New to the US. for the 2016 model year, the 500X is a marked improvement over the larger and slightly less expensive Fiat 500L that preceded it. To give you an idea of the size of the 500X, it is roughly about the same overall length as VW’s Golf.
Answering the (likely unasked) question, “What would a Fiat 500 look like on steroids?” the 500X amplifies the overall appearance of its even more diminutive sibling. In other words, the 500X is instantly recognizable as a member of the 500 family.
Power for our test car came from a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 175 ft-lbs of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission fed power into the Fiat’s all-wheel drive system. If you’ve read our review of the Jeep Renegade and this sounds suspiciously familiar, it’s because the two models are largely the same mechanically. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg overall, though we saw an average of 28 mpg in our mix of highway and city driving.
Base models get a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four with 184 ft-lbs. This engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Fuel economy is estimated at 28 mpg overall with this powertrain.
Hosting Fiat’s nicest interior treatment for the U.S. to date, the 500X uses soft-touch materials on top of the dash and the armrests. While hard plastics are employed on the front of the dash and windowsills, it has a pleasant appearance. A version of Chrysler’s Uconnect touchscreen interface, heralded by most critics (ourselves included) as one of the best out there right now, is offered as an option—and was fitted to our test car.
We’re talking subcompact crossover here, so rear seat space and cargo capacity are somewhat limited. However, the front seats offered a remarkable degree of adjustability and comfort in our test car. Power adjustability was a pleasant surprise in a vehicle in this category. Even more impressively, the seats were heated as well.
Back seat comfort is largely dependent upon the nature of front-seat occupants. Tall drivers will leave very little legroom for the passenger seated behind them. If the front-seat passenger is willing to compromise, the other rear seat is livable for drives of moderate distance. Cargo capacity measures 32.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded, 20 cubic feet when it is deployed.
On the road, the 500X rides rather comfortably, though noise levels are higher than we consider ideal. Tire roar is the primary culprit on the highway. However, given the price point at which the 500X plays, expecting luxury-car levels of sanctity is unrealistic at best.
Remarkably though, even with 180 horsepower and 175 ft-lbs of torque, acceleration doesn’t really match the playful character of the 500X’s appearance—or its handling capability. It’d be really nice if Fiat came up with a higher performing Abarth version of the 500X.
Cornering is remarkably flat, and you can actually have a bit of fun at the wheel of the 500X on a twisty road. The Fiat’s rigid body structure gives the suspension system good support, though the tradeoff is a slightly firm (but not wholly uncomfortable) ride quality. The tidy size of the 500X also makes it a great partner when it comes to slicing and dicing city traffic. Pricing starts at $20,000.