Fiat’s latest offering, the 500X, could be their best offering yet. It’s slotted in the crowded crossover market but lands on the smaller side, with main competitors from MINI and its platform-sharing mate, the Jeep Renegade. Yes, Fiat offers the 500L, which is in the realm of the crossover world, but the 500X independently stands on its own four...err, two feet. My thoughts are that if the 500X resonates well with buyers (and I feel that it will), the 500L will drive off into the proverbial sunset.
The 500X has a great stance and isn’t quite as bubbly as its other “500” running mates. It’s got hints of athleticism, significantly larger headlights and is attractive from both near and far.
Whereas the 500L stands tall, the 500X offers a leaner look that follows a traditional look of a crossover vehicle. My tester, the Sport model, comes with 17” wheels and cornering fog lamps, which add to the built-in good looks. To me, it gives off a grown-up feel to a car that’s young at heart.
There are two engine choices, with my tester equipped with the 2.4L Tigershark four-cylinder, nine-speed transmission producing 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque. Fuel ratings come in at 10.6 city and 7.6, combined 9.3 for L/100 km.
There’s no explosive launching from a dead stop and really, there shouldn’t be for the 500X. There were no problems reaching highway speeds and certainly no problems in the passing department.
With fuel economy in mind, the nine-speed transmission is geared towards reducing your gas station visits. However, at lower speeds, I found the transmission to rev a bit higher than expected and there’s a slight lag between gears. Sliding into Sport mode gives you increased responsiveness, higher revs and boosts the “fun" factor behind the wheel. The standard Auto mode is where most folks will live, though, for the majority of their driving. Of the five trim levels, the first three come equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox (the auto box option runs $1,595) for those who want to save the manuals.There’s also a 1.4L Turbo engine with 160 horsepower and 185 lb-ft.of torque available. During a mix of city and highway driving, the lower stance of the 500X produced a responsive drive quality and not as much sway as some other crossovers out there. While the ride feel leans towards the firm side, cornering is stable and steering feel is quite comfortable.
Inside, there’s a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system that’s the heartbeat of the centre console with six speakers (nine speakers are available on the top trim) and it’s easy to navigate, despite its small size and my chubby fingertips. I’d like to see a size increase in future models to, say, a seven-inch screen so that there’s a reduced chance of hitting the wrong button.
My tester was given the $1,295 Convenience Group package, which included an eight-way power/heated driver's seat (the other front seat is heated as well), a heated steering wheel, A/C , four-way driver lumbar support and a few other goodies. Seating is comfortable and the sightlines are clear once you’re in the right position. The big winner for me was the right arm rest, which features a slide-forward option for those of us with longer forearms. The Mazda CX-3 doesn’t even come with a right armrest at all!
Fit and finish wise, the materials look and feel good, even if most of the interior is made of shiny plastic, which usually goes over poorly.
An oddity is that the speedometer is measured in odd numbers (10, 30, 50, etc.) opposed to the traditional even numbers (20, 40, 60, and so on). For those creatures of habit, it’ll take a few trips to adjust to this new way of measurement as our school zones are 40 km/h, most city streets are 60 km/h and our 400-series highways are 100 km/h - all even numbers.
Storage wise, the trunk holds 524 litres, and folding the rear seats inflates that to 1,438 litres. The big plus is that the front passenger seat folds flat for you ski/snowboard/IKEA enthusiasts.
Starting at $22,995 for the entry level “Pop” option and capping at $31,990 for the Trekking Plus, the young urbaneers have options in the five-tiered lineup. Throw in the 12 colour options, two engine choices, and two transmission options (for the first three trims) and there's something for everyone in the 500X lineup.
Between its good looks, spirited drive quality, well put together interior and many, many options, the Fiat 500X is worth taking a first and second look at. For a brand that played the importing of nostalgia card similar to the Brits, the Italians have been steadily building themselves in the Western world. And with the new 500X crossover, it’s definitely a strong step in the right direction.
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