Don’t be surprised to see the long-rumored “Baby Jeep” makes its world debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, according to a variety of industry sources.
Tentatively known as the Jeepster – a name first used by Willys-Overland back in 1948 on one of the first post-War Jeeps – the new model is expected to share its underlying platform with the new Fiat 500L. But don’t think the downsized ute will be just another soft-roader. Inside sources are confident that Jeep will offer a true, off-road capable model, much like the Trailhawk version of the new Jeep Cherokee.
The Baby Jeep, whatever name is ultimately chosen, is expected to play a significant role in the brand’s future. Jeep set an all-time sales record in 2013, delivering nearly 790,000 vehicles worldwide. The maker has expressed a near-term goal of boosting sales to 1 million or more. And considering that compact crossovers are expected to become the industry’s fastest-growing segment globally over the coming decade, the Jeepster can’t come to market soon enough.
Parent Fiat Chrysler isn’t saying much and that leaves a number of questions unanswered, notably what sort of powertrain will be used. It’s considered likely that Jeep would offer a mix of gasoline and diesel engines – much as with other, larger models – to appeal to the broadest audience worldwide.
The new model is expected to feature standard-issue front-wheel-drive with an all-wheel-drive package on its option list.
The basic platform is believed to be a variation of the Compact U.S. Wide “architecture” based off Fiat’s Alfa Romeo Guilietta model. The Dodge Dart also uses this architecture, as will the upcoming Fiat 500X crossover, though the latter is not expected to have the same, go-anywhere capabilities of the Jeepster.
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The Jeepster name actually has been around for some time, fans of the off-road brand will recall, dating back to the Willys-Overland Jeepster from 1948, a model described as the auto industry’s last true phaeton design. The name was revived in 1966 on the AMC Jeepster Commando while a concept Jeepster was rolled out in 1998, though never put into production.
Now, what with the Cherokee badge returning to the Jeep line-up, it appears the maker is ready to dig even deeper into its archives.
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Several other names, including Latitude, are reportedly under consideration, with a final nameplate likely firmly in place by the time of the crossover-ute’s Geneva debut in little more than a month.
Exactly how much smaller the new Baby Jeep will be, especially compared to the 2014 Cherokee remains to be seen, but recent spy shots suggest there might not be a major difference in overall length.
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Jeep fans will almost certainly appreciate what appears to be a much more aggressive design and stance than the egg-shaped 500X. In fact, the spy shots hint of a Baby Jeep that will be more traditional in design than the softer, more controversial look of the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
The headlights seem to be more like the classic, Wrangler-style squares, with a classic, seven-slat Jeep grille. Of course, lots can be done with camouflage, so we’ll have to wait for the Geneva debut to be sure.