Car enthusiasts can sometimes get a bit tetchy when it comes to car names.
Names arent just something to stop you needing to call a car err that one, but something that represents the car, and often, represents its predecessors too. Some names take on a particular gravitas if the badge was used on something particularly special, in the past.
Witness the fuss surrounding the otherwise excellent Porsche Cayman R. To petrolheads, the name is just wrong. Theres nothing wrong with the car, but the R is completely out of place. R means rennen, or racing in German, and the only previous Porsche to wear it was a 1960s 911 built specifically for racing homologation. The Cayman R is essentially a regular Cayman without a radio or aircon. CS, for Club Sport would have been much more appropriate.
And then theres the MINI Clubman and Countryman. The original Clubman was a flat-fronted 1970s Mini. The Countryman was a Mini estate. Yet BMW chose to call its MINI estate the Clubman, and the Countryman is an aesthetically-challenged soft-roader. They could at least have swapped the names around, so only one of the models was wrong. Alas, no.
That leads us to Fiat. With the new 500, they could do little wrong. Sure, like the MINI its much bigger than the original, but such is the world we live in. The styling is still fairly faithful to the original, and it had the right name. If youre feeling cosmopolitan, you can even still call it the cinquecento. Fiat named the convertible version the 500C – makes sense, all is well in pedants land.
Then, we heard rumblings of an estate or five-door version. The original, larger 500 was named the Giardiniera. Like the original Mini Countryman it was essentially a 500 with a squarer, longer back end, suitable for carrying another dozen bambinos.
So even if the new model had five doors, the Giardiniera name would make sense. Its a 500, with more space.
Nope. Instead, Fiat is calling it the 500L.
Now, say what you like about the styling – personally, its marginally more attractive than the MINI Countryman, which in turn is roughly as attractive as a bruised toe.
Its not even really a 500, as packaging constraints have meant the Punto platform was more suitable for granting extra space, and there are rumours about a seven-seat version. So instead, the 500L will be a Punto-based car with details and proportions from the new Panda, uncomfortably littered with styling features from the 500 to make it look retro.
But no. As a petrolhead, and as a car bore, its the name that really grates. 500L. Fiat says it means 500 large, which is suitably unimaginative as to be annoying on its own. But to Fiat fans, the L has nothing to do with large. It stands for lusso, or luxury.
The original 500L was produced between 1968 and 1972 and offered buyers an updated, more comfortable and relatively more luxurious interior than the regular, sparce 500.
The L stands for the wrong thing. It doesnt really look like a 500. And it’s not even based on the 500. Itll no doubt be a great car and the 500 badging will drag in the punters. But the name is just wrong.
They should have called it the Fiat 500 WTF.