Fiat 500L Trekking review
The Fiat 500L Trekking is the flagship of the line-up, and comes with a choice of two diesels and two petrol engines
It’s the flagship of the 500L line-up, and it comes with a choice of two diesels and two petrol engines, including Fiat’s award-winning two-cylinder TwinAir petrol turbo. Here, we try the top-of-the-range 1.6-litre Multijet diesel, which costs £19,590.
There's no doubt that the standard 500L’s styling is divisive. The combination of design cues from the Fiat 500 city car and larger MPV dimensions means it looks rather awkward, and from some angles it’s reminiscent of the MINI Countryman.
However, the Trekking appears a little better resolved than the standard car. The main differences are the extra black trim that runs around the bottom of the car and over the wheelarches, plus silver skid plates front and rear. The front bumper also gains a couple of extra air vents below the lights.
Large 17-inch polished alloys are standard, too, and these help to fill out the arches. Our car’s bright yellow paint and white roof will be a bit much for some, but Fiat does offer subtler shades. You can go for a darker body colour, while the roof comes in black, white or the same colour as the rest of the car.
Inside, the flagship 500L is suitably classy. All cars have part-leather seats with colour-coded inserts, while the dashboard has a
gloss finish. The colour of the inserts and dash varies depending on which exterior paint you pick, but the grey and brown upholstery and gloss black dash of our car looked good. The only other big difference between the Trekking and the standard 500L is the addition of a button behind the gearlever to activate Traction+ mode.
Overall, the car is reasonably well built, although the action of the rotary dials used for the climate control isn’t very smooth, and some of the plastics have a bit of a rough edge.
While the 500L shares its styling with the Fiat 500, it’s actually based on a modified version of the Punto supermini’s platform.
It’s been widened for the 500L, and the Trekking model has been raised by 13mm over the standard car. As a result, the newcomer does roll in corners. There’s plenty of grip from the all-weather tyres, though, and standard stability control keeps everything in check.
However, the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross feels more car-like in the way it drives, as it rolls less and has better feedback through the controls. Take things easy, and the 500L’s suspension does a good job of ironing out bumps, while it’s comfortable in town and on the motorway. When the going gets slippery, you can switch on the Traction+ system, which optimises the traction and stability control systems to cope.
In reality, you get more benefit from the all- weather tyres than Traction+, and neither is a substitute for full-time 4WD, but the set-up does give the Trekking an extra level of ability. While the 500L is designed as a family car, the range of engines on offer is limited, and may struggle to cope with five adults and their luggage.
The 104bhp 1.6 Multijet diesel tested here matches the Suzuki’s muscular 320Nm torque figure, but the car lagged behind the SX4 in our performance tests. It was 4.6 seconds slower than the Suzuki through the gears, and it wasn’t helped by the notchy shift. In-gear acceleration was equally lethargic, but buyers wanting more power can choose the £20,090 118bhp 1.6 Multijet diesel.
Over the years, Fiats haven’t always been the last word in reliability. The company is trying to address that, and as the 500L uses a proven platform and engines, it should be durable.
Sadly, Fiat finished 30th out of 32 brands in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, while its dealers came 28th out of 31. At least the 500L had a strong Euro NCAP result. Its five-star crash test score is backed up by similar percentage ratings that the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross achieved, while the Trekking goes one better than the standard 500L, as it’s the first Fiat to come with City Brake Control as standard.
This system works at low speeds, and uses a laser sensor to detect obstacles and applies the brakes if necessary to avoid them.
With all the seats in place, the 500L has a 343-litre boot – 87 litres down on the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. But there’s more to this car than the numbers suggest.
The back seats slide back and forth to maximise space, and the boot floor has two levels, so you can have a flat load lip with deep underfloor storage. Elsewhere, the Trekking steals an advantage thanks to its greater storage.
The front seatbacks feature shallow trays, and there’s a twin glovebox, too. The door bins are a decent size, and the deep twin cup-holders are well placed.
The 500L Trekking is £159 cheaper than the Suzuki, at £19,590, but it doesn’t get as much kit. Adding sat-nav, DAB radio and climate control bumps the price up by £900, although the Fiat’s other options are reasonably priced.
The 1.6 Multijet costs a lot to run, too. Road tax and company car tax are more expensive than you'll find with a Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, and it only managed 42.2mpg during its time on test – 17.4mpg worse than its rival.