This is Fiat's answer to the Mini Countryman, the Fiat 500L Trekking. Though strictly front-wheel drive, there are off-road concessions in the form of a 10 percent jump in ride height over the standard 500L (bringing clearance to a useful 145mm), Fiat's proprietary grip-hunting Traction+ electronics and standard-fit mud and snow tyres.
For a premium of £700 (which takes the lead-in price to £17,925), Trekking spec supplements the 500L's top-whack Lounge trim whose highlights include panoramic glass roof, Fiat's Uconnect infotainment system, an 5in touchscreen display, DAB radio, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, hill holding, rear parking sensors and auto lights and wipers.
Fiat have then added specially designed 17in alloy wheels, a rugged bodykit, plastic side mouldings and cruise control to the package.
City Brake Control is also standard, and brings three benefits: frontal collision avoidance (using lasers to detect and react to impending obstacles), pre-fill braking to 'charge' the system ahead of a possible heavy braking event, and brake assist to increase stopping power under heavy pedal pressure.
A fourth benefit of the system is cheaper insurance versus other 500Ls, but this is countered by slightly reduced fuel economy that also pushes the diesel models into the next tax band.
The engine line-up mirrors the 500L's with one petrols and two diesels: the 1.4-litre naturally aspirated four-pot (94bhp), plus 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre Multijet turbodiesels of 94bhp and 118bhp respectively. The 1.3-litre diesel gets a five-speed manual or automated manual gearbox, while the others use six-speed manuals.
Our 1.6-litre diesel test car is priced at £20,965, putting it in the squarely in between the outgoing but similarly powerful front-drive Mini Countryman Cooper D and the Cooper D All4, while the older Trekking is £1500 cheaper than the 2017 Mini Countryman Cooper. The Mini is quicker and cleaner, the Trekking fights back on spaciousness with an additional 310 litres of carrying capacity, albeit for the time being, as the new Countryman is said to come with 470 litre of boot space.
The front occupants sit high in seats specific to the Trekking that are mainly covered with a mesh that looks sturdy but could trap dirt, supplemented with attractive faux-leather inserts. Most surfaces are nicely fitted and finished – you’ll need to search to find any truly rudimentary plastics.