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Fiat 500L Trekking First Drive

By raccars Published

Fiat launches a neat new variation on the 500L hatchback-MPV range, with extra all-weather ability and a great looking off-road makeover. It’s a surprisingly flexible machine with lots of space and impressive all-year-round abilities: a welcome eye-opener from Fiat.

Price: From £14,495 (test 1.6 105 MultiJet II: £18,695)
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
0-62mph: 12.0 seconds
Top speed: 109mph
MPG: 60.1mpg
CO2: 122g/km
On sale: Now
Insurance group: TBC

Three UK Fiat 500L Trekking facts

1: The Fiat 500L Trekking is distinguished from regular 500L by a raised ride height, new wheels and bumpers, dark-tinted rear glass and unique body styling.
2: The 500L Trekking is the first Fiat to be fitted with City Brake Control as standard.
3: The Fiat 500L Trekking costs £700 more than the Fiat 500L Lounge. It is offered in 17 colour combinations with six interior combinations.

What is it?

The Fiat 500L is the big brother to the popular Fiat 500 range: yes, it really is L for Large. As the smaller 500 is a regular top 10 best-seller in Britain, Fiat is hoping the 500L is the perfect model for them to trade up into – and it’s now expanding the appeal of the model further with a new crossover-style addition, the 500L Trekking.

Following the route popularised by Audi’s Allroad models for the past decade, it takes a regular Fiat 500L and raises the ride height by 10%, adds on big diamond-finish alloy wheels and finishes it off with tough body cladding to give a more upmarket SUV-style look. To our eyes, it’s surprisingly successful and the Fiat 500L shape really carries it off well.

Fiat offers the 500L Trekking with a broad range of engines. The 1.4-litre petrol is cheapest, with a 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo the petrol-powered alternative. This engine has half the cylinders but 10hp more power and a lot more pulling power. It’s also 10mpg more fuel-efficient.

The choice engines in an SUV are usually diesel: while the 1.3-litre MultiJet II engine in the 500L Trekking is cheapest, the pricier 1.6-litre MultiJet II is worth saving up for. It’s the engine we tested here, with prices starting from £19,490.

Styling and interior

Fiat’s intention is that if you like the baby Fiat 500, you’ll like the bigger Fiat 500L – and should love the rich, upmarket Fiat 500L Trekking. To our eyes, it has a super stance, with the extra height blending well with the ample overall dimensions to create a well balanced machine: add on the new bumpers and body styling, plus the standard dark rear glass, for something that cuts quite a dash.

Fiat says the raised ride height brings 145mm of ground clearance, meaning the tough lower body protection might actually be called into action. And although it doesn’t have four-wheel drive, it does boast a clever Traction+ system that uses electronics to replicate a locking front differential. In the mud, it’s surprisingly effective at keeping the wheels turning without skidding away all the drive.

Inside is a charismatically-designed dashboard with super detailing and, again, a really rich finish. The brown leather features of the test car were premium-level stuff and the cheery, modern finish was very impressive. Fiat is aiming to take the brand upmarket with this model and, with features like this, you’d have to say the product can justify it.

The Fiat 500L Trekking is also roomy – very roomy. The five-door body has ample room for five passengers, loads of headroom and legroom, a commanding seating position and excellent visibility. Those in the front will find the panoramic-view front screen and pillars quite exceptional. At the other end, a 400-litre boot is super-flexible too. This is a genuine family five-seater rival to a Volkswagen Golf.

Performance

The 1.6-litre diesel engine is a very strong unit that performs with the vibrancy you’d expect of an Italian motor. It is smooth and vibration-free, with just a bit of clatter during acceleration to give away the fact it’s diesel-powered. More of a giveaway to the diesel fuel is a strong surge of torque spread throughout the rev range…

At speed, the diesel is effortless and it settles down to a refined cruise extremely well. It’s an excellent motor that feels livelier than its stated 105hp power output suggests.

The six-speed gearbox has a neat action and a nice mechanical feel. The clutch is rather sharp and immediate but you soon get used to this and it actually serves to underline the enthusiasm of the drivetrain.

Handling

Even though it’s taller, Fiat has kept body roll in check on the Fiat 500L Trekking. It is confident through corners, aided by the all-weather traction of the standard mud and snow ‘winter’ tyres. The Traction+ system is clever and gives better muddy-field traction too - which is also useful when road conditions become particularly wintry. Even though it’s not four-wheel drive, the 500L Trekking is more adept than you’d expect. Steering is light and precise too, with town driving made easier by Fiat’s effort-reducing ‘City’ button.

The extra dimensions, taller and more supple suspension plus revised suspension settings mean the 500L rides well. It’s comfortable and absorbent in town and is fairly settled at speed too. It’s a much more effective cruiser than you’d expect.

Price and value

Even though prices start at £17,095, the Fiat 500L Trekking doesn’t look bad value: it’s £700 more than the regular 500L Lounge variant, for which you get a lot more equipment including touchscreen infotainment display, City Brake Control auto-braking and a particularly smart set of exterior styling features. The standard inclusion of those grippy all-weather tyres and Traction+ system means it has a welcome lift in ability too, giving it genuine all-year-round confidence.

The 1.6-litre diesel engine we tested sits at the top of the range, costing £19,590. Do note, though, that Fiat offers a broad and tempting options list: it’s easy to indulge, and this took the list price of the test car to over £21,000…

Fuel economy

On paper, the 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel engine is extremely fuel efficient. It averages 60.1mpg and emits 122g/km CO2 - we’d have liked to see the latter drop down to 120g/km or below though, for extra tax advantages. Engine stop-start is standard, although the motor doesn't yet meet the toughest Euro 6 emissions standards.

During testing, we did find economy dropped rather noticeably when you pressed on or drove with more enthusiasm, but this is perhaps only to be expected given the bluff aerodynamics of the model.

Verdict: Fiat 500L Trekking

We found the Fiat 500L Trekking a thoroughly likeable and able machine. It looks good, thanks to its Audi Allroad-style makeover, and the interior is a real delight. It’s well equipped for the money too, and the engine is very strong.

Most usefully, it’s been configured to offer extra abilities in bad weather, which is something not all machines of this type are able to do. We’re sure buyers will find this very handy during wintry weather, and is a real selling point of the 500L Trekking over its small hatchback rivals. Worth a look? Absolutely!

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