By on July 29, 2014

Fiat-500L-Vans-01-560x373

FCA has been trying to broaden the appeal of its Fiat line in the US. Success may be a ways off, into the future, or at least won’t materialize until the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X are launch. But that won’t stop the Italians from trying. In a bid to show off its minivan as a viable alternative for active young folks, Fiat will introduce its 500L Vans edition at the upcoming US Open – of surfing (yes, surfing, not the famous tennis tournament).

Co-sponsored by Vans (a shoe company), this concept relies heavily on visual cues to draw the attention of the cool dudes and gals that gather at such venues.

This 500L distinguishes itself by the four DRLs grafted on to the front bumper that look like the heavy duty lights seen on “adventure” vehicles, a blue and white two-tone paint job, a plaid roof, tennis sole looking pedals, special upholstery for the seats (that will remind some of a palm tree, others of a different plant), blacked out wheels, roof rack for surf boards and other items and some decals on the dashboard featuring myriad brands.

I love the paintjob and seat covers. I think the plaid roof is silly, but apparently plaid is “in” right now. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps I’m out of touch.

Motivation is provided by Fiat’s 1.4 turbo good for 160 horses. It also features a 6-speed manual. And that, to me, is the most puzzling feature? How are American kids going to drive a stick?

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35 Comments on “Dispatches Do Brasil: Young Americans...”


  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    It looks like a Pac-Man ghost.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    The “plaid” checkerboard pattern on the roof is a Vans styling trademark.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, that explains it. Shucks, I’m old! Had never heard of Vans before this. So maybe Vans is trying to sell shoes to 40 year olds like me?

      Could live without it on the roof of the car though…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        They need an Adidas or Puma 500X for you.

      • 0 avatar
        turboprius

        I have three pairs. They’re nice shoes, but they aren’t durable at all. I killed my red and grey checkerboard slip-ons the first semester of this past school year. I got some teal lace-up ones, and they’re in excellent shape still. Oh, and there’s an OTW pair that’s kind of faulty that I got on a BoGo deal with the checkerboard shoes, but I don’t really wear them.

        Durability aside, they’re uncomfortable for long amounts of time, and they only go up to 13 for the cool styles. My Size 13 Vans are kind of small. Otherwise, great shoes. They’re hugely popular here.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Yeah, I had plaid seats on an old Rambler (it was free, so I couldn’t complain), so I’d rather see the plaid INSIDE the car, if not on the seats, then maybe the headliner. Nobody will see it on the roof.

        I suspect the Italians haven’t gotten the hang of America yet with the manual transmission. You would think the Dart would be fresh in their minds, but if any of them is reading this, get it straight: Americans are shiftless people! We don’t like to fiddle with anything but our cell phones and the radio, otherwise we like to just hop in, step on the gas and go.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Meh. In a year, you’ll be able to buy that pattern on vinyl in a quick eBay search.

      Big deal.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I dont think its plaid, its checkerboard, and its a classic Vans shoe pattern from the 80s, maybe even the 70s. And I think its cool for a Vans-inspired surf wagon, but then again I grew up on Vans. Plus I am fairly sure you can buy that pattern in vinyl right now, its just a generic checkerboard.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s the difference? Honest question. In Portuguese the same word implies both it seems.

        BTW, those checkered black and white shoes in the 80s were Vans? Had one of those…

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          Ah could be a language thing… sorry!

          Checkerboard is alternating black and white (or colors I guess) squares, touching at each corner. Truly like a checkerboard or chess board. Plaids are alternating stripes, in different colors, sometimes in varied widths, running perpendicular to each other. Ummmm… like the cloth seat pattern in the American Mk5-6 VW GTI.

          • 0 avatar

            Yep, same word in Portuguese, “xadrez”, which can also mean chess (the game). Sorry! Will remember in future.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Don’t apologize, Americans are the ones with the insanely overcomplicated language that we insist the rest of the world learn.

            I for one appreciate the breadth of knowledge I get from hearing from other parts of the world. Even something small like this is interesting. And honestly, I may be wrong, its entirely possible that a checkerboard pattern is considered a type of plaid, even in the USA.

            I was mostly pointing out that the roof pattern wasn’t some random weird design, it is distinctly tied to the Vans branding. Like British flag roof motifs you can buy for the (German made) Mini Cooper.

            And yes the checkerboard patterned shoes that everyore wore in the 80s were Vans, or at least Vans rip offs, as I am sure there were plenty. I had all different colors. They are still a big brand here, we have Vans stores in all the malls now, and you can get pretty much anything with a checkerboard pattern and a little Vans tag. Come to think of it, Vans were probably a rip off of Converse in the first place!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Americans are the ones with the insanely overcomplicated language”

            Truth.

  • avatar
    Onus

    21 year old here. Can drive stick. Took awhile to find a car so i could learn. But, eventually acquired a working manual transmission car ( i have owned a non working manual pickup for awhile ).

  • avatar
    Preludacris

    Throw in a few pairs of shoes with the car purchase, and we’ll talk. I want a comfy pair to stash in the trunk for when the Fiat breaks down.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Surfers aren’t like other American kids. They tend to be more into the classics, not so trendy, more about soul searching and all that cr@p. :)

    I wouldn’t doubt that many of them can drive a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ve lived in a Southern California beach town for decades, and I can tell you surfer are light all other kids in one respect: they don’t have the money to buy this car and their parents won’t buy it for them, either.

      Then again, car makers don’t sell youth to the kids, they sell youth to the middle-aged who have money. The surfing angle is just part of marketing a young person’s car to the not so young. The 5-speed might attract some who drove ’80s Volvos, but I doubt it. It’s not practical enough for them.

      • 0 avatar
        NN

        there is truth here. Surfers will like this quirky, Euro-car that is practical for their needs. Including the 5-speed! But they won’t be buying them new–this will be a great surf wagon when it can be bought for under $10k used. I live in a beach town and in the late 90’s basically all of us were driving 10 year old beater Subaru wagons. They were the surfer wagons that cluttered the high school parking lot. Mine was brown with a stick shift!

        IMO this is good marketing on Fiat’s behalf. They should make the 500L look like that permanently, or just bring the 500X over. When Subaru jacked up their plain wagon and called it an Outback, sales exploded.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    For someone who wants to look cool but is on a tight budget this is a pretty solid choice. Actually, there is nothing else out there like it, for the price I expect this to sell for.

    • 0 avatar

      Here, i’m pretty sure it’d be expensive. Anything around 60-80k reais. Would still want one though as I agree there is nothing quite like it in our market either.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …i believe volkwagen’s second dune concept (new new new beetle baja – good luck with that semantic mess!) is slated for production, so there’s at least one competitor courting the same niche, not counting all the accessorised “lifestyle” subcompacts marketed to generation-Y’s grandparents over the past decade…

      …speaking as someone reared on early-eighties surf/skate/BMX culture, the vans tie-in on this one is actually pretty cool for what it is…that said, either those surfboards are ridiculously tiny or this is the most absurdly leviathan 500 ever!..

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        edit:

        …ah, just saw a bunch more pictures on another site, and that’s not two tiny surfboards up top, but one of those trick new two-piece boards which splits in half for easy transport…so, the 500L’s still big, but it’s not THAT big…

  • avatar
    ajla

    JUST LET ME BUY A STRADA ALREADY YOU SWEATER-LOVING JERK!!!

    • 0 avatar

      LOL! They’re hard at work on the new one. It will be larger than a current one, but smaller than a current Ranger. Apparently construction is similar to the technique used in the Honda Element. As it’s a bit larger, there could be something there. BTW, Renault-Nissan are doing the same with the Logan/Sandero/Duster. COuld be the next big thing in PUs. At least in the ROW.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        There has GOT to be a way around the chicken tax! You would think the Japanese would have come up with something by now, but I guess they’re mesmerized by the profit margins on full size trucks. Maybe Fiat can pioneer the “convertible wagon” with removable rear seats and offer an optional security panel for behind the front seats!

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I recall working at a Nissan store when the Xterra was introduced, it was heavily advertised and marketed to the Gen X crowd in the beginning. 2000 ish. What we found at the store, for the most part, was the target market of the hip ski bum outdoor adventure guy loved the rig but unless mom and dad sponsored, he had never seen 2k at any one time for the down stroke and the idea of having employment that could substantiate a car payment for any measurable amount of time was just too much to bear. So the continued to drive whatever it was they had, usually a 4runner with 200k on the odo.

    I don’t know much about he surfer crowd…but. based on what I do know about the cost of ocean side living, this demographic could be a tough nut to crack.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    WTG Onus.

    I know about vans because of a son who grew up (physically) during the 80s and 90s. I haven’t been young (depending on your standards) for 45 years. However, I would like this car, the new vw Baja or whatever. DD for the wife and I is a 2013 Nissan cube. It was marketed to kids too but caught on with the older crowd due to practicability.

    I will probably wait and see what Nissan and Toyota come out with. Scion is a likely candidate. You can sell an old guy a young guy’s car because most of us are beyond caring what you think. The remainder are probably buying a memory with all this retro stuff that started with the PT cruiser (which I did not like).

    I expect to buy something new next year. Like to keep something nice, dependable, and economical for the wife. My wheels are about to pass 200K but those are toyota miles. One of these new old/kid cars just might get the nod for her.

  • avatar

    vans were popularized by sean penn wearing them in the movie “fast times at ridgemont high.” it’s an iconic film that i highly recommend. me, i like the car but then again i like basa nova and i’m in my fifties… not exactly their intended demographic.


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