The small crossover segment continues to grow with people buying tiny cars with roomy interiors. The 2016 500X is Fiat’s offering with what some might describe as “fun” styling and plenty of legroom and headroom. Cargo capacity is another strong point and you get a long list of colour options. The basic model called “Pop” starts at $21,995 with a 1.4 litre four cylinder and six-speed manual transmission. I’m sure it’s nice, but three other choices might be more enjoyable to drive. You can choose from Sport, Trekking and Lounge each trimmed out in different ways. A 2.4-litre engine with nine-speed automatic transmission powers each variation.
My Trekking AWD started at $30,690. Options and option packages quickly raised the price to $40,335. The optional Rosso Perla (Red Tri-coat) was itself a $995 extra. The dual pane sunroof certainly brightened up the interior, but it creaked once in a while perhaps because of the cold weather. It cost an extra $1,295. Also optional was the big 8.4-inch touchscreen with all the cool audio and navigation features. Overall instrumentation and switchgear was nicely done and easy to use. Good use of sound deadening materials made for a quiet ride inside no matter what speed I drove.
Inside the smallish windows and lower ceiling from the sunroof give a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere. The black interior colour doesn’t help. The front seats look bulky and overbuilt, feeling somewhat comfortable, but you don’t so much sit in them as sit on them. I did not take the 500X on a highway trip so I don’t know how comfortable they are. There was power adjustment on the driver’s seat. The seat heaters only provided lukewarm heating.
Rear seat legroom is very snug with the front seats pushed back for a tall driver and passenger. I should also add putting child seats in the rear seat might not be ideal either. But then this is not really a family hauler even if the kids are toddlers. I would say the Fiat 500X will hold more appeal for young couples and empty nesters. Cargo room is very good with a height adjustable floor.
The 180-hp turbocharged 2.4-litre engine is peppy but my 500X had an annoying hesitation or surging when cold. Sometimes to the extent I thought it would stall out. The nine-speed automatic worked fine in all rpm ranges and had very smooth shifts. Fuel consumption around town averaged 11.9L/100 km. It’s rated at 11.0 and 7.9L/100 km highway.
As for handling, the 500X seemed stable as I motored along the Henday and was very capable for somewhat sporty driving around the city. Overall the ride was not as good as I expected. It was a little jumpy, a little jittery. The 500X and the Jeep Renegade share the same body platform so I expected a much more refined ride with better handling. On the plus side, a cool feature with the Fiat’s AWD is regular, sport and super traction modes with automatic disconnect the rear axle when AWD is not needed.
Still the 500X is good value for the money, not outstanding. It looks cool but needs a little more work from the engineering department.