Jeep 'will make hardcore baby SUV'

* Jeep will keep off-road tech to itself... * ...and not share it with sister car from Fiat * Both models due on sale in 2014...

Jeep 'will make hardcore baby SUV'

Jeep will keep its own higher-spec four-wheel-drive system to itself on its forthcoming small SUV joint venture with Fiat, the American brand's boss has revealed.

The new Jeep baby SUV is a joint project with the Fiat 500X, a crossover designed to appeal to buyers of the 500 city car and 500L family car. Both models are due on sale next year and the Jeep will be built alongside the Fiat in Italy.

However, Jeep CEO Mike Manley told What Car? that the off-road abilities of the two cars will vary considerably. 'I see a clear distinction between the two cars in a number of areas,' he said. 'They are aimed at very different customer bases, there will be differing approaches to styling, and also none of the Fiat models will have the off-roading capability that the Jeep edition can have. That's a core part of our DNA, which we redefined when we restructured back in 2009, and we're very clear on that. The "trail-rated" technology is our technology.'

The 500X will be offered with four-wheel drive, although that system is likely to be a part-time set-up that's similar to the transmission used on the Panda 4x4. It spends most of its time in front-wheel drive, and sends power to the rear wheels only when necessary. Jeep could offer this system too, in mid-spec editions of its small model.

Manley acknowledged that the baby Jeep would have to be the company's most mainstream model yet, because it will play an important role in his plans to sell 800,000 cars annually by the end of 2014. 'We've already seen that some Jeep customers choose the two-wheel-drive version of a car, but they're always conscious that a trail-rated version of the same model is available,' he said. 'That will be the same with the smaller model. There has to be a front-drive version too.'

Read more Jeep reviews >>

By John McIlroy