Nostalgic cool with contemporary practicality.
The Fiat 500 is a car that you want with your heart. With its attractive looks all round and funky cabin, we can’t blame you for wanting it a little more than you should, despite it having been around for the better part of the last decade (and frankly feeling its age, too).
But what if you have kids? Or friends? Or a dog, even? Your little 500 won’t accommodate those, because it’s rather selfish and will only really share you with a maximum of one other person (or maybe three others, if the two in the back are rather small).
Enter the Fiat 500X, which Fiat will tell you is exactly like a 500, except its had an anaphylactic shock. Actually that’s not entirely fair, because in its metamorphosis from pert 3-door hatch to (relatively) vast 5-door crossover, the 500X still retained the charm and quirkiness that endears the 500 to most. In fact, the 500X is right up there with the Mini Countryman in terms of visual appeal.
However, while buying a Mini means benefitting from a BMW platform and BMW engines, the 500X is built atop a platform it shares with the Jeep Renegade, with engines share within the FCA range, hardly the choicest of combinations. Still though, with two trims and a zesty 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol mill, it’s hardly undesirable.
So should the 500X be your statement-making family crossover of choice, or will competitors like the Mini Countryman, Suzuki Vitara, Mazda CX-3, and even the Jeep Renegade lure you away (either rightfully or otherwise)?
“Stylish, well-built and well-specced, the 500X adds a dash of Italian flair and individuality to the compact SUV segment. But while it’s cheerful, it definitely isn’t cheap.” — Wheels Magazine
If you actually look at it long and hard, you’ll see that the Fiat 500X is less of an engorged 500 hatch, and more of a crossover inspired by the Cinquecento.
Sure, all the elements are there. The Fiat badge on the nose, flanked by a thick chrome bar, the four round lights, the pop-out rear lights, and that roofline… it looks like the 500 hatch, right? But then you see things like the lower half of the front bumper, the black body cladding, and the ‘propeller’ alloys (on the Pop Star) and you’ll see that the 500X deserves to be called ‘stylish’ without having to make a reference to the namesake hatch.
While the 500X may be built atop the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, the design of the 500X is pure Fiat. It’s stylish, it’s quirky, it’s distinctive. And in the incredibly competitive premium compact crossover segment (that was a mouthful), that style plays a huge role in getting buyers into the showroom.
Engine & Drivetrain
“By far the sweetest 500X is the zingy 1.4-litre turbo.” — TopGear UK
The Fiat 500X was previously offered with two engine options (well, the same engine with two tunes), and all-wheel drive was also available. With the 2018 update though, the 500X offering has been simplified: One engine, two transmissions, and front-wheel drive only.
Thankfully, the engine they’ve retained for the 500X is the best unit on offer, a 1.4-litre turbocharged Multiair unit, which offers up 103kW and 230Nm, more than enough for this compact family wagon (though notably, more powerful than the lighter Vitara Turbo but less than the costlier Mini Cooper S Countryman).
Expect the 500X to drain the fuel tank at around 8L/100km thereabouts in the real world, which isn’t all that bad. Just don’t rev it too hard, because the engine note isn’t as sweet as the mill’s character.
“Those who’ve enjoyed the characterful and high-grade presentation of the 500 will love the 500X’s cabin.” — Autocar
One of the biggest plus points of the 500 hatch is its cabin, and the same strength is carried into the 500X. The architecture inside might not be to all tastes, but it’s most certainly a point of difference. The 500X enjoys an airy, characterful cabin, colour-matched to the exterior hue for an extra bit of flair.
It’s not all style and no pants, either. The front seats are really quite comfortable, and there’s enough adjustment in the controls and the seats that you’ll quite easily find an ideal driving position. You’ll also like the storage solutions inside, with a couple of cup-holders, cavernous door bins, and twin glove boxes.
A multifunction steering wheel is standard across the range, featuring audio, cruise control, and handsfree telephony functionality. Ahead of that steering wheel are a set of gauges that are simplistic in their design but nonetheless funky, replete with a 3.5-inch multifunction display.
You’ll find the rear seats somewhat disappointing though, with the cushioning being somehow different to the front pews. They’re firmer than the front seats, noticeably at that, though at least there are three individual headrests (that block the drivers’ view somewhat, but you know, comfort).
Behind The Wheel
“Good around town… composed and secure.” — WhatCar? UK
A compact premium crossover has to be good to drive no matter what, either as an enthusiasts’ choice or as a stable, confident cruiser that’ll appeal to casual drivers. Divided that way, the 500X is in the latter half of the spectrum, with a well-judged ride that isn’t perhaps as engaging as the Mini or Vitara, but certainly isn’t as ropey as something like a Haval H2, say.
The good thing about the 500X range is that you’re always a winner, drivetrain wise. The 1.4-litre MultiAir is a rev-happy engine (though it does get a little loud), and both gearboxes are deft at their jobs. The six-speed manual has a positive action to it that’s a joy to use, while the 9-speed automatic is mostly good, though some testers have reported that the gearbox is “very slow to react” in cold conditions. Very odd.
The ride quality in the 500X feels very European, in the sense that you’re always certain of what’s going on underneath the wheels though never upset by it, unlike the floatier Asian alternatives that iron out all but the harshest bumps. It feels most at home in town, where body lean is controlled (reasonably) and you’re left enjoying the agility of the 500X.
On the motorway, you’ll notice a couple of things. At higher speeds, the 500X can feel a little bit unsettled, requiring quite a but of steering input to be kept on the straight and narrow. Further, high-speed corners aren’t a friend of the 500X, with mid-corner bumps upsetting the stylish crossover quite a bit.
Safety & Technology
“There’s a pre-collision warning and lane departure system, as well as a speed limit and cruise control function…” — CarAdvice
The Fiat 500X arrived in our market with sparse specification, though a 2018 model-year update added a raft of safety kit. While the aforementioned lane-departure warning system and cruise control functionality were offered as standard only on higher-spec variants, 2018 models onwards see the addition of collision warning, AEB, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and intelligent cruise control offered as standard on the (current) flagship Pop Star model.
However, they can be optioned onto the base-level Pop model, too.
Another big change with the 2018 model year update is the offering of a 7.0-inch UConnect infotainment screen, replete with Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android cars. Satellite navigation is limited to the Pop Star, but the standard smartphone mirroring offsets that to a degree.
The Fiat 500X might not be an immediate pick when shopping in this space, but it’s not to be overlooked. With distinctive looks, a zingy engine, stylish interior and decent practicality, you’d be foolish not to size up the 500X if you’re shopping in this space.
The only major flaw with the 500X, we feel, is the price it commands: With prices starting at $24,990 for the Pop model with a manual (accurate at time of writing), it’s a fair bit dearer than equally-competent mass market competitors like the Mazda CX-3 and Suzuki Vitara. And when you think about the level of standard kit, you’ll find your heart and head arguing pretty obviously, and rather passionately at that.
Frankly, reasoning a 500X with your head is foolish. As a package, it’s pretty decent, though you know that what seals the deal with this car is how much you want it for its distinctive Italian appeal. But if it’s won your heart, you can rest assured, you won’t be left red-faced or out of pocket.
TopGear, UK — 7.0/10 — “Fiat really needs this to be good, and it is. Form over function, but in the best possible way.”
CarAdvice — 3.0/5.0 — “The Fiat 500X is yet another answer to the broadening ‘which compact SUV is right for me’ question. It’s fun, charming, and a little-bit sporty but comparable only to its premi-ish counterparts by way of price as opposed to quality. A unique option, but one which will come to those who govern with heart over head.”
Autocar, UK — 4.5/5.0 — “There’s room for improvement, though, particularly with the steering and ride, but that shouldn’t stop the 500X appearing on your shopping list.”
WhatCar? UK — 3.0/5.0 — “The Fiat 500X is a butch-looking small SUV, which is comfortable and efficient, if ultimately uninspiring.”
Motoring — 69/100 — “Fiat’s first run at the compact SUV is convincing (yes, I’m ignoring the Panda). It has many of the bases covered, particularly for style-conscious buyers. Still, I can’t help feeling it should be cheaper…”
Wheels Magazine — 3.5/5.0 — “Fiat needs the 500X to be good, and it is. Stylish looks, Italian flair and fluid handling virtually guarantee sales success. But it’s far from perfect.”