2016 Fiat 500X Pop Star Quick Review

Good things don’t always come in small packages: think supermodel-portioned meals. But small is Fiat's forte and the 500X is its response to Australia’s love of the crossover compact SUV market. But has it missed the mark?

Fiat 500 X Side Jpg
Gallery1

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

The Fiat 500X is the Italian carmaker’s answer to the growing popularity of compact SUVs here in Australia. With an emphasis on styling you’d expect from the Italians, powered by a 1.4-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine and underpinnings twinned to the Jeep Renegade, the 500X should, in theory, be a real winner for a chic SUV living the café-style city life. Think of it as the half-sibling of the Fiat 500, jacked up on steroids and conceived from its mother’s love affair with an American.

There are things to like about the 500X, like its character styling and spacious cabin, but then you look a little deeper and realise its vanity comes at the sacrifice of practicality.

 STRENGTHS

  • The spirited 500X doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance. But be aware that if you’re driving it hard, you’ll blow out Fiat’s recorded fuel figures. On a recent test of the 500X, we recorded a sub-par 12.4L/100km.
  • The chic 500X has a focus on style and while opinions are divided on the bulky, curvaceous body of the Italian compact SUV, its largest appeal will be in its individuality.
  • Its spaciousness will rival some of its competitors. The cabin is spacious and there’s plenty of storage with large cup holders big enough to fit oddly shaped water bottles, two glove boxes and an unobtrusive centre armrest. The rear will comfortably fit two grown men and the 350L boot will fit more than an overnight bag or two (unlike the 500), but is compromised thanks to the rear curve. 
  • Fiat may be known for its small cars, but the 500X feels like an SUV. You sit high enough to make you feel like you’re driving a proper SUV, offering good visibility and an elevated feeling that buyers want from this kind of vehicle, without compromising that car-like style.  

WEAKNESSES

  • While styling is one of the main strengths of the 500X, the Italians made some strange decisions in the design and material choices for this car – some of which compromise the X’s practicality. To name a few: Zip detailing on the back of the sticky red faux leather seats, oddly shaped chairs with rounded headrests, and a wide cabin with almost unusable armrests.
  • For what’s supposed to be a zippy city car, the 500X’s dual-clutch gearbox is a bit hesitant at lower speeds, and the start-stop system takes a bit to kick in when accelerating at lights. Its suspension is also a bit stiff on bumpier roads, although this improves with a load.
  • The Fiat 500X doesn’t come cheap and is one of the more expensive compact SUVs. Sure, it’s full of stylish features, but when you consider leather seats come at an additional cost, you wonder if this will live up to Fiat’s expectation as a top seller. 

ANY RIVALS I SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER?

If you’re looking for reliability and safety, and a slightly cheaper option, then the Mazda CX-3 should also be considered. The Jeep Renegade is an obvious rival to consider given it shares the same underpinnings and offers a more spacious, tougher option if your heart isn’t set on a chic city car. But if you’re determined to pick something with style, the new Citroen Cactus might take your fancy.

 

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Anna Kantilaftas
Journalist

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