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Where are the micro-Jeeps?

by David Zatz on

Speculation. For years, we’ve been hearing rumors of “sub-Renegade” Jeeps — tiny little 4x4s (or AWD crossovers) designed for countries where fuel is costly, roads are narrow, or incomes are low.

Could it actually happen?

Years ago, there was a good deal of talk over the Fiat Panda, which first appeared in 1980 — and has been quite popular ever since. The Tipo-based tall wagon has been through three major generations, with the latest created in 2011 and due for a change. Like the second generation, it shared a good deal with the Fiat 500.

Could that be the foundation for a Jeep? Not without a great deal of work, if it was to live up to the Jeep name in any way, shape, or form, but it’s still possible — since we got the Renegade and Compass from cars never meant to be Jeeps. And, just like the Renegade and Compass, any 500-based Jeep would have to have a completely new body, one which is far tougher (and heavier) than the original, along with higher ground clearance and greater suspension articulation. It’s not a six month project — it’s basically starting over with nothing but some dimensions and parts.

Smaller than this!

The Panda is 145 inches long, weighs 2,458 pounds in its heaviest form, and has, at most, a 1.3 liter engine. A Jeep would have to get more power, because the body would be heavier and taller. That said, even the Panda can handle things like having all but one wheel in the air without damage, so it’s not quite as weak as one might think. If there really is a microJeep on the horizon, we suspect the Panda will be the basis for it — but we also suspect it will bear as much resemblance to the Panda, as the Compass does to the Fiat 500X.

What about using the highly rated Fiat Tipo as a base? The wagon form is already 180 inches long, and it would really compete with the Compass, so that would be pointless.

There is another option, of course — one which may be obvious to serious Jeepers. We’ll get into that later.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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