At last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show I witnessed the debut of the new Fiat 500L – the L standing for Lugubrious I think. While the retro-tinged standard 500 is a tiny bar stool of a car, the L looks like a 500 that’s been stung to death by many angry bees. Now, you might attribute this car to the limited players on Fiat’s current bench, but truth be told, the company is trying to Single White Female Mini.
Fiat’s 500L is not only -IMHO- a dumpy looking car, it’s also an almost exact copy of the Mini Countryman – another small car that’s been given its big-boy pants. Cars of this size aren’t a big deal, but their prices are. When I questioned the stoically enthusiastic Fiat rep as to the price for their new family hauler he noted that it was expected to come in at around $25K, as they like to be about five grand below the comparable Mini product.
The Countryman starts at $22,500, and just keeps on going from there, and that got me thinking about the purpose to value ratio of these and other somewhat expensive “Utility” cars. When your needs are to tote a bushel of kids around – as well as their Crayolas, candy bars, and seat-wiped boogers – then you’re probably looking for something that isn’t going to see its resale plummet due to a – how shall I say it – lived-in look.
What do you think about these expensive little family haulers – as well as cars like the BMW 5-series GT, which melds hatchback utility with BMW priciness – are they a brilliant reach into an untapped market, or are they just the dumbest thing since unsliced bread? What do you think, are premium utilitarian mini cars Brah! or Blah?