Fiat may be trying to pull a Mini. The Italian company launched the retro 500 a few years ago and now, like its British-German rival, it’s adding new models. Fiat showed the world’s automotive press one of those models, the 500L, then interrupted its press launch to show another, the 500X.
Fiat was rumored to be working on an all-wheel drive 500-based crossover, and the 500X is that car. The raised stance and black lower body cladding have become obligatory SUV styling features, so adding them to the familiar 500 styling cues tells everyone exactly what this car is. That doesn’t make it attractive, though: it looks like someone put a 500 front fascia on a Subaru Crosstrek.
Fiat had nothing else to say about the 500X. In fact, company officials did nothing but raise the curtain and lower it. This happened in the middle of a press event for another 500 model, the 500L.
The “L” stands for large, since the 500L is roughly two feet longer and six inches wider than a two-door 500. This is where things get confusing: When it was shown at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the 500L was pitched as a rival for the Mini Countryman, so how will Fiat differentiate it from the 500X?
Things will become clearer when more information is released, but Fiat might try to sell the two models to different types of people. The 500X could be the butch, “lifestyle” SUV, aimed at young Ray Ban-wearing singles. The 500L could be a more utilitarian people carrier for families.
The 500X might also be cast as a sportier version of the 500L, just as the upcoming Mini Countryman Coupe is a sportier version of the regular Countryman.
Whatever Fiat decides to do with its five-seat 500s, they will probably come equipped with the same engines as the 500 hatchback and 500C convertible. That means a 1.4-liter 1-4 with 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque.
Since the 500L and 500X will weigh considerably more than the two-door 500s, Fiat might want to skip to the Abarth’s turbocharged, 160 hp and 160 lb-ft engine.
Both the 500L and 500X will be coming to the U.S. The 500X will go on sale next year, with the 500L possibly showing up a bit earlier. Their arrival will give the 500 lineup four body styles; Mini will have seven by then. Adding new models has expanded the British icon’s appeal, so it’s not surprising that Fiat is trying the same thing.