Fiat Chrysler Cars introduced the Fiat 500L and 124 Spider gained’t reside to see the 2021 mannequin yr. I occurred to say to my colleagues at MotorTrend (through Slack, after all, as a result of that is nonetheless 2020) that I might miss each vehicles, significantly the previous. This incited an avalanche of abuse directed towards each the Fiat 500L and me.
“A piglet,” editor in chief Mark Rechtin wrote. “An imported automotive so unhealthy even Client Studies hated it.”
“A boring automotive so unhealthy even Client Studies hated it,” options editor Christian Seabaugh corrected.
“It seemed like an upside-down encephalitic dumpster that careened by means of a Crayola manufacturing unit,” editorial director of each day content material Erik Johnson chimed in.
“Horrible,” senior options editor Jonny Lieberman added. “One of many worst vehicles of the previous decade. If Gold writes ANYTHING constructive about it, please DVD commentary it with, ‘These INSANE views don’t signify the hardworking women and men of MotorTrend. They’re from the bile duct of a profession contrarian.’”
Lieberman is perhaps proper about me, however he’s improper concerning the Fiat 500L.
Fiat 500L: Fishbowl within the Darkish
It’s true, I’m a contrarian, and I’m rattling pleased with it. I’ve reviewed vehicles for greater than twenty years, and I’m bored with carbon copies. The Fiat 500L was completely different. And it was helpful. It was small like a hatchback; tall like an SUV; and one-box-ish like a minivan. By going vertical quite than horizontal, the Fiat 500L maximized what inside area it had, whereas minimizing its exterior shadow. Admittedly, that mixture did make for a quite steep climb into the again seat. Irrespective of, your aged aunt has sufficient cash to take an Uber, proper?
Lots of the family-friendly Fiat 500L’s foes likened it to sitting in a fishbowl, significantly in the event you added its accessible glass roof. Sure, the 500L made you are feeling as in the event you had been surrounded by glass, and what, precisely, is the issue with that? The best way I see it, the 500L allow you to take pleasure in all the advantages of being outside, however with out the huge inconvenience of truly being outside. Win-win in my ebook.
The 500L even had a somewhat-interesting powertrain: the 160-hp turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine Fiat additionally crammed below the hood of the 500 Abarth. For some time, you might get the 500L with a stick-shift, too. Sadly, there was additionally a interval the 500L was match with an uncommonly terrible dual-clutch computerized transmission. Fiat ultimately settled on an Aisin-sourced six-speed computerized gearbox, which, if not terribly attention-grabbing, was not less than comparatively drama-free.
And what of the styling? Ugly, some say. Completely different, I say. To cite Ani DiFranco, “I feel fairly is sweet, however I’d quite see one thing new.”
Fiat 500L: If It Ain’t Broke
Am I alone in considering the 500L was a nifty little automotive? Amongst my friends, maybe. However in the event you take a look at proprietor critiques or discuss to individuals who truly purchased or leased 500Ls (and I’ve accomplished each—learn critiques and talked to house owners, that’s, not truly purchased or leased a 500L; I could also be a contrarian, however I’m not an fool), you’ll discover that 500L house owners typically actually preferred their little Fiat fishbowls. Besides when the vehicles had been damaged, after all.
Sadly, the standard Fiat 500L appeared to interrupt down quite usually. Fiat isn’t precisely identified for designing autos of probably the most exacting Toyota-like high quality, and the Italian model mainly kneecapped the 500L by farming its meeting out to Fiat Serbia. This joint partnership between FCA and the Serbian authorities was resurrected from the stays of Zastava, the villains who gave us the Yugo, or not less than they did till the plant was “unintentionally” bombed by NATO. (I’ve lengthy suspected that individual salvo was flown by former Yugo house owners.) The Yugo was truly a Fiat design, so making Italian vehicles even worse is one thing of a long-time Serbian custom.
However when the 500L labored, it was fairly great, and even a few of my intrepid colleagues have admitted that on a scale starting from stable gold to smelly canine turd, the 500L not less than leaned considerably towards the precious-metal aspect. “Driving it’s simply positive,” enthused technical director Frank Markus in a 2017 review, and whereas I wasn’t there as a witness, I’ve it on good authority that he was smiling when he typed that.
I suppose the best factor now could be to purchase a 500L of my very own, ideally one with a handbook transmission, however I shall not. One can solely endure a lot punishment, and I feel the ridicule of my colleagues over my regard for the Fiat 500L is burden sufficient. Nonetheless, I’ve loved admiring the 500L from afar, and I’ll genuinely miss it.
Fiat 124 Spider: Fiata Failure
I’m additionally going to overlook the Fiat 124 Spider. Maybe I gained’t be fairly as lonely in my lament on the subject of this beautiful little roadster. We’re all accustomed to this re-motored Mazda MX-5 Miata, and whereas I can’t genuinely say that Fiat made a higher Miata, the model definitely made a completely different Miata.
The styling wasn’t as cohesive because the Mazda’s nor was the dealing with noticeably higher. Really, if something, the 124 Spider’s dealing with was very barely worse. However as I noted in a review for our sister publication, Automobile, the 124 Spider Abarth’s turbo-laggy 1.4-liter engine definitely added a substantial amount of curiosity to the Mazda-sourced roadster, its exhaust popping and farting like my dearly-departed uncle Ben after a very good meal.
It’s not tough to see why each fashions are being discontinued. Month-to-month gross sales of the Fiat 500L have been within the double digits (as in lower than 100, and infrequently lower than 75) for fairly a while now. The 124 Spider’s story is barely barely much less unhappy, with Fiat sellers barely transferring greater than 500 of the little roadsters monthly since its introduction for the 2017 mannequin yr. To place that in perspective, Honda usually sells 20,000 to 35,000 Civics per month. The other of affection just isn’t hate however indifference and People are detached to those two Fiat fashions.
This leaves Fiat with only one mannequin, the 500X crossover, which isn’t as dire a state of affairs as it might appear. 4-fifths of Fiat sellers sell Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep merchandise, as effectively. Of the remaining Fiat sellers, most additionally sell Alfa Romeos. As for plans to deliver extra Fiat fashions to america… effectively, there are none for now. FCA, nevertheless, sells a brand new 500 throughout the pond and it’s potential the little metropolis automotive will ultimately discover its technique to our shores. One can solely hope. My colleagues could disagree, however I feel life is extra attention-grabbing when there are uncommon Fiats to spice it up.
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