There are cars which breathe the joy of life and driving, and the cute looking 500L is a point in case. We tested the somewhat more rugged "trekking" version, and had much fun with it in everyday motoring life...including on unthreaded paths!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The new Fiat 500L Trekking is a cute all-rounder: one notices the specially designed bumpers, the protective shield front and rear and a higher ride (+10% compared to the 500L with a resulting total ground clearance of 145 mm) for tackling rough(er) terrain with ease. Nevertheless, the Trekking stays elegant and city like in its overall looks, which we appreciated very much.
The exterior also features satin finish inserts on bumpers and side mouldings which complement the door handles.
We loved the colour of “our” Trekking: a joyous “Sorrento yellow” combined with a white roof, welcome in our grey winter days… We also like the car in “Cappuccino Beige”, and also especially in “Toscana Green” with a white roof, but as said, we were quite pleased with our yellow one.
Inside the cabin…
Behind the wheel, life is pleasant in the 500 L. We liked the airiness of the cabin, and the vast amounts of light entering into it. Let it be known that the 500 L Trekking has the largest roof of its segment - 1.5 square metres of glass surface - and its windscreen pillars have been cleverly divided and slimmed to offer clear advantages in terms of active and passive safety as well.
So the car is easy to manoeuvre in narrow streets. We also appreciated the excellent Dualdrive electric power steering , sensitive and accurate at speed, but in the “city” mode very pleasant with its powerful servo when manoeuvring or parking. Delicious!
Of course the seats and interior space is easily adjustable, making the Trekking very practical, with the split rear seats which, thanks to the fold&tumble function, can be folded down flat to provide you with a flat loading surface that exploits the entire length of the car.
Controls are well positioned, the gearlever lies nicely at hand, gearchanges are smooth. So is clutch take-up, and especially at crawling speeds in first gear when running in dense city traffic or stop and go conditions, the car is masterfully docile, with the engine developing enough torque to just get the car moving on idle, without even have to touch the throttle at all.
State of the art Diesel technology…
The engine of our test car was the powerful 105 HP 1.6 MultiJet II turbo diesel. We say powerful, because the excellent torque of the engine and the well adapted ratios give the 500 L plenty of oomph at mid range speeds and intermediate accelerations in third, fourth and even fifth gear(s). The car actually feels much more powerful than the bare figures suggest – 0 to 100 in 12 seconds, and a top speed of 175 km. The engine emitted a distinct, even sporty throb, and was never obtrusive.
Consumption is what one comes to expect from a modern Diesel engine. Well below 5 litres is achievable without much effort.
Of course this unit boasts the latest Diesel technology. This means a small turbocharger, a variable displacement oil pump and alternator with "smart charge", a new fuel supply system with faster injectors able to execute multiple injections in rapid succession.
In particular, the system can now perform a main modulated injection of fuel in several distinct phases and anticipate the ones that follow. Wow!
Electronic climate control and USB and aux media connectivity make life pleasant...
The MultiJet II system's servo valve with balanced plunger enables it to manage up to 8 injections per cycle, offering greater speed, flexibility and precision in the various phases of operation.
The injector is also simpler and more reliable because its construction is less complex and it has 40% fewer components. This new type of injector paves the way for new strategies focused on optimising the increasingly advanced combustion, such as Injection Rate Shaping, which involves two consecutive injections so close together in time as to generate a continuous and modulated profile of the fuel supply into the cylinders.
With this method, the combustion process is improved, all to the benefit of quieter operation and particulate and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
Today MultiJet II engines totally satisfy the Euro 5 standard and at the same time mark a decisive step toward stricter regulatory levels in the future.
Naturally the Start&Stop system is included, while engine and transmission use low viscosity lubricant oil to minimise friction.
On consumption, the manufacturer quotes 4.7 litres/100 km and 122 g/km of CO2 respectively.
The 500 L Trekking displayed excellent road dynamics. Sure footed, it is cornering on rails in fast bends, and even not feeling out of place when driven spiritedly through tighter curves.
In the trekking version, it sports the so-called Traction+ system
This innovative control system is fitted as standard and that improves grip on rough, slippery terrain. It uses the advanced hardware present on cars equipped with ESC, but is far more than a simple extension of the basic system. The control unit uses special algorithms for controlling and managing the braking system to electronically simulate the behaviour of a self-locking electromechanical differential.
Seats will fold in a few seconds... the 500 L is very versatile
Optimised software and the fact that force is applied through the normal (hydraulic) braking circuit makes the system's action more progressive than that of conventional systems.
Though performance is easily comparable, the system offers the advantage of being much lighter. This system is operated by a button on the dashboard, and can operate at speeds of up to 30 km/h.
Under conditions of zero or low grip from any drive wheel, the control unit detects drive wheel slippage and commands the hydraulic circuit to apply the brakes to the wheel with least grip, thus transferring drive torque to the wheel on the road surface with the most grip.
The new 500L Trekking offers 6 airbags as standard (front, window-bags and side bags), front headlights with DRL technology (Daytime Running Lights) and fog lights with the self-adaptive cornering function, in addition to ABS with B.A.S. (Brake Assist System) and the sophisticated ESC (Electronic Stability Control).
On request, the car can be fitted with the new ParkView rear reverse camera.
Optionally, the Fiat 500L Trekking can be fitted with the "City Brake Control" system, which recently won the prestigious 'Euro NCAP Advanced 2013' award. Our test car was equipped with one.
It just takes a few seconds to transform the interior...
Designed to help negotiate city traffic and active at speeds of under 30 km/h, the City Brake Control device - depending on certain parameters such as the vehicle dynamics, the steering angle, the position and pressure on the accelerator pedal - can avoid impact completely ("Collision Avoidance") or minimise the consequences of a possible impact ("Collision Mitigation").
In addition, the sophisticated device on the Fiat 500L Trekking incorporates three functions: Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Prefill and Brake Assist.
AEB, while respecting the driver's wishes and leaving full control of the car in his/her hands, activates emergency braking when impact seems inevitable and the driver has not managed to react, thereby anticipating his/her reaction.
Media and voice controls are at your fingertips...
The "Prefill" function, on the other hand, prefills the braking system to provide a quicker response both when Automatic Emergency Braking intervenes and if the driver brakes.
Brake Assist, last of all, identifies emergency situations and, if collision is imminent, the system becomes more sensitive, lending power to the braking action to permit a reduction in stopping distance.
We noticed the system when whe approached a parking entrance with an automatic barrier which did not lift swiftly enough with our “Trekking” approaching rather swiftly…AEB set in energically!
A versatile car, with a charming personality, making this car much fun to live with. Powerful, practical, well finished, good looks, and with an endearing design which has a timeless yet purposeful elegance to it – a car to take into your heart…
Hans Knol ten Bensel