Fiat, after a few bad missteps, finally seems to have got its advertising right for the American market, sticking to its Italian roots and bringing them across the ocean. Visions of cars leaping from cliffs into the blue waters of the Amalfi coast, and then emerging onto American beaches after, presumably, a fairly wet 3000 mile drive seem to have caught the imagination. The punchline, “The next wave of Italians has come to America.” may be a little corny, but at least it is memorable.

In reality, the Fiat 500 is a nifty little car that’s lots of fun. However, if you’re looking to take the family on a trip, along with some luggage, or even a picnic hamper, it can be a bit of a tight fit. Fortunately, if you’re looking for Italian style with room to spare, then the 2014 Fiat 500L may be just the thing – and you can check out whether it is available at your local Fiat dealer.

The 500L has an SUV feel about it, and especially the Trekking variant, which features front and rear fascias and protective cladding on the lower body. However, the real thing you need to know about the 500L is that it rides on a larger platform (which is the reason for the L), and is nearly 28 inches longer than the standard Fiat 500. It is also 5.9 inches taller, which, combined with the huge front windows, gives it a really spacious feel. The interior trim is also brimming with quality and European style, making the 500L a pleasurable experience.

There’s plenty of power under the hood of the 500L – it’s powered by a 160 hp, 1.4 L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that it shares with the Dodge Dart, although the throttle calibration gives it much more speed off the line than the Dart. The acceleration is lively, especially in city conditions, and is helped by a standard six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also an optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic available, and a conventional automatic is rumored to be on the way. Of course, if you know how to use it, the manual gives you much more get up and go.

The economy is pretty good as well, with the manual variant coming in at 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Compared to the regular 500, that’s acceptable – the base model comes in at 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

The question, of course, is whether we’re ever going to see a four wheel drive available on the 500L. There may be hope, especially since spy photos over in Europe have shown an AWD 500 prototype being tested, but so far it hasn’t made it to market on either side of the Atlantic. However, given that the Fiat Panda (which offers a 4×4 configuration) has yet to arrive in the US, we might be in for a long wait.

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