Given the precarious state Fiat’s business was in eight years ago, it is perhaps unsurprising that now it has regained its strength, executives want to maximise the ingredients that have turned its fortunes around.
And maximise is an apt phrase.
A few months ago we reported on the 500L, which Fiat would have us believe is a supersized 500. It isn’t related to the successful retro-styled city car, but a practical small car in its own right.
But if you thought the 500L was big, one of two slightly larger versions is now on the market. To be fair, the newest edition to the range is taller rather than bigger.
The 500L Trekking offers greater ground clearance and enhanced traction over the standard model.
All too often people think four-wheel drive will make them unstoppable when road conditions (or off-road conditions) are tricky.
However, in most cases all they need are suitable tyres and electronics that manage traction in a sophisticated way.
The Trekking has this in standard mud and snow tyres, Traction+ electronic hardware to brake spinning wheels and transmit torque to the wheels with better grip, and protective under-body shields.
This should enable it to keep going when the roads are slippery, or cover moderate off-road terrain where its standard sibling would get stuck.
Another, less obvious standard feature that differentiates the Trekking from other models in the range is City Brake Control – an autonomous emergency braking system that can prevent low-speed collisions.
For the Trekking, which is essentially based on the 500L Lounge with some extra equipment and all-terrain modifications, insurance groups are lower than for the models without City Brake Control – hard evidence that the insurance industry is taking this technology seriously.
The 500L remains unique in being the only car offered with a Lavazza espresso maker as a £200 factory option, although it is unlikely to find its way on to someone’s company car.
We tried the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel, which offers 105bhp along with 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and 122g/km. However, an 85bhp 1.3-litre diesel and the 0.9-litre Twinair petrol engine offer lower CO2 emissions.
The Trekking doesn’t suffer on the road from the greater ground clearance, and proves adept at covering moderately rough terrain off road. It is a capable all-rounder, perhaps more than any other small car.
But buying all of this extra ability comes at a price, so the Trekking would appeal only to fleets that need cars with its breadth of ability.