2014 Fiat 500L
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 GMC Canyon
Canyon Goes Bigger
Most people know the GMC Canyon as the Chevrolet Colorado’s professional grade cousin. And while that sounds like just marketing speak, with an all-new design of GM’s midsize truck platform comes more genuine brand separation. So, let’s see what the third-gen GMC Canyon delivers in real time!
Small trucks are once again a big deal, and part of the reason is that they are no longer small. There’s not much about this 2023 GMC Canyon that resembles the ¼-ton Sonomas, S-10s, Rangers, and Datsun trucks that were wildly popular in the 1980s.
Of course, then, people were willing to sacrifice certain “big-truck” things for an easier to use and more economical pickup experience. Well, we don’t seem to be big on compromise for much of anything these days, and the current midsize crop of trucks deliver more than ever. So fittingly, the 2023 Canyon will be available as a Crew Cab only with a 5-foot bed. No more extended cab or long bed options. Wheelbase is about 3-inches longer than before, with the front wheels pushed more towards the front. It definitely looks tougher, and they’ve even eliminated the much-hated front air dam that protruded well below the front bumper.
The Canyon also comes exclusively with the high-output version of GM’s 2.7-liter turbocharged I-4, with a stout 310-horsepower and 430 lb-ft. of torque. At times it feels even more powerful than those numbers would indicate, with its diesel-like torque delivery enabling a best-in-class max tow rating of 7,700-lbs. No choice of transmission either, strictly 8-speed automatic, but you can still decide whether you want rear or 4-wheel-drive.
At minimum, ground clearance is 9.6-inches, which is more than an inch taller than last year, and almost 2-inches over Chevy’s base Colorado. And since it’s all about the off-road packages these days, our AT4 tester comes with 4-wheel drive, off-road suspension, locking rear diff, 2-speed transfer case, hill descent control, and 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires.
And that’s just where things get started, as at the top of the heap, there’s a new AT4X with 10.7-inches of ground clearance, enhanced front and rear e-locking differentials, 33-inch mud terrain tires, Multimatic dampers, and an additional Baja Drive Mode. We’ll have more on the AT4X real soon.
But for all Canyons, including this AT4, GMC went tech-heavy, as all get 11-inch infotainment screens and a fully digital driver display in either 8 or 11-inches. Plus, an available head up display comes with most trims, and there are even optional underbody cameras.
Unique AT4 features include a Jet Black and Timber interior motif with stitched logos on the leather front seats. Those seats are definitely comfortable, and it feels maybe a tad roomier than before, but still well shy of the sprawling space in a full-size truck. It’s even more noticeable in the rear, though there are more practical storage options back here.
The AT4 gets a sliding rear window, along with a tailgate storage system to complement the integrated ruler, and bed side-mounted 120-volt power outlet. The Canyon already delivered one of the best rides in the midsize class, and the taller suspension seems to only improve on that; it’s not quite crossover plush, but certainly great for a body on frame truck.
Though the higher ground clearance and off-road emphasis kept it from being a track star. Indeed, healthy amounts of understeer and body roll greeted us in our handling course. It was a little hesitant off the line in speed runs, but once rolling, power poured on steadily. 0-60 in only 7.5-seconds, and through the ¼-mile in 15.6-seconds at 91 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the AT4 are 17-City, 21-Highway, and 19-Combined; we averaged an acceptable 18.2 miles-per-gallon of Regular. Pricing starts with a 2-wheel-drive Elevation at $38,395. That puts it at midlevel Chevrolet Colorado, with is consistent with the mission of the new Canyon. All other trims come with 4-wheel drive, this AT4 starting at $45,395, and the AT4X now eclipsing Denali as the highest offering at $56,995.
So, as small trucks have grown, so has the price of entry. But if that doesn’t scare you off, there is no denying the 2023 GMC Canyon is yes bigger, but also bolder and badder than before. Does that necessarily make it better? We say positively yes!
- Engine: 2.7L Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 310
- 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 121 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 18.2 mpg (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed auto
- Torque: 430 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 91 mph
- EPA: 17 City / 21 Highway / 19 Combined