2016 Fiat 500X Review
Fiat 500X - compact CUV Italian style
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: Twelve colours, lively interiors and five trim levels – something for everyone.
What’s Worst: Lacks the optional availability of full-time four-wheel-drive as found in its kissing cousin, the Jeep Renegade.
What’s Interesting: This is not only the first Fiat ever with AWD and a nine-speed transmission, but the first to be designed from the ground up for world markets.
2016 Fiat 500X CUV at a glance
BODY STYLE: Five-passenger compact CUV
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front/all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 1.4-litre SOHC turbo inline four-cylinder (160 hp, 184 lb/ft) with six-speed manual; 2.4-litre SOHC inline four-cylinder (180 hp, 175 lb/ft) with nine-speed automatic transmission
FUEL ECONOMY: TBA
CARGO: 524 litres (18.5 cu ft) with the rear seat up, 1,438 litres (50.8 cu ft) folded
TOW RATING: Not Recommended
PRICE: Pop, $21,495; Sport FWD/AWD, $25,995/$30,690; Trekking FWD/AWD, $26,995/$30,690; Lounge FWD/AWD, $29,990/$32,190; Trekking Plus FWD/AWD, $30,490/$32,690
HOLLYWOOD, CA- The 2016 Fiat 500X is a first for the new FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) company in several ways.
It is the first Fiat to be produced and marketed as a worldwide product, the first Fiat all-wheel-drive ever and the first Fiat to offer a nine-speed automatic transmission.
But what really sets the 500X apart from Chrysler’s past marriages with Mitsubishi and then Mercedes-Benz is the sense of style that comes with Fiat’s very Italian DNA.
While the 500X was styled in Italy, it shares most of the platform and drivetrain with the Jeep Renegade, which was designed in the U.S., although both are built at the Fiat plant in Melfi, Italy.
The 500X comes with a choice of two engines starting with the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo producing 160 hp and 184 lb/ft of torque hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive.
Also available is the well-known 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir 2 normally aspirated four-cylinder with 180 hp and 175 lb/ft of torque with a nine-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel-drive.
At this writing, fuel consumption numbers were still being calculated by NRCan.
The AWD system has a disconnecting rear axle that changes the 500X to front-drive, reducing parasitic frictional drag and improving fuel economy at the same time.
The 500X always launches in AWD and can shift torque, depending on conditions, up to 50 per cent rear. There is no four-wheel lock.
Also part of this package is the Dynamic Selector that lets the driver choose from three drive modes – Auto, Sport and Traction +.
The 500X is one of the most extensively safety equipped vehicles in the compact CUV segment with seven airbags, Electronic stability control (ESC) with Hill-start Assist and electronic roll mitigation all standard.
Optionally available are: Forward Collision Warning-Plus; LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus; Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.
Being a 2016 model, connectivity and technology are expected and the 500X delivers with features such as Uconnect with a 6.5-inch high-resolution touchscreen and navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, Uconnect Access Via Mobile, a 3.5-inch color thin-film transistor (TFT) cluster display, Keyless Enter-N-Go and heated front seats and steering wheel.
While the 500X shares much mechanically with the Jeep Renegade, styling couldn’t be more different.
Styled in the U.S., the Renegade has squared off fenders and “Jeep” signature cues such as the seven-slot grille and upright windshield.
The 500X was penned at Centro Stile, in Turin, where designers factored in lot of lines from the Fiat 500 but just in a bigger package. Some of these include the “whiskers and logo” nose and the clamshell hood.
The same thing goes for the interior with circular instrument display, body-colour dashboard and Fiat 500 signature door handles.
It will be sold in five trim levels – Pop, Sport, Lounge, Trekking and Trekking Plus. Trekking and Trekking Plus get a more rugged look with trim-specific front and rear fascia designs and satin silver accents so it stands out a little more.
Fiat expects the Sport to be the volume model, with a 40 per cent “take rate”.
The Pop has the 1.4-litre and is strictly AWD at a starting price of $21,495. It is fairly well equipped with standard air conditioning, Uconnect multimedia centre with USB, input jack and four speakers, steering wheel mounted audio controls, seven air bags, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Hill Start Assist and remote keyless entry to name a few.
The 500X Sport with 1.4-litre and FWD costs $25,995. Add the AWD and it includes the 2.4-litre at $29,190. Similarly on the 500X Trekking with FWD, 1.4-litre is $26,995 while the AWD 2.4-litre is $30,690.
Move up to the 500X Lounge and the 2.4-litre is standard for FWD and AWD at $29,990 and $31,190 respectively. That is the same for the topline 500X Trekking Plus at $30,490 and $32,690 for the FWD and AWD respectively.
With an overall height of 1,602/1,618 mm (FWD/AWD), the 500x sits quite tall, resulting in a cargo hold that is much larger than it appears from outside.
This is helped at the rear by a modified version of the MacPherson Strut called the Chapman Strut that is less intrusive in the cargo area.
RELATED: 10 auto facts to rev your engine
With the 60/40 split/fold rear seats up, cargo volume is 524 litres (8.5 cu ft) and 1,438 litres (50.8 cu ft) with the seat folded. The cargo floor is height adjustable for more utility.
The biggest difference between the 500x and Renegade is off-road ability.
For instance, the Renegade has a two-speed transfer case that not only gives it true four-wheel-drive but also endows the Renegade with the ability to go seriously off-road.
The 500X is therefore more of a soft-roader in that it can easily handle most road and lane surfaces without anxiety.
A benefit of its height is that the 500X offers even the tallest passengers ample headroom and legroom in the back seat. The big doors also make it easy to enter and exit.
That slightly higher stance also means forward visibility is better than a compact sedan and that goes for the side and rear views which are essential in traffic-dense places such as the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles where the press introduction of the 500X was held.
In and around Los Angeles, it fit right in with 12 vibrant exterior colours.
I spent most of my time in a Trekking AWD cruising north of LA, first up the Pacific Coast Highway and then up into the hills along ultra twisty roads like Topanga Canyon and Kanan Dune.
As expected, the 500X was right at home cruising the highway. When it came to the more challenging canyon roads, the AWD did what it was supposed to do and seamlessly routed torque despite my co-driver’s best efforts to push the 500X to the limit.
But where the 2016 Fiat 500X stands out is not just the engineering, but the verve of its Italian sense of style.