Our spy photographer caught a closer look at the baby Jeep, which was previously rumored to be called the Jeepster. Although previous spy photos showed prototypes that were clearly based on the Fiat 500X tall hatchback, these images reveal that the baby Jeep will have a unique design that recalls the funky, boxy Kia Soul.
Jeep revealed many months ago that it would expand its global offerings with a B-segment, Fiat-based model that was initially known as the Jeepster. With its squared-off nose, butch flared fenders, high ride height, and slanted rear windshield, this prototype appears very close to a production baby Jeep model. The car is based on the Fiat 500X, a taller version of the Fiat 500L hatch that will go on sale for Europeans later this year.
As for the name, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told us earlier this month, "It will not be called the Jeepster," saying that the model's badge remains a corporate secret. One source tells us the name "Latitude" is being floated internally, but that seems unlikely given that Jeep already uses that name for a 2014 Jeep Cherokee trim level.
Adding a smaller Jeep will help the automaker expand into regions like China and Western Europe, where buyers want the looks and capability of a Jeep, but without the size and thirst of models like the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Both the baby Jeep and its Fiat 500X progenitor will ride on a "Flexible Small Wide" platform and are to be built at a Fiat factory in Melfi, Italy. (Fiat has invested more than $1.3 million to upgrade the plant for assembling the new models.) Both front- and all-wheel drive will be offered, while engine choices will likely be limited to four-cylinders.
The baby Jeep is expected to make its public debut alongside the Fiat 500X at the 2014 Geneva auto show this March. It could go on sale in the U.S. by 2015.