2013 Fiat 500L Trekking review

* Rugged-looking version of 500L driven in UK * Raised ride height and all-weather tyres * On sale now, priced from £17,095...

2013 Fiat 500L Trekking review

The Fiat 500L Trekking is designed to offer the looks – and some of the off-road ability – of a 4x4, but for less money.

Mechanically, it's near-identical to the standard 500L, although it does get an elevated ride height and chunkier styling. Fiat expects the Trekking to account for around 15% of 500L sales.

What's the 2013 Fiat 500L Trekking like to drive?

Like the regular 500L, the Trekking rides the UK's roads fairly well. Its lower-profile, all-weather tyres mean it's not quite as comfortable as the standard car, but it's still more settled than mini SUVs, such as the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur.

There's more road noise than in the standard car, too, although if you need to traverse poor surfaces on a regular basis, the Trekking is better equipped to cope, thanks to those all-weather tyres, better ground clearance and a more sophisticated traction control system. Just don't expect to go too far off-road; this is still a front-wheel-drive car.

On the road, the Trekking's raised height doesn't cancel out the standard car's decent body control, but unfortunately the steering still becomes vague at higher speeds.

More impressively, the 500L Trekking comes with a low-speed collision avoidance system that can automatically apply the brakes to stop you running into the car in front.

We drove the 103bhp 1.6-litre diesel model with a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine is flexible and strong enough to offer good performance in town and relaxed progress on the motorway, but it's very gruff when you put your foot down.

We also tried what Fiat expects to be its best-selling Trekking model; the 1.3-litre diesel. This engine doesn't offer much pull at low revs, but is quieter and more refined than the 1.6, while having better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.

The optional Dualogic automatic gearbox is best avoided, though; its jerky changes hinder any sort of smooth progress.

What's the 2013 Fiat 500L Trekking like inside?

There's a large, chunky steering wheel, a body-coloured dashboard and tough but appealing interior trim that gives the cabin plenty of appeal, while the five-inch touch-screen that controls most functions is simple to use.

If you want a car that's crammed with equipment, bear in mind that – unlike the 2008 and Captur – no version of the 500L Trekking comes with climate control or sat-nav as standard. You'll need to spend another £800 to add both.

On the plus side, there's plenty of head- and legroom for rear passengers, and three adults will be comfortable enough across the rear bench on shorter journeys.

An adjustable boot floor lets you raise the loading height, so you're less likely to strain your back when lifting out heavy luggage.

Alternatively, it can be set at a higher level, which effectively divides the boot in two, and lets you reach items on the lower level without first removing those above.

Should I buy one?

Not unless you're swayed by the tougher looks and the slightly improved off-road ability.

True, the Trekking's extra safety technology means it's cheaper to insure than the regular 500L but, then again, fuel economy and CO2 emissions are worse.

The Trekking also commands a premium of around £700 over the priciest standard 500L, despite coming with fewer luxuries.

For a lot less cash, you could buy a Peugeot 2008 1.6 e-HDi Allure with an equally sophisticated traction control system. Unless you regularly stray off-road though, the even cheaper Renault Captur 1.5 dCi is still the mini SUV we'd recommend.

What Car? says...


Peugeot 2008

Renault Captur

Renault Captur 1.6 dCil
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £19,590
Power 103bhp
Torque 236lb ft
0-60mph 12.0 seconds
Top speed 109mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg
CO2 122g/km

Renault Captur 1.3 Dualogic
Engine size 1.3-litre diesel
Price from £19,490
Power 85bhp
Torque 147lb ft
0-60mph 15.1 seconds
Top speed 102mph
Fuel economy 70.6mpg
CO2 105g/km