Road Test: Fiat 500L Trekking 1.6 MultiJet
Segment: B-crossover Price: £19,750 Fuel: 60.1mpg CO2: 122g/km
With the B-SUV segment continuing to grow, and UK buyers opting en masse into crossover products, the 500L Trekking couldn’t have come sooner for Fiat’s compact MPV family.
Positioned at the top of the range, Fiat expects this single version to sell almost as many examples in the UK as the rest of the 500L’s three basic trim levels put together. This is the car which will allow Fiat to take on the ever-popular Nissan Juke as well as its closest possible competitor, the MINI Countryman.
Crossover styling suits the 500L better than the scaled-up chrome accents used on its MPV sibling. Most of the body panels are shared between the two cars, but the rugged-looking bodykit, raised suspension and snowflake-like alloy wheels wrapped in Mud & Snow tyres give the Trekking a much more purposeful appearance.
But the £700 price increase doesn’t only cover a cosmetic makeover. The Trekking features a similar traction control system to the Peugeot 2008 and 3008, and the Renault Scenic XMOD, which brakes the wheel with the least grip and shifts power to the opposite corner.
With the raised suspension and all-season tyres, Traction+ should allow drivers to cope with most low-grip conditions the car should face, without the weight or fuel economy sacrifice of four-wheel drive. Besides, as the front-wheel drive sales bias in this sector illustrates, it’s crossover styling rather than off-road ability which sells cars.
On tarmac, the 500L Trekking drives similarly to the basic 500L. It feels more top-heavy and lacks the agility of a MINI Countryman or Nissan Juke, but feels noticeably more spacious inside than either thanks to its high roofline. All of the MPV interior flexibility is carried forward, too, such as the rear bench which slides, folds and tumble to create a low, flat load area to the tailgate.
Drop the passenger seat and loads up to 2.4 metres in length will fit inside, and the boot floor can be raised or lowered to create a compartment underneath.
The likely fleet-favourite engine is the 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel tested here. It produces 103bhp, in line with C-segment and B-SUV norms, and fuel economy has dropped slightly from 62.8mpg in the 500L to 60.1mpg in the crossover. That’s enough to bump it up one BiK band. It’s not the quietest or liveliest engine at this size, but it is fuel efficient.
But there’s not much else drivers would miss. At the top of the range, the 500L Trekking’s standard specification includes cruise control, air conditioning and Fiat’s smartphone-like Uconnect infotainment system, albeit without satellite navigation.
Perhaps the only trick Fiat has missed here is the lack of a multi-trim model range, which would allow the crossover to come down in price a little. If segment norms are anything to go by, the 500L Trekking’s ability to meet the styling tastes of UK buyers could make it a bigger-selling model than the MPV.
It’s pretty hard to argue with this car’s ability to offer the best bits of a small MPV and a B-segment crossover in an economical package. Aside, of course, from the divisive 500L’s basic styling.