The Trekking is set apart by a little bit of extra ground clearance and some black plastic Camel Man Expedition cladding.
The Trekking is set apart by a little bit of extra ground clearance and some black plastic Camel Man Expedition cladding.
Fiat is targeting customers who have an active lifestyle.
Fiat is targeting customers who have an active lifestyle.
The 500L is well equipped and easy to drive.
The 500L is well equipped and easy to drive.

ROAD TEST

Fiat 500L 1.4 T-Jet Trekking

Johannesburg - You can’t say modern-day Fiat is afraid of thinking out of the box. What they do is take the box, crumple it and squeeze it and put it back together in a way a cubist or Picasso would be proud of.

Remember the Multipla? That amazingly well-packaged but plug-ugly six-seater from the late 1990s? Fiat didn’t care about that – and it did what it had to do well.

With the Fiat 500 of a few years ago, the company proved it could do beautiful design and pay tribute to its heritage at the same time. You could clearly see the lineage and the car was cute.

Then along came the 500L and… well, Multipla rides again.

The L was a stretch version of the 500 that made up for the biggest failing of the small car.

The 500L gave you the cachet of the 500 with usable family space.

At least that was the sales punt. Now, not content with the large 500 (which works quite well as a family car), Fiat is targeting those with an “active lifestyle” with a wannabe-SUV version of the 500L called the Trekking.

URBAN TREKKER

But unless your version of Everest is the top floor parking at Rosebank Mall, don’t think of getting too far into the wild in this car.

That’s because it’s underpinnings are the same as in the 500L: 1.4-turbo petrol engine (delivering 88kW) and front-wheel-drive – with a little bit of extra ground clearance and some black plastic Camel Man Expedition cladding on the sides and wheel arches.

For R316 000, it does come with what are called gravel and snow tyres and a clever traction control system that will delay you getting stuck – however, stuck you will be if you think of trying any form of off-roading.

Having said all that, though, this is a nice mom’s taxi, there’s plenty of legroom in the back and a large boot; it’s easy to drive (thanks to electric power steering which has an even lighter, “city” setting); and well-equipped (from six airbags and a Euro five-star crash rating to Bluetooth and a USB port).

In the city, Fiat’s claims of fuel economy of 9.3 litres to 100km are not far off the 9.7 litres or so we achieved, while on the open road you should get about 6l/100km without too much hassle.

Best of all, from a family purchase point of view, is that you don’t have to worry about Fiat reliability these days: they’re as good as their European competitors – and, of course, you wouldn’t be a hijack target out on the road.

You won’t lose your car in the car park either – there won’t be anything else like it.

FACTS

Fiat 500L 1.4 T-Jet Trekking

Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol

Gearbox: 6-speed manual

Power: 88kW @ 5000rpm

Torque: 215Nm @ 4500rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 11.0 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 183km/h

Price: R324 400

Warranty: 3-year/100 000km

Maintenance plan: 3-year/100 000km