The Fiat 500X offers the style of the 500 city car, but with added 4×4 attitude! It’s the brand’s response to a booming compact crossover market, and a model with which it hopes to build on the runaway success of the 500 city car.
Fiat claims that for 60 per cent of buyers in the compact crossover class styling is their primary motivation, and in that respect the 500X is a clever piece of design.
The 500’s retro cues, such as the double circular headlights, ‘moustache’ grille and curved panels have been up-scaled into something altogether more macho.
At its heart the 500X shares a platform and mechanical hardware with its cousin, the Jeep Renegade, although the Jeep carries an extra strengthening cross-member to support its potentially more arduous off-roading duties.
Most buyers will choose one of the front-wheel-drive versions, although the Fiat is, nevertheless, available with an on-demand all-wheel-drive system.
The all-wheel drive model is badged 500X Cross Plus, and there’s a 500X Cross version that shares the same look – faux skid plates and bumpers that allow more acute approach and departure angles – but with front-drive.
There are also Popstar and Lounge trims available, these presenting less of an off-road demeanour.
While the 500X was styled in Italy, it shares most of the platform and drivetrain with the Jeep Renegade, which was designed in the U.S., although both are built at the Fiat plant in Melfi, Italy.
Its décor is more mature, but you’ll find plenty of stylish flourishes, including the retro metal-look door handles, an elegantly integrated infotainment screen (whose navigation system was occasionally confused) and, on all models bar the Cross, a body colour-finished horizontal décor strip. The more rugged-looking Cross versions get a textured alloy-look finish.
Those who’ve enjoyed the characterful and high-grade presentation of the 500 will love the 500X’s cabin.
Interior quality is, like the smaller 500, significantly improved compared to Fiats of old. An expanse of body-coloured glossy plastic runs the length of the dashboard with a clear touchscreen nestled in the middle. Cheaper plastics feature lower down in the cabin but, for the most part, everything fits together without squeaks or rattles. The steering wheel is arguably the most crucial ‘touch point’ in the cabin and, in the 500X’s case, feels chunky and high quality.
The 500X’s cabin is roughly on par with family hatchbacks. Rear legroom is where the 500X is most limited – with tall front passengers, rear occupants might find their knees brushing the seat back. Front space is plentiful !
There’s plenty of space for the driver and front passenger, and headroom is good for all.
In car storage is more impressive; not only do you get wide door bins and a good-sized glovebox, but there’s lots of useful storage cubbies between the front seats.
All models come with a touchscreen infotainment system that includes Bluetooth and music streaming. The version I tried had a larger 6.5inch screen and sat-nav (standard on top-spec Lounge and Cross Plus trims), which was easy to get to grips with and functioned well.
There is also a user-friendly rotary dials to control the car’s air-con and heater functions. And the 500X looks quite smart inside if you opt for Pop, Pop Star or Lounge spec, because each includes glossy, body-coloured dashboard inserts.
Range-topping Lounge cars have all this, plus keyless entry and start, Bi-xenon headlights and sanav.
The boot space itself has a useful wide opening, while a moveable boot floor can be set at two levels – one level with the boot lip for easy loading and a flat boot floor with the rear seats folded down, and the other lower down to maximise space.
The Cross and Cross Plus specs are comparable with Pop Star and Lounge respectively, but they also give the 500X a more rugged look and a clever diff that improves traction off-road. Four-wheel drive is an option on these cars.
At 350 litres, expanding to 1,000 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down, the boot is actually smaller than the Countryman, Juke and Captur, but considering 60 per cent of buyers in this class name styling as their number one motivation Fiat won’t be too worried about that.
The engine range includes a 138bhp 1.4-litre Turbo MultiAir2 front-wheel drive petrol, a diesel 118bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet II (front-wheel drive) and a 138bhp 2.0-litre MultiJet II with four-wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission. The manuals all have six speed gearboxes.
The choice will later extend to a 168bhp 1.4-litre Turbo MultiAir2 and a 184bhp 2.4-litre MultiAir2, both of these 9-speed auto petrols with four-wheel drive.
The 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel is expected to be the best-seller. It’s good for a 0-100km/h sprint in 10.5sec.
The ride itself is mostly pretty good.You sit quite high in the 500X, which gives you a good view of the road ahead. In fact, visibility is good all-round, and it’s combined with light steering to make parking easy.
True, this lack of resistance is less welcome on the motorway, where it makes it harder than it might be to plot a steady course. But most versions of the 500X have a driving mode selector knob, and when you turn this to Sport it adds weight to the steering and solves the problem.
Precise pedals and a reasonably slick gearshift also help you drive the 500X smoothly. 1.6-litre diesel I was driving make it easy to keep up with the general ebb and flow of traffic and it was really fun to drive.
On the motorway the cabin is whisper quiet, too, making it well suited to long trips.
The Fiat 500X succeeds in offering much of the charm of the 500 city car in a bigger, more practical package
If you’re in the market for a car with a healthy dose of style and a stylish interior serving plenty of space, practicality, comfort, this car is for you !
It feels planted on the road, well built inside and eye-catching outside !
The clever design of this car extends the iconic Fiat 500 brand into a new lifestyle sector and it looks cool!