2016 Fiat 500X EasyPosted on August 3rd, 2015
All-wheel drive crossover takes Fiat in a new direction
By Nina Russin
Can a fashionista find true happiness away from the big city? Perhaps if she was driving the new Fiat 500X she could. Although Fiat’s newest compact crossover shares powertrain components with the Jeep Renegade, it’s a distinctly different car.
The Fiat 500X is the yin to the Jeep Renegade’s yang: the hipper, more style-conscious twin geared towards millennial urbanites.
Buyers can choose between front and all-wheel drive models and two powertrains: a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine rated at 160 horsepower mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and the 180-horsepower 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with the same nine-speed automatic transmission found in the Jeep Cherokee.
As different as their personalities are, the Jeep and Fiat share a similar value-driven sales strategy. In the case of the Jeep, it’s an affordable off-road alternative to the Wrangler. For the Fiat, it’s affordable design: the Guggenheim for the price of a duplex in the suburbs.
The test car is the front-wheel drive Fiat 500X Easy priced from $22,300. The Easy sits in the middle of five available trim levels, with standard features including daytime running lamps, a thin film transistor information display, remote keyless entry, satellite radio, fold flat front passenger seat, split folding second-row seats, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
An option package on the test car adds dual-zone automatic temperature control, keyless start, an eight-way power driver’s seat, rearview camera, ambient lighting, heated front seats and steering wheel, bringing the final MSRP to $24,700.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
I had the opportunity to spend this past week behind the wheel of the Fiat 500X in Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona. Although I personally prefer the off-road focus of the Jeep Renegade, the stylish Fiat 500X has a lot to offer buyers with active lifestyles.
Number one is its versatile interior. Since the front passenger seat folds flat, the 500X is capable of carrying extremely long cargo. Kayaks are not out of the question. It also makes it easier to toss a mountain bike inside during a rainstorm without having to worry about popping off the front wheel.
Design teams did an excellent job on the exterior, incorporating classic Cinquecento styling elements into the crossover’s muscular frame. To its credit, the Fiat 500X doesn’t look like a 500 on steroids. Styling is unique and cohesive. The same applies to the interior, with it thoughtful use of simple geometric shapes and color.
Buyers who don’t mind pushing a clutch pedal should seriously consider the smaller engine and manual transmission. It’s a much peppier and more fuel-efficient powertrain than the Tigershark engine and nine-speed automatic tested. Although the 2.4-liter engine has more horsepower, it has to rev high to reach it. Ditto for the 175 foot-pounds of peak torque that comes on at 3,900 rpm.
In the interest of fuel economy engineers programmed shift points in the 2,000 rpm range, the result of which is a lot of hunting and harsh shifting when the driver attempts to accelerate hard.
By contrast, the smaller turbocharged engine reaches 185 foot-pounds of peak torque at 2,500 rpm. The smaller block is lighter, shaving weight off the powertrain and making the front-wheel drive car less nose-heavy. Average fuel economy is significantly better: 28 mpg as compared to 25 for the bigger engine.
A generous greenhouse makes for good visibility around the car’s perimeter. An optional blind spot monitoring system on the test car illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The rearview camera makes it easier to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut front end and live rear axle. The setup seems to work quite well on the compact platform, especially since most of the vehicle weight is up front. An electric power steering system offers ample assist at low speeds with a 36.3-foot turning circle. On-center response is a bit numb but by no means unlivable.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the crossover in firm, linear fashion. An electric parking brake saves space in the center console versus a traditional mechanical linkage.
The Fiat 500X’s bright spacious interior is a pleasure to spend time in. I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view with adequate lower lumbar support. Living in an area with brutal summer heat, I was relieved to find very few chrome touch points inside the car. That sort of thing on steering wheels and shift levers can cause third degree burns in this part of the country. Standard cloth upholstery is attractive and easier to clean than leather.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are difficult to see in bright sunlight, especially if the driver is wearing polaroid sunglasses. Visibility is fine in low light and after dark.
The tall, spacious cargo area holds soup-to nuts, with plenty of room for groceries, luggage, golf bags and smaller camping equipment with second-row seats in place. The low lift-over height makes it easier for small drivers to load up the back.
The Fiat 500X comes with front, side, driver’s side knee and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps.
Fiat builds the 500X at its Melfi, Italy assembly plant.
Like: An affordably priced compact crossover with available all-wheel drive, attractive styling and versatile interior.
Dislike: Lack of engine power, gauge cluster and center stack screen are difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Model: 500X Easy
Base price: $22,300
As tested: $24,700
Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 175 lbs.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/highway2016, Best Value 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Fiat, performance, pricing, standard safety