We’ve had the Fiat 500X – Fiat’s answer to the MINI Countryman – in 1.4 MultiAir 140 Lounge trim for review. Does a big, butch Fiat 500 work?
The Fiat 500 has been such a success since it was revived that Fiat seem intent on putting the 500 badge on to every car in their range, even if it seems to bear little resemblance to the fun-to-drive, compact 500.
One of Fiat’s extended 500 range of cars is this week’s review car – the Fiat 500X in Lounge trim with the 1.4 litre, 138bhp petrol engine – which is Fiat’s answer to the MINI Countryman.
Fiat has taken the cute retro look of the 500 and super-sized it to create a compact SUV, although this particular 500X is a FWD model without the butch add-ons, perhaps making it a more city-friendly car in the process.
Interestingly, this 500X is also a petrol-engined car, perhaps not the default choice for buyers in this sector, but one which is starting to get more appealing in the wake of the dieselgate woes and car buyers’ concerns that diesel-engined cars aren’t the holy grail for clean motoring they were led to believe..
So, does Fiat’s petrol-engined, super-sized 500 tick all the boxes as an urban SUV, or does it betray the success of the core 500 by cynical badge-engineering?
Fiat 500X 1.4 Lounge – Inside & Out
It shouldn’t be possible to translate the small car cuteness of the Fiat 500 in to a family-sized hatch that aims to be a crossover/SUV, but, on the whole, Fiat has pulled it off.
It’s a neat trick to achieve (and one MINI hasn’t done as convincingly with the Countryman), but the face of the 500X manages to convey the cute retro of the 500 without looking daft, the proportions of the 500X look right, there’s still the 500 shape going on, and the larger proportions stop the raised ride height from looking incongruous.
Not only is the 500X a convincing 500 take on a compact SUV, it’s also one that stands out from the crowd, eschewing the generic compact crossover look for one that manages to look cute and retro without being a pastiche. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Inside is equally appealing, and Fiat has managed to carry over much of the 500’s quirkiness to the 500X, whilst making it far more practical and far more family friendly.
There’s the retro door handles and a body-coloured dash front, stylish seats, a central infotainment screen (here with Sat Nav thanks to the options list), nice steering wheel, decent quality materials and a general feel that this is a properly grown-up 500.
There’s bags of room for driver and front seat passenger, the back’s got decent head and leg room (as long as you’re under 6′), there’s lots of stowage space and the boot’s as big as anything else in this sector.
If it’s Fiat’s aim to deliver a family friendly car for 500 buyers who’ve outgrown the cutesy little 500, they really couldn’t have done it any better. If you love the 500, but need more space and practicality, then you’ll love the 500X.
Fiat 500X 1.4 Lounge – Performance and on the Road
For as long as company car users get big tax advantages from running diesel cars, the 1.4 litre, 138bhp petrol engine in this 500X is really only going to get sold to private buyers. Which is a shame.
It’s a shame because it’s decent, lively engine that rewards when pushed – as long as you’ve got a couple of thousand revs on the go – feeling frisky and nippy (even with an odd lull after every gear change – or maybe it was us?) and with enough torque to negate the need for endless gear changes.
The surprise is how well the 500X gets around and holds on, with the bigger dimensions and raised ride height delivering expectations of a bit of a roly-poly ride with plenty of sway and a predilection to go straight on in corners. But not a bit of it.
In fact, the 500X – with its new platform (shared with the Jeep Renegade) – is surprisingly stiff, and it clearly likes corners; much to our surprise it was rather fun on the twisty stuff, with plenty of grip and good handling, with accurate and quick steering (but not much feel) that lets you make brisk and accurate progress.
The firm ride (perhaps because of the optional 18″ alloys?) can be a bit jarring on pitted urban roads (are there any other sort?), but that’s made up for by its ability to do what the regular 500 does – despite the 500X’s size – and nip and dart through openings and cut-throughs like a proper little city car.
It’s not perfect, but the 500X does a much better job of translating the 500’s driving fun in to a bigger package than we could possibly have expected.
Fiat 500X 1.4 Lounge – Verdict
We really didn’t want to like the Fiat 500X.
It seemed like a cynical marketing ploy to sell cars Fiat wouldn’t normally find easy to sell, and bolting the 500 badge on to a Jeep Renegade in Italian SUV/Crossover clothes just seemed a bit desperate.
In fact, the Fiat 500X is a terrific car, offering as much space as a family hatchback, the raised ride height lovers of Crossovers and SUVs want, a stylish retro-cute look inside and out, what seems to be decent build quality and materials – and it’s a decent drive.
In 1.4 MultiAir guise it’s not a car company car buyers will be queueing up for with its 139g/km emissions, and even private buyers may baulk at real world economy of probably not much better than mid-30s mpg.
But the 1.4 MultiAir is a decent little lump, and as long as you keep it on-boost it is responsive and fun, and at under £20k it’s cheaper than a comparable diesel-engined 500X.
Buy what adds to the 500X’S appeal is that it’s different, and instead of offering yet another generic take on a crossover/SUV at a sensible price to cash-in on the ongoing love affair car buyers have developed for high-riding cars, Fiat a has managed to sprinkle enough 500 fairy dust on the Renegade to make it a properly original urban SUV.
The Fiat 500X may not be perfect, but it is an original. And that’s a rare thing in a world of generic cars, and although building a family SUV using the 500’s retro-chic looks sounds like an awful idea, Fiat has actually pulled it off.
Fiat 500X 1.4 MultiAir 140hp Lounge Review Quick Specs
- Engine: 1368cc, 138bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 9.8 seconds / Top Speed 118mph
- Economy: 47.1mpg – Official / 32.1mpg – Test
- Emissions: 139g/km
- Price: £19,815 / Price as tested £22,240
- Test car supplied by Fiat UK
Test car options
- 18″ Trekking Alloys – £150
- Metallic Paint – £550
- Comfort Plus Pack – £175
- Visibility Pack – £250
- Dynamic Safety Plus – £750
- Nav Pack – £550
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