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The tiny 500's big brother comes with an all-new version of Uconnect, but lacks all-wheel drive.
Fiat recently made two big announcements about the 500L, the new compact crossover that will hit dealers later this month. First, they finally shared pricing details: it starts at $19,900. They also made a big announcement about a new infotainment platform that will eventually be available on many Fiat/Chrysler products, but will make its debut on the 500L.
A bigger Fiat
So far, the sole Fiat-branded offering in the US is the tiny 500. It's an inexpensive city car that's crammed with style, but no amount of panache can help a car overcome its limited interior space.
The new Fiat 500L aims to change that. Although it shares a model number with the 500, that extra "L" signifies an entirely different car, built on its own platform. It's larger in every way than the 500: more than two feet longer and almost six inches wider. That makes it bigger than the average hatchback but smaller than most crossovers—somewhere between the Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman.
Four trims will be on offer. At $19,990 is the Pop, which comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, steel wheels, and Uconnect 5.0. $20,995 upgrades you to the Easy, which gets aluminum wheels, some better interior trims, and a better audio system. Another $1,000 gets you the Trekking, which is a mostly cosmetic addition of "off road" style exterior trim, as the 500L isn't yet available with all-wheel drive. At the top of the line ($24,995) is the Lounge, which comes standard with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, heated front seats, leather appointments inside, and fancier exterior trim.
The 500L has already been on sale in Europe for some time, with some different engine options than what will be on sale in the US, but reviews from the European auto press tend to be positive. Personally, we're fans of the 500L's unique, European size and styling, and we're excited that it will be offered in the US with the same 160-hp Fiat MultiAir engine that powers the sporty 500 Abarth.
In addition to an entirely new car, Fiat is introducing two all-new versions of Uconnect, the infotainment system that's available across the Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, SRT, and Ram products.
Doug Newcomb at MSN Autos reports that the new systems, dubbed Uconnect 5.0 and 6.5, are more basic than the full-fledged Uconnect setup, which is now available on the new Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee with an 8.4-inch touchscreen. The Fiat gets the option of Uconnect 5.0, which uses a smaller, five-inch screen and a smaller processor, or Uconnect 6.5, which adds a (wait for it) 6.5-inch screen and navigation.
We haven't had a chance to try out either system–the 500L on display at the New York Auto Show wasn't powered up–but we know that each runs on software from Microsoft with hardware made by automotive supplier Continental. Both Uconnect 5.0 and 6.5 will be able to connect with a smartphone, and both should be easily upgradeable for new software releases.
"Diagnostic and navigation data, traffic information, fuel costs, and points-of-interest information are all delivered in a user-friendly way while you’re driving,” said Candido Peterlini, Fiat's head of infotainment. “We also have a lot of entertainment services that take advantage of Internet access and social networks."
As a special for 2014 models, the Easy, Trekking, and Lounge trims will get Fiat's Premium Package, which includes Uconnect 6.5 in addition to rear parking assist. Only the Pop will come with the standard Uconnect 5.0, minus navigation, for 2014.