Fiat 500X review
Fiat has been very clever with the 500X. The crossover market is big business, and the Fiat 500 is both extremely popular and a very good little citycar. To combine the two ideas seems a little jarring, but has proved highly lucrative as Fiat has also hedged its bets and offers the 500X in two different style options - City and Off-Road. Here we test the more-rugged looking version.
Review by Chris Lilly
Fitted out with Fiat's 1.4 litre MultiAir II petrol engine, the 500X produces 140hp in this specification. That's good for a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds, but the Fiat feels much faster that that. A good slug of low-down torque - 230 Nm to be precise - thanks to the car's free-spinning turbo means the 500X is always eager to accelerate. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox tested returns the same same performance times as the manual, but is a little greener. It's also a good transmission, changing quickly and fairly seamlessly. It doesn't get caught in the wrong gear as some autos do, and there's the option to take control with sequential gear changes too. It isn't a powertrain combination I would necessarily have picked glancing at the options sheet, but it works really well. Thanks to the fizzy nature of the engine, some of the 500's character has been woven into the 500X, while the DCT also makes driving around town easier than with the manual.
Long gone are the days when tall family vehicles are allowed to lean like poplars in the wind whenever you go around a corner. With the likes of the Mini Countryman and Skoda Yeti setting high standards, Fiat had to make sure its 500X performs more like a supermini than a 4x4. It's succeeded largely too, with a bit of body roll in corners, but nothing to worry those susceptible to sea-sickness. The driving dynamics are quick and nimble, ideally suited to tackling town environments, but they also transfer well on the open road. A twisty stretch of tarmac will put a smile on your face with the 500X, instead of a grimace of dread, but the car is a little too small and set-up for urban driving to be truly comfortable on long motorway trips. However, in its natural environment around town, the 500X performs very well, but can crash a bit over pot holes.
Crossovers are little more than jacked-up family hatchbacks, but the 500X manages to look good, thanks in part to its 500-influenced styling. The two design options both work well, but I think the Off-Road option looks better than the City set-up, which can seem a bit puffy from certain angles. Either option is better than many rival's efforts, with the Countryman, Vauxhall Mokka X, and Kia Soul not as stylish. Only the Jeep Renegade - which shares a platform with the 500X - and Mazda CX-3 get close in terms of visual appeal I reckon. The boot space available is good and there are plenty of cubby holes around the cabin in which to stow the rest of your kit. Access to the boot is at a nice height too thanks to the crossover ride height, while the opening is nice and wide too, with no real lip to take into account. Visibility isn't great rearwards, but better than many rivals, and it's easy to know where the car is while parking thanks to short overhangs front and rear.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin continues the beefed-up 500 theme and, like the exterior, works well. Controls feel middle of the market - which is where the 500X is pitched really - not quite matching the quality of the Mini (though not far off), but a lot more premium than the Suzuki Vitara for example. At a time where infotainment systems are becoming more and ore important, Fiat's is simply not large enough these days. It's got a good level of connectivity available though, it's just that the screen isn't as large or easy to read as others available. Other controls are decent to look at, feel nice to use, and haven't over cluttered the dashboard and console. This leaves it clear for the large splash of body-coloured plastic that Fiat uses to lighten the interior up nicely. In terms of seating, occupants will have little to complain about, with ample head and leg room even for adults in the back. Shoulder space is good too for three children or two adults in the rear.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Considering the official MPG figure for the model tested is 49.6 MPG, and over the course of my time with the car, I managed to achieve a highly creditable 41.2 MPG. This was achieved with a fair amount of different driving styles - from enthusiastic to frugal, and shows that the DCT transmission works well. Tax will currently be £130 per year as the 500X sits in VED Band E in this specification, however changes due from 1st April will see the tax system get shaken up. However, the only difference buyers of the Fiat will find is that it will be £10 more expensive per year from April 2017 onwards.
Although available with four-wheel drive, most 500X models make do with front wheel drive in the interests of economy. This reduces weight and load on the engine. Electric power steering helps matters too, though the biggest improvement in CO2 emission is likely to come from the Stop&Start engine system, which is standard on all but the entry level model. Fiat's sophisticated MultiAir II variable valve timing system is used here, which offers considerable savings in emissions and fuel consumption over previous units, despite offering more power. Because of this, with the addition of turbocharging, engines can be downsized, further reducing emissions. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 43.
The Fiat 500X range starts at a very reasonable level, but quickly climbs from around £15,000 to more than £26,000 depending on trim. This makes for a wide variety of equipment specifications, but all models get alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, and electric windows. Moving up the trim levels sees features including parking sensors, a 'Drive Mood' selector, touchscreen infotainment system woth Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and sat-nav available on that further up the range still. Cross trim includes 17-inch alloys, a colour touchscreen sat-nat system, leather trim, rear spoiler, dual zone climate control, and rear parking sensors.
The Fiat 500X is a really good family car, offering a characterful driving experience, practical interior, and reasonably low running costs. Stylish and well suited to life as a family workhorse, the 500X manages to add to Fiat's famous cinquecento badge, rather than remove some of its lustre. A gamble, but one that has definitely paid off.
Model tested: Fiat 500X 1.4 MultiAir II Cross
Engine / CO2: 1.4 litre 140hp turbo petrol / 133 g/km
Trim grades: Pop, Pop Star, Lounge, Cross, and Cross Plus
On-road price: From £14,800. Price as tested £20,985
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars