The Serbian Fiat Countryman

With the release of its Countryman mini-SUV, Mini acknowledged that some people simply need more than two doors (or, in the case of the Mini Clubman, two and a half doors). The Countryman has a distinctive dip at the rear window that looks weird, but somehow works:

I test-drove the Fiat 500 last year, and thought it was a fun little car with a small but capable engine – especially the convertible version with a manual transmission. But the back seat was just not credible. Even for small kids. Same goes for the original Mini Cooper. The Cooper S, with a supercharged engine, is even better, and Fiat is releasing its own Abarth version with a turbocharged engine, regrettable 5-speed, rather than 6-speed, manual transmission, and 160HP and 170 lb/ft of torque. While Mini sells cool Brittania, the Fiat 500 Abarth sells, well, this:

But the Fiat 500 has been a poor seller in the States mostly because it’s too small for anyone with a kid, so Fiat is bringing a new model, the 500L (large), which it will unveil at the Geneva Auto Show:

You’d almost think it was a badge-engineered Countryman, but it isn’t. I don’t dislike it, but a quick scan of the Facebook comments reveal words like “antipatica”, “brutto”, and “non ci piace”, which you don’t have to know Italian to understand.

It would be great if we got the turbo diesel they’ll get in Europe, and it’s notable that this mini-ute will be built in the same factory in Kragujevac, Serbia that brought the world the Zastava “Yugo”. It will offer seating for 5 and 7 in Europe, but only for 5 in the States.

Here’s the press release:

Fiat presented the first official images of the Fiat 500L, the new model which will have its world preview at the 2012 International Geneva Motor Show.

500L – the L stands for ‘Large’ – is the new addition to the 500 range, which, following the Abarth and Cabrio versions, furthers the brand’s strategy, with the aim of extending its offer by introducing models in a position to satisfy different types of customers.

With the ‘L’, the 500 expands and grows together with customers, to accommodate new experiences and needs once more.

With MPV passenger space combined with the feel of a small SUV on the road and the restrained dimensions and efficiency of a B segment car, the new Fiat model defies the conventional distinctions between the various segments, combining the typical characteristics of different categories in order to create a distinctive alternative to the traditional B and C segments.

With the Fiat 500L, the Fiat brand demonstrates its creative spirit once more: a marriage of functionality and emotion, it features a 5-seater single-volume structure which is 414 cm long, 178 cm wide and 166 cm high. It is a further development of the concept of ‘cab forward’ introduced by Fiat with the 600 Multipla, a precursor to the concept of the compact people carrier.

Produced at the Fiat factory in Kragujevac, Serbia, 500L is a ‘first car’ for those who won’t settle for anything less than Italian style, the versatility that comes from a functional design and engine technology that sets the bar in terms of efficiency.

The Fiat 500L will be introduced to Europe in the last quarter of 2012, with an engine range which will initially comprise two petrol engines (TwinAir and 1.4-litre) and a turbodiesel engine (1.3 MultiJet II) and the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology from Fiat Group Automobiles.