. People have to see this car in person to grasp that at 5.5 feet tall, it's 9.2 inches taller than a Honda Civic sedan, taller than the Countryman and Soul and even a tad taller than a Honda CR-V sport utility vehicle.
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