ITALIAN car stylists have a world wide reputation for their flair in designing super cars and even more modest motor cars and I have just been testing a rugged good looker from Fiat that will really cut the mustard on the school run and look just as impressive in the golf club car park writes Bryan Longworth.
It is the Fiat 500L Trekking which is a beefed up version of the popular 500L and its tough styling has given it massive visual appeal especially when it is painted bright yellow like my test car which attracted admiring looks wherever it was parked and even the bin men stopped and stared at it as they called to empty my wheelie bin!
The Trekking looks like a 4x4 which should please the school run mums but although it does not have four wheel drive it does have a Traction Plus system which helps to maintain traction in slippery conditions and it also has mud and snow tyres as standard which together offer massive grip for winter driving conditions.
And it is higher off the ground than the 500L with 17inch alloy wheels plus chunkier bumpers and skid plates which all help to give Trekking massive street appeal to both male and female drivers making it look very cool.
It also has the very impressive City Brake Control system as standard which has laser sensors that help to prevent the car running into a vehicle in front without any action from the driver and is a very impressive piece of kit.
Prices for Trekking start at just over £17,000 and my test car was the top model with the 1.6 Multijet 107bhp diesel engine costing £19,590 - there is a six speed manual gearbox with a top speed of 109mph, a zero to 62mph time of 12 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 60.1mpg although the on board computer showed it to be less than this figure as is often the case in most cars.
Trekking is a five seater with a comfortable and roomy interior and it has a very large rear load area for a car of this size that is bigger than its big rival the Mini Countryman which is also more expensive.
It has a nice high driving position which offers excellent all round visibility and I found Trekking was a car that provides bags of driver satisfaction through its steering system and handling and the way it does the business on the road in all driving conditions.
The spacious interior is much larger than it appears on the outside and an admirer who had a look inside was also very surprised to see how much space there was both at the front and rear and also in the load area under the hatchback.
I was hoping to be able to check on how the Trekking performed in snow but this did not materialise although I drove the car off road on the Press launch where it was a very good performer especially with the traction control system keeping the car on the move in slippery conditions.
On that launch I was also able to test the brake control system which is extremely effective and will prevent many rear end shunts that can be expensive to repair and I understand insurance companies look very favourably on this device.
Trekking will appeal to those owners who want to be seen in something different and trendy at an affordable price which those aforementioned Italian designers at Fiat who now also own Ferrari and Maserati have managed to achieve.
My Verdict: Tempting Trekking is a great gripper.
Model: Fiat 500L Trekking.
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel.
Output: 105bhp @ 3750rpm.
Transmission: Six speed manual.
Top speed: 109mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 12 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 60.1mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 12g/km.
Price: £19,590 on the road.