Like a regular Fiat 500, but way, way better.
Like a regular Fiat 500, but way, way better.
When the Fiat 500 was revived in 2007, few would have foreseen how important that car would become to the company. What started as the firm’s retro rival to the Mini hatchback would not only bring Fiat back to the United States, but also provide a design template for almost every other new Fiat model introduced since then. One such example of this is the Fiat 500X; a compact crossover sharing underpinnings with the Jeep Renegade that wears its 500 citycar inspiration proudly on its sleeve. The styling alone is bound to attract a load of buyers to the brand – but is there more to the Fiat 500X than just funky bodywork?
The front seats are nicely padded and supportive.
Much like its exterior, the interior of the Fiat 500X has been given a less chic, more grown-up tweak in comparison with the citycar that so clearly inspired it. You still get the cutesy rounded panels and uncluttered control layout, but there’s a bit more of a mature feeling in the 500X. Part of that is down to the Fiat 500X being a far more spacious car – as in, unlike the regular 500, it can actually accommodate more than two people in comfort at a time. The front seats are nicely padded and supportive, with lots of adjustment options, and there’s an impressive amount of head and leg room on offer for rear passengers that’s only bettered in this class by the Buick Encore. Plus, the vast array of storage cubbies on offer (including, but not limited to, sizeable door bins and a Buick Encore-esque double glovebox layout) are also highly suitable to gobbling up the trinkets and paraphernalia of modern day life.
Trunk space also impressive – in spite of that sloping tailgate, you still have more than 18 cubic feet to play around with here, which is more than enough to swallow up a good few sizeable suitcases. Folding the 60:40 split rear seat backs that fold down completely flat are also highly useful, as are the wide opening and fairly shallow load lip. Put simply, getting heavier and more cumbersome items in and out of the Fiat 500X’s trunk should be relatively easy. As stylish and as practical as this cabin is, we do feel Fiat could have done a marginally better job at improving the quality of the materials used. We’ve nothing against the build quality itself, and we do like how some of the cheaper materials have been disguised by the car’s aesthetics (namely the gloss plastic piece on the dashboard), but some trim bits do feel a bit cheap for a car that, in its most expensive guise, can cost more than $30,000.
Those who rack up lots of miles on the open road will be satisfied with the 500X.
Think of sporty compact crossovers, and you’ll probably conjure up images of cars like the Nissan Juke and BMW X1 – the former being one of the responsive cars in this class, and the latter coming from a company that made its name through building cars that were great to drive. And, a few years ago at least, that pair was generally at the top end of the compact crossover market when it came to handling dynamics. But then the Fiat 500X arrived and, to our immense surprise, it blew those two out of the water. Though not by massive margins, the Fiat 500X does manage to just about show its equally sporty competitors a thing or two about being engaging to drive. Body lean, for instance, is incredibly well contained for a crossover as a result of the firm suspension setup, with that same quality also allowing the Fiat 500X to be incredibly responsive to steering inputs. Point the steering wheel where you want the car to go, and it will follow that path without fail or hesitance.
Thankfully, the bumpy ride in town is the only problem we have with the Fiat 500X’s urban abilities.
Perhaps more impressively, that stiffer setup doesn’t compromise the Fiat 500X’s qualities as a highway cruiser. On the contrary, only the most sudden of jolts over expansion joints fluster the Fiat, so those who rack up lots of miles on the open road will be satisfied with the 500X. Factor in the nicely suppressed wind and tire roar that’s a notable issue on the Jeep Renegade sister car, and you have the makings of an urban runabout that can do the long distance cruising and back road fun stuff really well. Weirdly, though, the Fiat 500X doesn’t prove itself to be especially comfortable in built-up areas – you know, the place where quite a few 500X owners will spend most of their time driving in. Namely, the culprit is that stiff suspension, that doesn’t deal with lumps, bumps and man hole covers anywhere near as well as, say, a Buick Encore. Those comfortable seats to help alleviate that problem, and the car isn’t uncomfortable in the sense that you’ll dread driving it around town, but it’s worth considering if ride quality is a main concern for you. Thankfully, the bumpy ride in town is the only problem we have with the Fiat 500X’s urban abilities. Forward visibility is particularly good, thanks to the large windshield, and the blind spots out front and back aren’t too much of an issue due to the surprisingly slim front and rear pillars. Only a slightly small rear window impedes the otherwise impressive all-round visibility on offer in the Fiat 500X.
Unlike many cars in this class, the Fiat 500X actually comes with two completely different-on-paper engine options: a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline with a six-speed manual, and a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline with a nine-speed automatic. Despite those variations, though, they’re actually pretty similar in execution. What the smaller of the two lacks in power (160hp vs 180hp), it makes up for by having, at 177lb/ft, an extra 8lb/ft of torque that comes on song far lower down in the rev range – meaning both engines offer similar amounts of pulling power and straight line pace. Beyond racing them back to back, you won’t notice much of a difference between the two. It will also be a struggle to spot much of a difference between the two with regards to refinement, too. Though they’re not the most silent.
We’re much fonder of the six-speed manual transmission instead of the nine-speed automatic.
You may, however, discover the smaller engine to, understandably, be the more efficient of the two. With claimed economy figures of 25mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway, the 1.4-liter is 3mpg better than a front-wheel drive Fiat 500X fitted with the 2.4-liter (adding all-wheel drive negatively impacts city fuel economy by one more mpg) – meaning, if you’re clutching your pennies and can live with the luxuries that don’t come on the entry-level trim, a Fiat 500X may be the better choice for you. It’s also worth pointing out that we’re much fonder of the six-speed manual transmission instead of the nine-speed automatic. Along with having the added benefit of being able to keep the car in whatever gear you want with the manual, having a stick shift also means you’ll avoid the sluggish and occasionally jerky gear changes that you’ll encounter with some regularity when using the nine-speed auto. That said, the automatic is still a perfectly usable transmission, and shouldn’t necessarily put you off the higher-spec Fiat 500X models if they’re the ones you’re considering.
The entry-level Pop trim is a bit basic, but you do at least still get air conditioning, hill start assist, cruise control and USB and AUX cable ports.
As we said earlier, if you can live without the lovely luxuries that come on the higher-spec Fiat 500X variants, then you’ll find yourself with a very pleasant and affordable little crossover. You’ll have the better of the two engine/transmission combinations for a start, and you’ll save yourself a decent amount of money – with a starting MSRP of $20,000, it’s a couple of grand less than a Nissan Juke, and cheaper than a convertible version of the Fiat 500 citycar! It’s not like you’ll miss out on lots of trinkets, either. Yes, the entry-level Pop trim is a bit basic, but you do at least still get air conditioning, hill start assist, cruise control and USB and AUX cable ports. Like we said, not amazing, but okay given the price of the car. That said, we reckon the Easy and Lounge specs are more worthy of your focus – especially the former, as it adds plenty more equipment without increasing the price to ridiculous levels. Both trims add alloy wheels, a 5inch touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, with the plusher Lounge trim featuring heated front seats and the 6.5inch touchscreen display with reversing camera that’s available as an option on the Easy trim.
We advise you stay away from the all-wheel drive and the Trekking trim options.
Of the two, we’d suggest a Fiat 500X in Easy trim with the ‘Easy Collection 4’ package fitted – that way, you get all the upgrades over the entry-level Pop spec, whilst also getting those reversing cameras and touchscreens we mentioned earlier, on top of HD radio, built-in navigation and blind spot monitoring. Models built to this spec will cost around $24,040 to buy, which is quite good by compact crossover standards – though, if you want goodies like a false trunk floor, heated seats and dual-zone air-conditioning, you’ll save more money by upgrading to the Lounge model that features them as standard, instead of paying to have them fitted on an Easy-spec 500X. We advise you stay away from the all-wheel drive and the Trekking trim options, however, as they play to the car’s practically non-existent off-roading attributes whilst costing more money to buy than the regular spec packages on the Fiat 500X. The all-wheel drive system also has the added hindrance of marginally compromising fuel economy, which gives you another good reason to save your money and stick with the perfectly fine front-wheel drive setup. As the Fiat 500X is a fairly new car, it’s hard to predict just how well it’ll hold onto its value for. That said, going on what other Fiat contemporary Fiat models achieve in the used car market, we’d expect the Fiat 500X to have pretty strong residuals – nothing as good as a BMW or Audi, for instance, but treading on the toes of the Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke.
Yes, you read that right. This humble little crossover is, we feel, one of the best cars that Fiat currently makes. That in itself is pretty high praise, considering we’re big fans of the Fiat 500, and reckon the Fiat 500MPW is a good overall car.
What’s more, we’d even go as far to say the Fiat 500X is one of the better compact crossovers on the market today. If the ride were a bit more settled at slower speeds over rougher surfaces and the entry level version a bit more generous with kit, we wouldn’t hesitate at all in mentioning the Fiat 500X in the same breath as a Mazda CX-3. In fact, as it stands right now, the Fiat 500X is a very well-rounded compact SUV that we’d heartily recommend you take a closer look at if you’re in the market for a new urban crossover.