2014 Fiat 500L

2014 Fiat 500L

Episode 3350
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

There is saying here that “everything is bigger in Texas”. Well to the rest of the world, everything seems bigger in America. And for the Fiat 500 to really be a success here in the states, it was a given that the line-up would have to expand, with additional models and additional size. Well, both are now realized in the boxy Fiat 500L. So, let’s find out if that other saying “bigger is better” is also true.

The 2014 Fiat 500L is a multi-purpose vehicle clearly designed with the youngest of families in mind: parents that desire a unique and stylish ride yet still need room for all of the equipment that seems to accompany just about any family outing. 

As for what MPV-like space does for the quirky style of the 500, well it looks as if it has entered its awkward teenage years where all of the parts don’t quite seem to fit. 

To be fair, neither of its main urban utility rivals, the Kia Soul or Mini Countryman, are great beauties either. But, the 500L really calls for a double take with details like split A-pillars and bug-eye headlights. 

The 500L architecture is unique, not at all a stretched version of the 500 hatchback. It’s over 2-feet longer, with 12.2-inches of additional wheelbase. The chassis will also support Jeep’s forthcoming Renegade CUV.

Our 500L also sported a funky 2-tone, almost Taxi-like, Trekking theme. Though it’s far from the extreme compared to some of the color options that are available.

On the really weird front, Europeans can opt for an onboard espresso maker for their 500L. We won’t be getting that option, or the 3-row version. Imagine that, European cars have gone from not even having cup holders to having in car coffee brewing.

Regardless, while it is a much bigger 500, it’s still relatively small compared to most on the road. That allows for a surprisingly refined and quite European driving experience. A relaxed cruiser on the highway that can also handle switchbacks nicely.

Only one engine is available, and how you feel about it largely depends on which transmission is attached to it. It’s the turbo version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter MultiAir I4, here producing 160-horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque. 

If you choose to go the automatic route, you’ll get a 6-speed twin clutch transmission that’s clunky, herky/jerky nature had most of our staff wishing for a true automatic. If you don’t mind doing the shifting yourself, the standard 6-speed manual makes for a much better experience, and helps the engine at least feel more powerful.

With the twin clutch tranny at the track, it’s hard to tell whether you’re waiting for the turbo to kick in or just waiting for the engine to hit its power band. But it’s not until you get the RPMs up that power comes on pretty strongly. It took a full 9.0-seconds to hit 60; and 17.0 to run out the quarter mile at 85 miles-per-hour. 

And as for our handling course, we confirmed our on-road impressions. While the 500L is definitely tuned for comfort, it proved to be quite a lot of fun when dodging cones. Steering, though lacking in feel, is very direct; body roll is minimal, for what looks like a top heavy vehicle; and the chassis has a nimble feel with very little computer intervention. 

Brakes were not quite as impressive, as we did see some fade and only an average stopping distance of 128-feet from 60. But, it remained very stable. 

Even if you’re a starting center for your basketball team, you’ll find plenty of head and leg room inside, though the seats are flat and a bit short for long distance comfort. Visibility is great all around, and that includes a rear seat child minding mirror. There is clearly a minivan feel to the interior that includes room for 68.0 cubic-ft. of cargo.   

Most of our testers liked the “aero” vibe to the cockpit. The layout is far more “normal” than the 500 hatchback. And that extends to spread out, easier to read gauges.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 24-City, 33-Highway, and 27-Combined. We averaged a very good 28.8 miles-per-gallon, but of Premium. The Energy Impact Score is better than average at 12.2-barrels of yearly oil use with CO2 emissions of 5.4-tons. 

There are four 500L trim levels, covering a pretty decent range of prices, starting at $19,995 for Pop trim and going to $25,195 for Lounge, with our Trekking nestled in between at $22,195.

Being the first passenger vehicle available here in that is assembled in Serbia is just another thing that makes the 2014 Fiat 500L “different”. Like the slightly smaller Kia Soul, and Mini Countryman, the 500L packs a lot of space, comfort, and utility into a small, family friendly package. And that may be just what it takes for Fiat to really gain a foothold here, and hang on to it.


  • Engine: 1.4-liter MultiAir I4
  • Horsepower: 160
  • Torque: 184 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 9.0 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 17.0 seconds @ 85 mph
  • EPA: 24 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway
  • Energy Impact: 12.2 barrels of oil/yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 5.4 tons/yr
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

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A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

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While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined