The Fiat brand has gotten off to an uneven and slower than expected restart in the US, despite having some of the most fun to drive cars out there. But, right now, the American market is less about cars and more about SUVs. That’s where this new Fiat 500X now comes to play, with hopes that the brand’s first all-wheel drive utility is the “x” that hits the spot.
Since Fiat returned to our shores with the diminutive 500, they’ve brought a 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 burgeoning 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 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 trims. As in Renegade, horsepower is 180, torque at 175 lb-ft, with a standard 9-speed automatic.
We know most will opt for the 2.4 and its 9-speed, which continues to show improvement, but still drew some complaints of herky-jerkiness. Driving modes include Sport and Traction + for slippery conditions.
Like many systems, the 500X’s optional all-wheel-drive setup leaves the rear wheels fully disconnected until called upon for traction assist.
Ground clearance is a pretty generous 7.9-inches. Still, as is typical for this segment, occasional dirt road and all-weather capabilities are more the priorities than rock-crawling.
From the looks of things, Fiat was able to get all of the style of the funky 500 to carry over into this larger, more pseudo-rugged shape. Wheelbase is 101.2-inches, an inch and a half less than the 500L which also shares this chassis. 16-inch steel wheels are standard; 17s and 18s optional.
Fiat has done a great job on the interior, carrying over enough of the 500’s distinct elements; yet somehow making it appear less gimmicky in order to appeal to more mainstream crossover buyers.
There’s lots of color plus lively seat trim to brighten things up. But, our 500X with its white painted concave dash reflected sunlight directly into the front passenger’s eyes.
The front seats are also quite firm, and some occupants found it difficult to get comfortable. Ditto in the second row, at least for 6-foot adults, where head, leg, and shoulder room are a bit less than the shorter Renegade. For children and teens, however, it’s adequate for short and long hauls.
Standard niceties’ 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, which is nice and thick, and a 6.5-inch UConnect touchscreen for nav and apps.
Cargo volume is notably less than Renegade, perhaps due to the “X’s” stylish shape: 12.2 cubic-ft. of space behind the rear seats; 32.1 cubic-ft. with seats folded.
As for driving substance to go along with its style, at 3,278-pounds, weight is a little less than the Renegade, so the 500X is also a little lighter on its feet around town, though still plenty solid on the freeway.
However, we did find the ride to be a bit more jostling than the Renegade. Loads of advanced safety systems are available; including blind spot monitoring.
As for track numbers, with spirited throttle response and a good launch, expect about the same as the Jeep Renegade 2.4; 0 to 60 in a reasonable 8.5 seconds, and quarter mile in a solid if unspectacular 16.5 seconds at 83 miles per hour.
Dicing up the cones, there’s certainly more weight and size to deal with compared to the 500 Coupe, but the X wears its additional girth quite well. It feels as sporty as a Fiat should!
More important than all of that perhaps, are the Government Fuel Economy Ratings, which are 21-City, 30-Highway, and 24-Combined for an all-wheel-drive 2.4. Our average exceeded expectations at 28.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
500X prices are very reasonable, starting at $20,900 for a front-wheel-drive Pop. This Lounge AWD starts at $27,650.
Admittedly, if we had to choose between the 500X and the Renegade, we’d go for Jeep’s practical ruggedness over Fiat’s form over function.
That said, we think as a first all-wheel-drive effort, the 2016 Fiat 500X has a lot of appeal, and will certainly bring a much needed all-weather option to Fiat studios. So, while this X may not precisely mark our tiny ute hot spot, it still left a very positive impression.
Engine: 1.4 liter / 2.4 liter
Horsepower: 160 / 180
Torque: 184 lb-ft / 175 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.5 seconds @ 83 mph
EPA: 21 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway