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.”

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Worryingly it looks almost identical side on to the Countryman (which isn't a good looking car!)

Was hoping the Italians would of come up with something.. prettier!

I have to agree with kalder88. I love most of the current Fiat range but this one appears to be trying to take sales from the Countryman by cloning it? Why?
Do something different and better Fiat! If people want a Countryman they will buy a Countryman not a clone.
OK so I haven't seen it in the metal yet but so far I am not blown away.

You have to remember that the new 500L takes styling DNA from the 500, which takes it's looks from the original 1957 500, a car that seems to have inspired the look (at least partly) of the 1959 BMC Mini, and car that has since inspired the style of the MINI Countryman - so whilst I agree the 500L bears a passing resemblance to the Countryman, you have to consider whether that's just the nature of how both these cars have evolved from their 1950's ancestors...?

Is this not just a Panda in drag?

I thought it was based on the US 500 platform, originally from the sweet 2003 Panda?

Either way, it is a bit of mess and I wish it wasn't, my faith in FIAT is slowly going, somewhere else...

I'm not sure why they didn't just add to the 500's wheel base and add a few more doors. The photo make it look rather tippy looking.

The last Croma reminded me of a lump of dough.

Perhaps if FGA started producing good looking cars again, they might stand a chance. What they'll probably do, though, is end up badging each new model as a variant of the 500, complete with chrome whiskers and large round headlamps.

Surely there's a market for a sporty, twinair turbo-powered, two-seater roadster? Cheap/free tax, sharp design and relatively inexpensive to buy.

As JFalck, I despair. And just look at the state of Lancia and Alfa.

If you showed someone this image they would immediately say 'The right car is a mini countryman'... and if you can't see that from the image there is something wrong with you!

I was hoping that Fiat would of done something better with the 500L but it's a carbon copy of the Mini.

Oh forgot to add... look at the link in my above post the similarities are quite scary!

Fiat's small cars have always sold well, so why they felt they needed to build large cars, I don't know. If you're old enough to remember the Fiat 130 coupe, you'll realise what an unreliable shocker that was. Clearly, they're now cranking up the price of their small cars, so they must be making enough profit to let their other marques, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler and Jeep offer bigger models to satisfy the need for large vehicles.
All they need now, particularly in Scotland, is a decent dealer network and they're sorted.

I don't like this. It smacks of desparation, a bad copy of a MINI.

Fiat Croma was a rubbish car, and although the 500 is much lauded as a style icon (whatever that term means) to me it is just a sloppily designed car that looks like a lump off melted rubber. Let us not forget that Fiat as a brand is pretty unreliable, just like all there other marques, a collection of losers.

I am a Fiat, Alfa Romeo ,Maserati,Ferrari,Chrysler fan,I just ordered an Abarth 500,and I also own a Maserati Grand Sport,this car is a Mini in drag,and I would never buy a Mini.I thought the Italians should be able to come up with something much better.This is sad.Ugly.Please redo this like you redid the Alfa Guiletta

davidhall is wrong about fiat reliability..i have been driving fiats
hammering the engines on occasions and never let me down in 20 years...never spent a cent on a part on over 6 cars ...except wearable items
i love my turbo 135 multiair ..great engine when chipped
but this 500 is better than a min

Aparently my Astra 1.9 CDTI has a Fiat derived engine....
Enough said?

First Renault cutting back in the UK now Fiat calling time on larger cars. Don't see the Koreans giving up on anything and I bet when the Chinese get going they will take on thee whole market. As for Fiat leaving room for Chrysler and Lancia etc to cover the market go into your Chrysler dealer and see if your inspired.... I wasn't

Just read James Riley's comment with incredulity... The original Mini WASN'T influenced by the 1957 Fiat 500. The totally different configuration and packaging rules out any close resemblance. Alex Issigonis was an engineer and the production Mini looks remarkably similar to his original sketches. Lead times were longer so BMC couldn't have copied Fiat even if they'd wanted to. (It was an era of originality in design, excepting perhaps the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz, both 'inspired' by the Chevrolet Corvair). The only tenuous link I can spot is the rear lights! So the 'justification' for the 500L looking like a Countryman doesn't hold up.