Fiat's answer to small CUV is a small effort

2016 Fiat 500X

Amping up the Fiat lineup by entering the small CUV fray.

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: November 13th, 2015

Fiat's attempt at a tiny crossover is clearly an interesting one. It's a departure from their smaller fare with a taller riding height and more practical room than its predecessors. The fact that Fiat sales have tanked of late means they have to come up with products more interesting to the American market - and tiny numbers like the 500 just aren't gaining any traction. Even the longer 500L has been struggling to drum up sales, so in comes the 500X, with the aesthetics of a fun-seeking car that might just make American car buyers take notice.

  • Exterior: A slightly more aggressive silhouette that still exudes cuteness

    The 500X's proportions are well done, and the elevated height and chunkier body have more presence than the rest of the Fiat lineup. This is a good thing, considering that they currently need a serious departure from the tepid selling 500, 500c, 500L and even the pocket rocket 500 Abarth. We're not exactly sure why sales are so bad, but really small cars haven't done all that well in America. This is more of an American car in terms of styling than anything Fiat has delivered lately.

    While still carrying forward the Fiat 500 ethos and the easily recognizable grille, the black cladded lower portion of the body and the fender wells give it a more rugged look that befit a small CUV. Even the lower half of the fascia in front and back have an aggressive look that give the 500X more presence than its more pedestrian brethren. But in the end, the car is still a cute one rather than one with toughness written all over it. Our tester's Aracino (orange) paint didn't help, either. It makes it look like piece of hard candy on wheels.

  • Interior: Cheap materials and monochromatic black ordered up en masse

    The interior of the 500X is meant to look rugged, as well, but the execution is less pleasant than the exterior, even though everything is clean and fairly well-placed. There's just a ton of cheap looking plastic and most of it is an unpleasant black. The gauges in the instrument binnacle are meant to be simple, but they end up being hard to read. But that doesn't mean everything about it is unpleasant. The seating position is good, and visibility is also clear all around the vehicle. Controls are easy to reach, and the knobs for infotainment and climate controls are large and simple. Rear seat space is decent, and the extra cargo room behind the second row is helpful in transporting gear and groceries like a proper small CUV should.

    The fabric on the seats is another story, though. We're not sure who chose the material on the seat bottom, but its odd, hard webbing is anything but comfortable. We can't imagine parking ourselves on it during the summer in shorts. Seating comfort sacrificed for a sporty aesthetic, unfortunately. The interior lacks any feeling of a quality build and seems more like an afterthought. It's a disappointment for a car that's $25K, since for the same price you can get a Mazda3 5-Door with an interior that completely embarrasses the 500X.

  • Driving Impressions: Nothing to get the pulse racing

    The 500X is an interesting driving mix. Good steering that's has a surprising level of feel is betrayed by a transmission that doesn't want to cooperate. Nine-speeds, first of all, is overkill since it never uses 9th gear, as far as we can tell. It has trouble making up its mind if it wants to be in 7th or 8th gear at highway speeds. But knocking it into Sport mode helps -- in fact it's really the only mode you should drive in if you don't want to be constantly annoyed by the fickle transmission.

    If all you do is bop around town in the 500X, you'll be fine. Anything approaching spirited driving, however, is disappointing. The body roll isn't huge, but you can't exactly toss it around a corner very well. And for a car that's supposed to be fun, the driving experience doesn't deliver. It also gets around 24-25 mpg combined, which for a 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car is less than stellar.

  • Final Impressions: An also-ran that feels unfinished

    The 500X feels like a niche car that Fiat needed but couldn't close the deal on. The exterior styling is its high point, but the chintzy interior and the driving experience are letdowns. For those who want practicality and comfort, look elsewhere. The same goes for fuel economy and build quality. There are better options out there for the same price, namely the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. But if you're looking for a fun image combined with a bit of a higher riding height than a small car can offer, the 500X might be your car of choice. Just don't expect any pulse racing experiences and try to wear long pants.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated inline-four cylinder

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 180 horsepower / 175 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 22 city / 31 highway

    Base Price: $23,200

    As Tested: $25,895 (incl. $995 destination)

    Options on our test car: Customer Preferred Package 27G: Uconnect, 6.5-inch touchscreen display, HD Radio, GPS Navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Compass Gauge, 18-inch Aluminum Wheels, 225/45R18 All-Season Tires

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