We've said before that the MINI Countryman is a strange offering from a nameplate that gets its mojo from smallness. But we understand the company's desire to attract customers who can't quite give up the idea of owning a minivan.
It's just a bit of a bummer to see Fiat doing the same thing with its 2013 500L, which is being introduced today at the L.A. Auto Show.
Basically, the Fiat 500L is Fiat's version of the Countryman. It's longer, slightly taller, has more doors, and is utterly unlike in spirit than its sweet, sleek base version, the plain jane 500. Add to that the car's strange double A-pillar setup, and you have a car that seems to do a pretty good job of exploiting the 500's styling success for something only loosely related.
For those customers who want a station wagon with hints of 500 in it, the 500L comes in four oddly-named trim levels: Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge. Sounds like a collection of satellite radio stations that specialize in Kenny G and the Captain & Tennille.
At least it has Abarth power. Fiat will offer the 500L with its turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which sends 160 hp and 184 lbs-ft of torque to the front wheels. The standard transmission offering is a six-speed manual, but six-speed dual clutch automatics are available on the Easy and Trekking, and standard on the Lounge. The cars will be offered with 16-inch wheels, Chrysler's UConnect gadget platform, and the usual array of cloth and leather seats.
In reality, the 500L is less a minivan than it is a standard small European liftback/crossover. But until Fiat adds an all wheel drive option, it'll be a tough sell against similar models that do offer all wheel drive. Well, unless someone who wants a wagon just really likes the Fiat look.
Photo credit: Fiat