What stands out?

Built on the same underpinnings as the Jeep Renegade, but with styling inspired by legendary Fiat 500, the Fiat 500X small-SUV is powered by an energetic yet frugal turbocharged engine, a chic space-efficient cabin and the latest in infotainment.

What might bug me?

Paying more for your Fiat 500X than you would have for its rivals and realising the style doesn’t really translate into additional substance.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre until you can fix your full-sized flat.

What body styles are there?

A five-door SUV is the only body style. As of 2018 all 500Xs available in Australian drive only their front wheels. The Fiat 500X is classified as a small SUV, lower priced.

What features do all 500Xs have?

A 7.0-inch touchscreen, leather wrapped steering-wheel and voice control for the audio system, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and bluetooth-connected mobile phone functions. AM/FM and digital radio, inputs via AUX and USB, and at least six speakers.

A rear-view camera, and parking sensors.

LED daytime running lights

Air-conditioning, and glovebox cooler to help keep your lunch fresh

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, from which you can also operate the cruise control.

Aluminium alloy wheels, which look more attractive than steel wheels with plastic covers.

A parking brake that is operated by an electric switch rather than a mechanical lever.

Electronic traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin on slippery roads.

A space-saver spare wheel and tyre

Seven airbags, and electronic stability control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on the 500X’s safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Fiat 500X has a three-year, 150,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder is the only engine option. With the dual-clutch automatic transmission it uses 5.7 litres/100km on the official government test cycle (city and country combined). This jumps to 6.0 litres/100km with the six-speed manual gearbox.

Be aware that if you’re driving it hard, you’ll blow out Fiat’s recorded fuel figures. On one test of the 500X auto, we recorded a V8-like 12.4L/100km.

The six-speed dual-clutch auto operates much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. It saves fuel and shift very swiftly and smoothly on the highway, but generally doesn’t feel quite as fluid and elastic as a conventional auto in stop-start driving conditions.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Prices start with the Pop manual, which has cloth-covered seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a six-speaker sound system. Choosing the automatic transmission adds around $2000 to the price.

Walk past the Pop to the more costly Pop Star, and you gain active safety technology such as ‘Forward Collision Warning Plus’ automatic emergency braking system.

Other driver assist functions include blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Dusk-sensing Xenon projector headlights, fog lights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

In-built satellite navigation.

Keyless entry and start.

Bigger 17-inch alloy wheels with lower profile tyres.

For an additional cost, the entertainment system can be boosted with a BeatsAudio sound system, developed in collaboration with Beats by Dr Dre, which includes a 560W, eight-channel digital amplifier.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 17-inch tyres under the Pop Star don’t ride as smoothly on bumpy roads as the 16-inch tyres on the Pop, and are more expensive to replace.

Only white and black paint come at no additional cost.

How comfortable is the Fiat 500X?

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, with good visibility and an elevated feeling that buyers want from this kind of vehicle, without compromising that car-like style. There’s also plenty of seat and steering-wheel adjustment, so that short and tall drivers can get comfortable.

Dynamics are another positive due to sharp steering and honest handling, but the trade-off is a firm ride that lacks the suppleness you expect in a high-riding SUV, particularly on the Pop Star’s bigger 17-inch wheels.

What about safety in Fiat 500X?

The Fiat 500X comes standard with seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; curtain airbags down each side of the car to protect the heads of those sitting next to a window; and an airbag to protect the driver’s knees and legs.

Each version has a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and electronic stability control. The latter can help you bring a skidding car back under control, and is mandatory on all new cars.

The more expensive Pop Star has auto-on headlamps – which help make sure you are visible to other drivers.

The Pop Star is the only Fiat 500X with autonomous emergency braking, which Fiat calls ‘Forward Collision Warning Plus. This reads the road ahead with radar and video sensors. If the system concludes you are closing too fast on a vehicle or other large obstacle ahead, it will supply a warning. If you ignore the warning it will apply the brakes automatically.

The Pop Star also has Lane Departure Warning Plus. This system is designed to prevent your drifting distractedly – or sleepily – out of your lane on the highway. If it senses that you are about to leave your lane without indicating, it will apply a gentle steering correction that alerts you while helping to bring the car back.

Also available on the Pop Star are two rear-facing sensory driver aids: Blind-spot monitoring and Rear cross-path detection (or rear-cross traffic alert). The former alerts you to vehicles travelling near your rear corners, which might not show in your mirrors. The latter helps when you are reversing, perhaps from a shopping centre car park: it alerts you to cars approaching your path from either side.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the 500X at five stars for safety, its maximum, in July 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Fiat 500X steers and handles nicely for a small SUV. The chassis is tuned to suit city conditions so it feels a little stiff on bumpier roads, but this improves with more people or load on board.

The 1.4-litre turbo engine provides more than enough zing, but is let down a little by the dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a bit hesitant at lower speeds. This is pretty typical with this kind of transmission.

How is life in the rear seats?

The 500X’s cabin works well in as much as a tall adult can sit in the rear seat behind a tall driver and not be cramped. The rear seat cushion is quite long, again making it comfortable for tall adults. However, sitting three mid-sized adults across the rear isn’t possible.

How is the Fiat 500X for carrying stuff?

The Fiat 500X has a modest 346-litre boot, though the back seat folds 60/40 and reasonably flat, to lengthen the luggage space if need be.

The spare wheel is stored in the cargo area, which means removing any luggage if you get a flat tyre.

If you wish to tow a small boat or camper trailer, the towing capacity is a handy 1200kg, if the trailer has its own brakes. Unbraked load is 600kg.

Where is the Fiat 500X made?

All Australian-delivered Fiat 500X’s are built in Italy.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

An all-wheel drive option as with the closely related Jeep Renegade and the Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi ASX and Suzuki Vitara for example. AWD was previously available with the Fiat 500X range but was dropped for the 2018 model year.

Even better fuel-efficiency and a longer touring range from a diesel engine (available in the CX-3 and Vitara, for example).

On the less costly Fiat 500X, autonomous emergency braking. This is standard on the CX-3 and C-HR, for example.

Other cars you might consider include the Ford Eco-Sport, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, and Holden Trax.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The Pop Star’s additional features such as active safety, satellite navigation and standard dual-clutch automatic transmission make the additional cost worth it, despite no differences in terms of performance and trim levels.

Are there plans to update the Fiat 500X soon?

The Fiat 500X was all-new when it arrived in Australia late in 2015. There were initially four spec levels including two with all-wheel-drive, though the range was gradually whittled down.

The range was simplified for the 2018 model year, with just the front-wheel-drive Pop and Pop Star remaining, temporarily joined by a special Launch Edition. The infotainment system was also updated for 2018, with a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen and Apple Carplay/Android Auto added as standard.

Don’t expect a generational change before 2020.