2014 Fiat 500L Trekking Review (video)

XXL 500 carries over only the name from the little ‘cinquecento’… oh, and its charm

By Shahzad Sheikh

Fiat 500L Trekking

It may be little, but the cute Fiat 500 is conversely a massive success for the Italian car maker just about everywhere it’s sold – including in our region I might add. In fact they’ve sold 1.2 million of them since they were reborn in July 2007, and 75% of them outside of Italy in 110 countries. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they’re doing a ‘MINI’ and are planning to hang an entire product line on the 500 nameplate.

So here it is then, the next salvo in the Fiat’s armament targeted at us and other markets. And it quite logically builds on the charm offensive so effectively deployed by the lovable little runabout. And we do mean ‘builds’ – expanding and ballooning upwards and outwards to provide 42% more interior space in recognition of the fact that the only major downside of the little 500 is its lack of interior space.

Fiat 500L Trekking

What is a 500L?

The easiest way to explain and describe this new ‘crossover’ is that the 500L is to the 500 what the Countryman is to the Mini – a bigger more practical car for those that have grown out of the smaller sibling. The version you see in these images, and the model that we’re getting here is the range-topping ‘Trekking’ version which adds all that extra plastic cladding around the wheelarches, sills and bumpers, plus raises the whole car by 15mm.

It’s not an off-roader though, in the sense we normally regard such vehicles, because it will only be available as a front-wheel drive – but then so is the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport, and they’re both doing rather well. Frankly speaking, for the kind of terrain often encountered in our region, 4WD may not always be necessary unless you’re heading out into the dunes, but ground clearance is much appreciated where the roads aren’t quite, well, roads.

Fiat 500L Trekking

Styling inside and out

Starting with the looks, it’s more cutesy than cute, but likeable nonetheless with its big puppy eyes and the classic badge and pencil-thin moustache on the front. Throw in the two-tone colours and funky faux off-roady style and it’s a little less effeminate than its baby sister, just go for stronger darker colours.

Within its appealing looks is a taller MPV-style space, and you could even wear a magician’s top hat in here. You sit upright, but there’s plenty of space front and rear and boot space isn’t too bad either, plus of course you have flexibility with stowable rear seats allowing for expanded cargo space.

Fiat 500L Trekking

The smaller 500’s Bakelite-style is not quite present in the L, but it remains clean and aesthetically appealing, evolving the bold big-buttoned philosophy of the smaller car and adding in more conventional sophistication. The controls are all obvious and intuitive and if there are any surprises it’s the double pillars you find ahead of you in each corner. Not apparent from the outside due the ‘floating roof’ design, the cut-out gaps improve visibility whilst ensuring structural integrity.

Performance and handling

We drove a manual 120bhp European spec model, but for our region – as it does for America – the L will come equipped with the buzzy and potent 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo from the 500 Abarth producing 160bhp. And it will send this to the driven wheels through the front wheels through a six-speed dual dry clutch auto that we’ve already tested in the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Fiat 500L Trekking

So it’s not really worth mentioning that by our standards the performance was a bit sluggish and the gear change a bit woolly, although the clutch was light and easy. When it gets here we expect it to be perkier and offering a cleaner snappier change, which should go down very well indeed.

Not that this is meant to be hot performer. With the increased ride height the 500L benefits from a cushier more comfortable and smooth ride that does a great job of absorbing road surface irregularities and not transmitting anything more than mild feedback to your backside.

Fiat 500L Trekking

And whilst the good all-round visibility thanks to the large glass area means you can exploit its nippy nature and beat a path through traffic and towns that will leave some rivals breathless with sprained ankles, this is not the chuckable, darty thing the cuddly 500 is.

Verdict

What it is though, is a car for people who need a bit more space and practicality than their favourite little hatchback can offer, but who are not quite ready to grow up just yet. They’re not reluctant to relinquish the fun, slightly whacky streak that defines their lives including their motoring needs.

Fiat 500L Trekking

On paper it shares nothing with the smaller 500 except the badge, but in reality it shares its personality. The 500L is a car that reaffirms the notion that driving doesn’t have to be dull, dour and depressing. This supersized 500 is a car that makes sense, the fulfils needs that the little ‘un can’t but which still works hard to cheer you up every morning, and cause you to depart with a smile as you tuck it away each night.

It’s a happy car. A lifestyle automotive companion that doesn’t defy logic. It’s for people who can’t quit having fun, even when they need to be sensible.

Expect the car to go on sale in the region in the fourth quarter of the year. Prices haven’t been fixed yet, but it will weigh in at under AED100,000.

Fiat 500L Trekking

2014 Fiat 500L Trekking – The Specs

Price: Estimated below AED100k ($27k)
Engine: 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder, 160bhp @ 5500rpm, 184lb ft @ 2500rpm
Performance: 8.2 0-100kph, 193kph, 8.4L/100km
Transmission: Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1453kg

Tell us what you think of the Fiat 500L Trekking below

2 responses to “2014 Fiat 500L Trekking Review (video)”

  1. Muhammad Arsalan says:

    Could test drive can b arranged in Jeddah,Saudia Arabia

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