SUVS have huge appeal these days. Wherever you look, there are cars that embrace the chunky styling and tall ride height synonymous with off-roaders. And buyers can’t get enough of them, so manufacturers are keen to jump on the SUV bandwagon.
Take Fiat, for example. The only four-wheel-drive model it currently sells is the Panda 4x4, but in an effort to quickly expand its SUV portfolio, it’s introduced the 500L Trekking.
It’s based on the 500L MPV that was launched in 2012, and while it retains that car’s running gear, it gets a raised ride height, chunky styling add-ons, all-weather tyres and a revised traction control system that’s designed to optimise grip for slippery conditions. So where does this new model fit in?
To measure its abilities, we’ve lined up a car that was a revelation when we first tested it – the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. It has the space, performance and pricing to give the Trekking a tough work-out, so can the newcomer chop it down to size?
While the Suzuki has the bigger boot with the seats up, the Fiat has more user-friendly touches. The back seats split 60:40, and slide back and forth. Both cars have false floors, but the 500L has more room underneath, while bag hooks on either side of the boot opening are a handy addition.
Both cars have 50-litre fuel tanks, but the SX4 has a longer range as it’s more efficient. Band B road tax means you’ll pay £20 a year compared to £105 for the Fiat, while company car tax costs are also cheaper for the Suzuki.
If you’re keen to customise your car, the 500L is the model to go for. There’s a wider variety of exterior colours, including contrasting white or black roofs, plus you can upgrade the audio to a £600 HiFi by Beats stereo. Another party piece is the Lavazza 500 Espresso Experience. This £150 option adds a coffee machine that sits between the front seats, and includes a pair of bespoke coffee cups designed to fit into the 500L’s cup-holders.
1st place - Suzuki
It's another victory for the SX4 S-Cross. While it can’t quite match the Fiat for cubby storage, and is pricier, it’s worth the extra for
its lower running costs and better performance. Add in more standard kit, a decent boot and engaging handling, and it’s a tough act to beat.
2nd place - Fiat
The Trekking is the best model in the 500L range. Its chunky add-ons give the awkward looks a lift, and its interior is more stylish than the SX4’s. Yet the engines aren’t up to scratch – even the most powerful 1.6 Multijet is overworked, and running costs are higher, too.
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