Full of personality on the outside and inside, Fiat 500x needs more power, excitement

Full of personality on the outside and inside, Fiat 500x needs more power, excitement

I have to call this week’s vehicle a crossover, because that’s technically what it is. But with all due respect, it doesn’t look much like a crossover, and certainly doesn’t perform like one either. The Fiat 500X is in a class of its own, really.

With some Italian inspiration, it shares “cutesy” looks of the regular Fiat 500 but sits higher off the ground and has all-wheel drive. Therefore, it’s categorized as a subcompact crossover. Let’s not try to label it as I take a closer look at it.

Exterior

2016 Fiat 500X - ex 2 - AOA1200pxThe appearance alone is undeniably a Fiat. It has character and personality oozing from its exterior shell. If you don’t like the 500 or the 500L, then you won’t appreciate the 500X. They’re all in the family with a resemblance that is undeniable. For me, the looks are too cutesy, especially for something trying to pass for a crossover.

The bulbous appearance, while certainly distinctive, will appeal to fewer consumers. That’s always the case with distinctive, bolder designed vehicles. The 500X is bold and is aimed at a younger crowd, and is more feminine looking than other crossovers on the road. The entire front end of the Fiat 500X is cartoonish. You can almost see the round headlights blinking at you, and would be fitted with those annoying eyelash accessories, usually left for VW Beetles.

The 500x comes in a wide array of vibrant colors too, all of which match its bubbly persona. My tester in fact was a bright yellow. It was bold, but these paint coats do look good on the 500X.

Powertrain

2016 Fiat 500X - ex 10 - AOA1200pxThere are two engine options for the 500x, and both are on the slow side. My tester was the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine which makes only 180 horsepower. There’s also a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that makes 184 hp. The turbo seems like the better option if driving excitement is a factor. Although this entire small crossover segment is chock full of uninspiring vehicles, so the 500X fits in well in that regard. As much personality as the exterior has, the engine performance has none. It’s dull, boring and is nothing but a means to get from point A to point B. Sure it will serve well as a commuter vehicle, and serve especially well in an urban environment where crossovers are usually too big for tight parking spaces and busy roads. That’s where the 500X will excel – as an urban driver. With all-wheel drive as an option, it handles itself well on the road, including in wintery conditions. A 9-speed automatic transmission works pretty well with the Chrysler Multiair engine, but despite the extra gears, it still seems to lag in the middle gears. A manual transmission is also an option and front-wheel drive is standard.

To me, not getting this vehicle in all-wheel drive defeats the point as that’s one of the features that makes it a “crossover” and separates itself from the regular 500.

Interior

2016 Fiat 500X - interior 1 - AOA1200pxInside, the five-passenger 500X has more space than any of the other 500s and also has the nicest interior of its Italian siblings, and that’s certainly a good thing. Touch points and interior materials are significantly improved from other Fiats. It’s remarkably better. The interior is one of the most redeeming qualities of the 500X. There are still some hard plastic materials on the dashboard, but considering the price point of the 500X, it’s forgivable. Kudos to FCA for significantly improving the interior, and the center stack, which is clean, and well organized.

The angle of the center touchscreen works well with Chrysler’s UConnect system, as the infotainment system is intuitive and runs through a 6.5-inch touchscreen.

The back seat is adequate, but lacks significant legroom and taller passengers will be best served to stay in the front seats. There is room for three passengers technically, but the back seat is best suited for only two passengers comfortably. Head room and shoulder for two adults is fine.

There is 32.1 cubic feet of space behind the second row. This is average for the segment, but is also one of the reasons to buy the 500X over the 500. There is way more space, both for passengers and cargo, in the 500X, than in the 500 or 500L.

Trims / Pricing

There are five trim levels for the 500X and sadly, Fiat continues the cutesy trim names like Pop, Easy and Lounge but then adds more rugged names like Trekking and Trekking Plus. My tester was the Trekking trim which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a more rugged front fascia and fog lights. This is a more “SUV-like” trim for the 500X, and the trim I’d recommend. My tester had a base price of $25,100, and with several options my tester’s final MSRP was $28,795. The base Pop trim, with FWD has a starting price of $20,995 making this one of the most affordable crossovers on the market.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for the FWD 500X is 22 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. My tester, with AWD is rated at 21 city and 30 highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged nearly 26 mpg. So fuel economy is good for this little crossover.

The Fiat 500X represents Fiat’s entry into the growing compact crossover segment. Aimed at urban and youthful consumers, it brings personality and pizzazz to the segment where so many vehicles look the same. Too bad there’s not that same enthusiasm in the powertrain, otherwise, the Fiat 500x could be a real contender in the segment.

Specs

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

Price/As tested price……………………….. $25,100/$28,795

Mileage…………………………………… 21 mpg/city; 30 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.4-liter 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 180 hp/175 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Nine-speed automatic

Drive Wheels…………………………… All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………………. Melfi, Italy

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About the Author

Jimmy DinsmoreFor several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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