2016 Fiat 500X
by John Davis
Since Fiat returned to America with the tiny 500 hatchback, they’ve brought with them a welcome splash of Italian style, and a fair amount of substance, to the small car ranks. Well, now they’re looking to do the same in the exploding subcompact crossover segment with the 2016 500X. Having Jeep as a corporate cousin is a great way to get a head start in that endeavor. And indeed the 500X shares a chassis with the Jeep Renegade.
Base Pop trim for the 500X is front-wheel-drive only, and comes with Fiat’s 160-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir I4 turbo, as well as a 6-speed manual transmission. A 2.4-liter Tigershark I4 powers all remaining trim levels and would be our choice. As in Renegade, horsepower is 180, torque at 175 lb-ft, with a standard 9-speed automatic.
Now, the 2.4 does come fitted with the 9-speed automatic transmission, which continues to show performance improvement. Selectable driving modes include Sport and Traction + for slippery conditions. The 500X’s optional all-wheel-drive system leaves the rear wheels fully disconnected until called upon for traction assist.
Ground clearance is pretty generous for a small utility at 7.9-inches. Still, as is typical for this segment, occasional dirt road and all-weather capabilities are more the priorities than rock-crawling.
Fiat did a great job of getting all of the style of the funky 500 to carry over into this larger, pseudo-rugged shape. Wheelbase is 101.2-inches, and while 16-inch steel wheels are standard, both 17-inch and 18-inch rims are options.
Fiat has done a fine job on the interior appointments too, carrying over enough of the 500’s distinct elements, yet also making it appear less gimmicky so it might appeal to mainstream crossover buyers. There’s lots of color, plus lively seat trim to brighten things up.
As to seat comfort, it is on the tight and firm side, both in the front and in the second row. In reality, only children and teens will likely find the back seat suitable for long trips. Cargo volume is less than a comparable Renegade at 12.2 cubic-ft. of space behind the rear seats, and 32.1 cubic-ft. with seats folded.
Other Fiat 500X standard items include dual glove boxes, a rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust tips. Lounge trim adds dual-zone climate, power driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a 6.5-inch UConnect touchscreen for navigation and apps. Multiple active safety systems are available as well, including blind spot monitoring.
In around town driving we found the 500X to be very light on its feet with the kind of quick response you would expect from any European passenger vehicle. On the other hand, out on the highway it still felt solid and safe. Our only complaint might be the ride -- which is compliant enough, but creates a bit more passenger jostling than the Renegade.
Anyone buying a tiny utility vehicle will likely want to know the details about fuel economy. With the 2.4 and all-wheel drive, the 500X rates well at 21-City, 30-Highway, and 24-Combined for an all-wheel-drive 2.4.
For our exclusive test of the 2016 Fiat 500X, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3450 that begins airing on August 14, 2015. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
Our initial impressions are that as a first all-wheel-drive effort, the 2016 Fiat 500X has a lot of appeal. Having an all-wheel drive model in their stable should certainly up the Fiat brand’s appeal in the snow belt. Plus, no other small, all-weather effort, has its Italian flair. That alone makes the 500X a subcompact ute standout.