If I Were Human…

2014 Fiat 500L Trekking
Live long and prosper – somewhere else.

“…I would say, ‘Go to Hell.’ If I were human.” – Commander Spock

This is Leonard. Much like Mr. Nimoy, Leonard has moved on. Not like my old Festiva, ripped away from me. More like the star-crossed, brake-eating Flex. Or the Jeep. Buh-bye.

This too was star-crossed. The numbers were right, when I needed to get rid of the Flex, it’s running expenses, looming repairs, and checkered history.

The Mileage was right in both senses. It started with just 40 on the clock. That meant the 51K  mIles I put on it were almost entirely under warranty. (More on that in a minute.) The miles per gallon, on average, was 35-50% better (27, spirited, vs. 18 driving normal or 20 as a wannabe hypermiler).

I loved the styling of the “Trekking” model. What a difference a fascia and a real color make. See for yourself.

It came loaded with swag: alloys, Beats audio, nav, two-panel moon roof (and the usual windows, locks, cruise). All for $16K (because they couldn’t sell it as new).

It was the master of long-distance road trips, swallowing the 12 hours between my kid’s home and school without a sweat, even over the Rocky Mountains. And all those windows to soak up all the scenery.

Chicks dug it.

On the other hand…

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The car is built in Serbia, not Italy. Same factory, probably some of the same workers from the days of the Yugo GV. You do the math. Put another way for us geezers, Fiat 500L is the AMC Pacer/Renault LeCar/VW 411 of its generation. The similarity bleeds over to the repair department. You want to upgrade the struts? No aftermarket ones seem to exist. You want to settle for a new set of OEM struts? Good luck.

Me: Can you give me a price to replace the struts? I think the time draws near.
Actual Fiat Service Advisor: Uh, I don’t think we’ve ever replaced the struts on one of these.

*has tech test something different than I described.*

Actual Fiat Service Advisor: Uh, they bounced on them and didn’t hear anything. You should be fine.
Curvy Mountain Roads: Yeah, come see me. You’ll be fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. [Thud.]

Speaking of mountain roads, there are two kinds:

Unpaved: don’t. Just don’t. The mini-SUV look is just a fascia treatment. The struts aren’t up to the job, obvs. The rest of the suspension = just stay on pavement, ok? Please?

Paved: Nothing is better than blasting up and down the canyons in a confidence inspiring, great handling car. Or you can take this car. It’s top heavy. That’s comforting. The brakes? more on them in a minute, but for now, the sound and feel won’t inspire you when you come in a bit hot to that sheer dropoff convex curve.

And yeah, the brakes. WTH, Fiat? Hill Start Assist? My dual clutch 2014 had it. Evidently they went to real automatic and dropped the hill start. On my car, it was set to on when i got the car. Evidently “on” is Italian for “sometimes.” Likewise “off” was something of a fluid concept. The takeaway? New rear brakes at 40,000. Before and after, the brakes sounded grindy and felt horrible when warm.

Actual Fiat Service Advisor: You’ve got plenty of pad.
Me: i would hope so since you just did the job last week.
Actual Fiat Service Advisor: I had the tech spray some [mysterious mechanic substance] on them. That should shut you up help.

The other part of the equation is the parking brake. The handle is unnecessarily wide and unwieldy. More importantly, it didn’t work right. It felt flimsy, and there was no positive disconnect. Releasing the parking brake was a limp handshake. Part of the brake bitching is my own lack of recognition until the surprise brake job focused me on all the little niggles that had now added up.

The dual clutch transmission? Don’t even ask.

The door innards broke so the right rear wouldn’t open from the inside. Thanks, drunken clumsy Uber riders

And the sun visors! Who screws up sun visors?

Studio Audience: FIAT!

That was the stuff that went wrong. Here are the other quirks that come with Serbian-built Italian branded Jeep Renegade platform mates:


  • No accessory position on the ignition switch.
  • No parking lights. DRLs, headlights and parking lights or nothing.
  • Fog lights get you dash lights.
  • Dash brightness is reached through a push button menu setting.


  • No lock switches on the inside of the door.
  • Doors lock with a key fob or a center dash button.
  • I’m not entirely clear if there was an override using the handle.


  • Pleather accents only on the front seats.
  • The raised cushion function pushes the rear of the cushion up and forward.
  • Basically this.


  • They’re not, unless price is the only object, or you’re my 80-year-old aunt.
  • They sell above the national average in Arizona. Because: 80 year olds.
  • Coming from eastern Europe, selling 6 units a year. Just imagine how easy it is to get OEM parts. (Next day on the inner door stuff; a couple weeks on the windshields.) Just imagine how easy it is to get aftermarket parts on a car with no demand. (Not very. Especially struts.)

tl;dr Wacky spaceship that works like an old Fiat.

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