Fiat Tweaks its Small Car Platform to Accept Larger Vehicles

Fiat S.p.A. has altered the underpinnings of its Punto and MiTo subcompact models in order to accommodate crossovers, compact SUVs and minivans.

Fiat’s head of development for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Mauro Pierallini, said the new “Small” platform will be capable of serving as the underpinning of a variety of vehicles up to nearly 14.5 feet in length, with engine displacements of up to 2.4-liters.

The new platform will make its debut in the 500L compact minivan when it goes on sale in Italy this weekend.  The automaker plans to begin selling the 500L in the U.S. this coming summer.

Speaking at a launch event for the 500L near Milan, Pierallini said, “This architecture is designed for front-wheel-drive and for four-wheel-drive, the latter also for trail-rated eventual applications for the Jeep brand.”

The Small architecture will also underpin an entry-level Jeep model which is slated to launch in 2014.

Pierallini would not comment when asked whether or not the new Small platform would be used for the Jeep Compass and Patriot models. However many suspect that it will, based on the fact that it has been designed to accommodate a 2.4-liter gasoline engine, which is the exact displacement of Chrysler Group’s Tiger Shark engine.

Adding to the speculation is the fact that Fiat does not currently offer similar engine options in the European market. Also, according to Pierallini, the Small platform was designed so that it would meet U.S. standards.

Fiat was forced to invest 150 million euros to reengineer its Mini platform before receiving approval to sell its 500 minicar in the U.S.

The automaker also had to upgrade its Compact platform in order to meet U.S. standards. The Dodge Dart rides on the redesigned and renamed CUSW platform, which is 40mm wider than the original Compact platform. The CUSW architecture also supports longer wheelbases as well as four-wheel-drive powertrains.

The CUSW platform is also expected to be used for the Jeep Liberty SUV and Chrysler 200 mid-sized sedan. Both models will be on display at the Detroit auto show this coming January.

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