Fiat scraps big cars

16 Mar, 2012 12:00pm Graham Hope

Boss says Fiat may not build big cars anymore, as new MINI Countryman rival debuts at the Geneva Show

The Fiat 500L mini-MPV finally made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show – but it could be the end of the road for bigger cars from the company.

The newcomer was the centre of attention on Fiat’s stand, as more details were revealed on the car that looks set to take the fight to the likes of the MINI Countryman.

At 4,140mm long, 1,780mm wide and 1,660mm high, the new five-seater is 594mm longer, 153mm wider and 175mm taller than the standard 500 hatch. The 400-litre boot is claimed to be able to carry five roller suitcases or a full-size pushchair.

Despite the increased practicality, the newcomer is still clearly a member of the growing 500 family, with its recognisable nose, large lights flanked by lower spotlamps and a simple upper-bar grille.

A new, more powerful 105bhp version of the 500’s two-cylinder TwinAir engine will be offered alongside a 1.4-litre turbo petrol and a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel. The TwinAir will be the lowest-emitting MPV on sale.

Fiat is also promising a driving experience more in line with a small SUV than an MPV as it sets its sights on stealing Countryman sales when the car arrives in the UK in a year’s time.

But as the latest member of the 500 “brand within a brand” was unveiled, Fiat group boss Sergio Marchionne was blunt about the prospects of larger Fiats arriving any time soon. “It could well be that Fiat never does a D-segment car again,” he admitted. “The [recently axed] Croma was a great car that could not get traction in the market.

“I need to be careful not to push Fiat into territory it can’t manage. I have Alfa, Chrysler and Jeep that can all play there. We need to be faithful to Fiat’s DNA and its potential.”