Fiat-Chrysler got a million dollars of free national TV advertising when Pope Francis was being driven – during his first visit to America – in a Fiat 500L four-door sedan. The reasoning, most appropriately, is that the 500L is built in Fiat’s Melfi, Italy plant. Had it been wintertime, perhaps he would have preferred the Fiat 500X AWD sedan that we tested. This newest version is also the basis for Jeep’s new Renegade subcompact crossover.
The 500X is cute, distinctive and somewhat versatile but has lots of competition from Mini’s Countryman, Nissan’s Juke, Chevy’s Trax even the Renegade to name a few popular ones. But its Italian heritage makes it alluring like a Ferrari or Lamborghini nametag.
The 500X AWD test car was powered by a 2.4-liter MultiAir2 four-cylinder that produces 180-hp and 175 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to a 9-speed automatic transmission, EPA mileage ratings came in at 21 city, 30-highway mpg. The same powertrain is also offered in the Renegade Trailhawk.
Acceleration from a standing stop is somewhat lethargic until the engine spools up to its optimum power curve. Passing power is adequate but its hefty 3,361-curb weight makes this four-banger work hard. And during highway driving it seemed the digital speedo had to reach 65 mph before the transmission shifted into ninth gear. In fact that’s the only time it ever went into ninth. A friend has a Chrysler 200 with a 9-speed and he experiences the same situation. To circumvent this, turning the mode dial to Sport (there’s also Auto and Traction +) seemed to help.
The 500X is offered in five trim models: Easy, Trekking, Lounge and top-line Trekking Plus that was tested. Fiat did a nice job on the interior with perforated seating and front seats that offer extended under thigh support. And unlike the pricey Countryman, the 500X’s firm back seat can actually seat two adults with good leg and headroom. The only demerit here is that the rear seat headrests are too tall and hamper rear visibility somewhat.
A 6.5-inch diagonal display screen serves for audio, rearview camera and GPS nav, which isn’t very detailed and tough to see the streets because of its small size. The digital speedometer is flanked by a tach on one side and analog speedometer on the other. HVAC controls are easy to use large rotary dials. Below that are buttons for front heated seats and heated steering wheel. There are also sizable upper and lower glove boxes since the console box is tiny.
Back seats fold in 60/40 fashion and when upright offer a spacious cargo area measuring 29 inches deep, 38 wide and 28.5 high. Flip the seatbacks and depth extends to 58 inches. There’s also a nifty under cargo floor bin to store small items.
The ride on Continental 18-inch tires is taut as are most cars of this size and caliber. Road imperfections can be readily felt especially unimproved railroad crossings. But parking the cute ute is easy as its turning radius is tight and the car is very maneuverable.
Since the test car was a pre-production model, it didn’t come with a window sticker. Rest assured, this top shelf trim level was nicely furnished including a panoramic sunroof whereupon only the front portion opened. Base price for the 500X was listed at $29,000 however the tested price came in at $31,800.
Government crash figures were not available since the car is new and has yet to be tested. However, it should test better than the two-door Fiat since the X is a somewhat larger and heavier car.