Fiat re-established itself in the U.S. marketplace in 2012 with the introduction of the Fiat 500. Since then Fiat’s lineup has grown to three models but none has been a big hit.
The subcompact SUV category is the most competitive segment in the industry right now because it is made up of vehicles with perhaps the perfect combination of price, size, style, functionality and fuel efficiency. That means everyone from recent High School grad to a young family to empty nesters and grandparents can justify buying a car like the 500X.
Fiat’s current models, which include the 500 (in all its iterations) and the 500L can’t make the same claim. The 500 was simply too small for the majority of U.S. car shoppers’ needs and the 500L didn’t offer the style or all-weather confidence many folks want or need. Now Fiat has a golden opportunity to jump into the fast-growing subcompact segment with their new 500X.
Fiat has created a vehicle that provides a nice balance between utility and character. The 500X is a subcompact crossover SUV that delivers the personality of the 500 hatchback, more total interior room than the 500L along with a crossover’s elevated driving position and traction-enhancing security of all-wheel drive.
On the outside, the 500X looks like a larger version of the 500. It has an aero-dynamic-like smooth outline and incorporates enough of the cute cues from the 500 hatchback. The 500X is small, offering less rear seat and cargo room than compact hatchbacks like the VW Golf and Mazda 3
Front seat occupants have more than enough head- and legroom, with the available eight-way power seats offering an impressive degree of adjustment even for tall occupants. There is enough room for a week’s worth of groceries behind the rear seats, and the rear seat folds down (but not fully flat) to expand that to 32.1 cubic feet. The trunk can also expand by removing or lowering the floor partition.
The interior is the best yet from Fiat, Besides quality interior materials, Fiat offers a version of Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect touchscreen interface. There are also options that come as a surprise for a low-priced vehicle, including a heated steering wheel and such safety features as a blind spot monitoring system, a lane departure intervention system and a forward collision warning system.
Fiat offers two powetrains for the 2016 500X. The smallest is a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, dubbed “MultiAir Turbo” and produces160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine is available only on the base 500X Pop trim, and its only transmission is a 6-speed manual driving the front wheels. The 500X’s primary engine is a 2.4-liter “Tigershark MultiAir2″ 4-cylinder producing 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. This engine is always mated to a 9-speed automatic, and this drivetrain comes with every version of the 500X except the base Pop model with the manual transmission.
Our 2.4-liter test car felt up to the task, even when fully loaded over hilly terrain. Around turns, the 500X remains fairly flat and nimble, and it’s small enough to dart in an out of traffic and park with ease. The body structure feels substantial, but the suspension does not do so well on rough or bumpy pavement where you can feel every imperfection..
All-wheel drive is available on all trims except Pop for $1,900. It features advanced technology that automatically distributes power between the front and rear axles as well as side to side based on available traction. This system also completely disconnects from the rear axle when not in use, reducing drag and improving the 500X’s fuel efficiency.
The 2016 Fiat 500X is offered in Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge and Trekking Plus models. Prices start at $20,000.