Fiat’s family of small vehicles expands as a third model, the 500X SUV, joins the product line. Based on the same platform underpinning the 500L, the 500X is the Italian twin to the American Jeep Renegade. The new model may be the best Fiat yet, offering desired utility in a small package.
The 2016 Fiat 500X makes three North American models for this Italian automotive brand. The 500X is a tiny crossover or SUV, entering one of the fastest growing segments ahead of some of its rivals. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available and customers have two engine choices to consider.
All Fiat 500X models are marked by the brand’s recognizable whiskers and logo face. It has a visage that is endearing to some, marked by oval headlamps accented with LED daytime running lights. A second set of lamps is found on either side of the upper grille.
All-wheel drive models come with a grille skid plate, itself offset by sporty fog lamps. This model has a clamshell hood, side profiles marked by upper and lower character lines, an embedded rear spoiler, oversized rectangular tail lamps and, in all-wheel drive models, a rear skid plate. A rear wiper and rear fog lamps are also included.
All models come equipped with all-season tires, steel or alloy wheels and heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators. Package or trim level upgrades bring in automatic headlamps, cornering lamps and a sunroof.
With room for five, the Fiat 500X offers very good room up front and tight room to the rear. The rear seat is comfortable for two, but legroom is compact. Front bucket seats and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat are standard. The rear seat does not include a center armrest with pull out cup holders.
The 500X advances the circular theme of the Fiat 500 and 500L, with knobs, switches and displays that are similarly shaped. Hardened plastics, soft-touch materials, bright work trim, cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are evident.
The dashboard features even lines, interrupted by the instrument panel hood situated directly over the digital driver’s information center. That center is flanked by analog speedometer and tachometer displays.
The center stack is highlighted by the Uconnect color display screen, which is the nerve center for Fiat Chrysler’s infotainment system. Beneath that are switches and knobs to control the audio and climate systems. A USB port, auxiliary input port and 12-volt outlet are near the base of the stack. At the base is an open storage compartment.
Between the seats are the transmission shifter followed by a drive mode selector, electronic parking brake and two cup holders. A small, but deep armrest doubles as a storage compartment. This model comes with upper and lower glove boxes, oversized door storage compartments with drink holders, and optional seat back storage in some models. The rear storage compartment is small, offering just 12.2 cubic feet of space.
The front seats are supportive, with manual six-way seats standard. A power-operated, eight-way driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support is a package upgrade and is standard in the Lounge and Trekking Plus editions. Heated front seats are available.
All models come equipped with a manual tilt and telescopic steering column, power accessories, air conditioning, sun visors with vanity mirrors, courtesy lamps and remote keyless entry. Available options bring in upgraded audio packages, overhead ambient lighting, zoned climate control, rain sensing wipers, front and rear floor mats and a cargo compartment cover.
Two engine choices are available with the 500X. A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 160 horsepower and paired with a six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base model. This engine is found on front-wheel drive models only and has an EPA rating of 25/34 mpg city/highway. Premium grade gasoline is recommended.
Also available is a 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. This engine is available across the product line and in both front- and all-wheel drive models. It is rated at 180 horsepower and comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This model is EPA-rated at 22/31 mpg city/highway.
As tested, the larger engine provided good off the start acceleration. However, the transmission was balky, shifting erratically at times and not especially pleasurable when operating in manual mode. A dynamic selector system provides three driving mode choices: Auto, Sport and Traction+, with Sport mode rectifying much of the transmission gear hunting experience. All-wheel drive provides a more composed driving experience, offering taut steering. Braking is firm.
Base models are equipped with a Uconnect AM/FM radio. More comprehensive Uconnect systems bring in a large color display, navigation, Bluetooth and a SiriusXM satellite radio subscription. Some models are equipped with a Beats premium audio system composed of eight speakers and a subwoofer.
A rearview camera is standard. Safety features, such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection, are among this model’s other technological attributes.
Every Fiat 500X comes equipped with seven air bags, including a driver’s side knee air bag. Also available is blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, as well as lane departure warning and forward collision alert with automatic braking.
As of this writing, the Fiat 500X is too new for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash testing. Tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are also pending.
With a base price of $20,000, the Fiat 500X is priced competitively with models from Mazda, Honda, Chevrolet and Nissan. The better equipped 500X Easy costs $22,300 and Trekking ($23,100), Lounge ($24,850), and Trekking Plus ($28,100) models are also available. All-wheel drive, available across the model line except for the base model, adds $1,900 to the price.
A moderately equipped Trekking edition with all-wheel drive starts at $25,000, while a fully-equipped Trekking Plus edition tops $30,000, which is well above the price of a fully equipped Honda HR-V.
The Fiat 500X is much better than the similar sized 500L and offers more room and utility options not found in the standard 500. The top end 500X models are pricier than most competitors, but the middle range trim levels may offer much of what customers want in the smallest of SUVs. For customers desiring off-road utility, the similar Jeep Renegade provides a better choice.