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Just as BMW did with Mini, Fiat is making a whole brand family out of the 500. We’re not just talking about variants, like the 500C Cabrio or the Abarth 500. We mean whole new cars. A year after the new 500L, there will be a crossover called the 500X, which has another all-new exterior.

Don’t be confused by the Fiat 500L (pictured above), by the way. It’s not just a boxier version of the original 500 hatch. It’s a new modular platform, wider, longer and stronger. This means they can actually stretch the rear overhang by 20cm to make, for mid-2013, another version of the 500L with seven seats.

There will also be a 500L Trekking, which is a 500L with off-road tyres and extra ground clearance (but only 2WD) and body cladding. Now that really is a micro-niche - somewhere between crossover and mini-MPV.

Meanwhile, as well as the 500L range there’ll be the 500X. The 500X will be a proper little crossover. It has a curvier body than the 500L, with a more rounded and rugged nose, prominent arches and a sloping tail. It has higher ground clearance and the option of 4WD, which means a different rear suspension against the standard 2WD - struts versus torsion beam.

One of the jobs the 500X has to do is to replace the Fiat Seidici. Forgotten the Seidici? Quite, so has everyone. In other words, the 500X really does have to do a whole lot better than that. Ideally, it’s got to sink its teeth into a sizeable slice of the Mini Countryman’s pie.

To help the 500L and 500X take on the Mini Clubman and Countryman, they get bigger engines. There’s a 165bhp version of the Multiair 1.4 turbo, with manual or twin-clutch gearbox, and a 1.6 diesel.

Meanwhile Fiat’s Detroit friends at Jeep are working on a micro-off-roader off the same platform. And the Jeep will be pretty serious in the mud. It gets the option of limited-slip diff and a low-ratio transfer box, as well as high ground clearance. Instead of the twin-clutch auto, it’ll be offered with a torque converter auto, as this is better for towing.

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