13 JULY 2020
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The Fiat 500X is a fraud.
But a nice one.
There have been several great cars in history whose heritage is outstanding and have been reincarnated as an entirely new product. The Fiat 500 and Fiat 500X is but one example, and you have the mini v MINI, but Fiat wins as the original car is still with us, in much reinvigorated form.
Not so the mini, although from time to time look-a-likes do appear, often using original components. The VW Beetle cannot be added to this list as the Mexican-built New Beetle cheated in having the engine in the front and was very much a VW Polo of the time with a Beetle style body. Nobody was fooled and in July 2019 the ubiquitous VW was put out of its misery.
The Fiat 500X made its debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show and is best described as a subcompact crossover SUV. The term SUV (sports utility vehicle) usually means that the car has an energetic look about it. This description fits the 500X well, sitting just that little bit higher off the road than a normal saloon. It is front-wheel drive and is not really for off-the-road-use. The car was updated about 18 months ago and sells well. A completely restyled cockpit features a new instrument cluster, with graphics that are easier to read, together with a contoured steering wheel which includes integrated radio controls. The Italians love to tinker.
The 500X has nothing in common with the Fiat 500, except for a few badges and, one could argue, looks too. The Fiat 500 is tiny, a specialist town car available with a number of body styles, just about carrying four in a cramped box. It is popular for what it is. The Fiat 500X is a full five-seater with exceptionally wide opening doors and the higher driving position as already noted. It is a four door car and getting to the back is easy too. The X is 4.269m (14ft) long and 1.796m (5ft 11in) wide. The 500 comes in at 3.571m (11ft 9in) by 1.627m (5ft 4in).
The test car had a 1ltr turbocharged petrol engine with a manual six-speed gearbox, perhaps a little notchy but offering a firm change. What is remarkable, and mentioning the mini again, we used to think the 1275cc British Leyland version was quick, a four-seater and 0-60 in 13 sec on a good day. This Fiat is 0-60 in under 11sec and is remarkably frugal in fuel, 50 to the gallon being easily obtainable, and with a decent noise level too. But you do have to use the gearbox and in town you are unlikely to get into top. With an 11m turning circle space is required for a 180deg change of direction, but you can’t have everything. My only other real gripe was the tiny TomTom screen for navigating, with a neat turn indicator in the binnacle. When it comes to the screen's use the reversing camera image was excellent but it was a struggle with the map. Fiat engineers need to look into.
Most buyers will choose one of the front-wheel drive versions, although the Fiat is, nevertheless, available with an on-demand all-wheel drive system.
The test car was a near the top-of-the-range City Cross with 17in alloys, roof rails, cruise control, rear parking sensors, automatic climate control and a very good hill start assist. Pull up what is effectively a simple handbrake lever control, just behind the gearbox, and there is no need to worry about rolling back. It is all automatic from that point onwards. Fiat's Uconnect infotainment system was fitted and the car included self-folding automatic exterior mirrors. As a safety feature traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist and lane keeping driving systems are standard on all versions.
On a personal note I am not that keen on the garish painted metal front fascia, but that is the current trendy mood, so I can’t argue. The interior presentation throughout is high grade with quality mouldings with stylish seats, the rear centre one slightly recessed to give just that extra space. USB points front and back. The rear hatchback door sprung up with little effort exposing a flat floor making it easy to remove the shopping. No electric closing but with the grip point easy to spot and closing effortlessly. The rear seats can fold down on a 60/40 basis.
When it comes to driving, the Fiat 500X was a real pleasure, maybe it is the sit-up view, but it handled very well in a stormy outburst and special precautions did not have to be taken. No leaning on roundabouts and the decent straight line performance already mentioned meant keeping up at the traffic lights was no problem. Press cars are normally very new but this one, with special registration, felt very well put together with 15,000 miles on the clock. Little noise at 70mph. Modern cars are very quiet and wind noise free.
Prices for the Fiat 500X start from £16,995 and the test car came in at £22,100 including £550 for the metallic blue paint exterior.
The Fiat 500X is not going to win as a status symbol but if you are looking for a steady thoroughly practical family 4/5-seater it might just fit the bill. It is not a Fiat 500 but just as much fun.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Ride and Comfort 8
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Paul Jones, Crawley
Great car the 500X, but what a daft name. I’ve got one and am fed up with telling people it is not an updated Topolino