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DRIVEN ➤ The new Fiat 500X: Purists beware!

07 May

By Wayne Gorrett, Hedsor House, Buckinghamshire, England.

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➤ Spot on retro styling.
 Generous kit levels across the range.
 Good fun to drive with spirited enthusiasm.


Back in November I popped over to Milan (and Turin, as it turned out) to pootle about the foothills of the Italian Alps in Fiat’s new 500X crossover. My initial favourable impressions were renewed last month after sampling several local variants of the 500X at its UK media launch. I expect it may come as little comfort to the hordes of 500 purists when I tell you that it really is a very good car.


 

➤ What is it?

Fiat has launched the latest iteration of its well-proven ‘Cinquecento’ theme with the 500X, a five-door, soft-road crossover. With a real-world starting price of £14,595, it is in showrooms now and goes head-to-head with rivals such as Nissan’s oddball Juke, the uninspiring Renault Captur and Peugeot’s affable 2008.

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The Fiat 500X doesn’t share the same underpinnings as its smaller 500 sibling because it is a significantly larger car: 71cm longer, 17cm wider and 12cm taller than the standard 500 city car. Technically, the new Jeep Renegade is its first cousin, which is a great DNA line to tap into.

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➤ The Style Factory

The 500X is available in five trim levels across two distinctive body styles of ‘URBAN’ and ‘RUGGED’. The clean lines of the URBAN style offers ‘Pop’, ‘Pop Star’ and ‘Lounge’ specifications and the RUGGED soft-road version is available in ‘Cross’ and ‘Cross Plus’ trims. Personalisation is the buzzword with the 500X, offering buyers a choice of 12 different paint colours and eight different alloy wheel designs in three wheel sizes.

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➤ The Inside Story

On the inside the new 500X has much carried over from the 500L, which translates into a more grown up décor. Taking centre stage is an instrument binnacle and the 6.5-inch infotainment screen rising out of the dash. Most of the plastic mouldings are of decent quality and the seats are stylish, roomy and comfortable.

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The dash switchgear is classy, as is the multi-function steering wheel. At 350 litres, the boot of the 500X is a decent size but the sloped rear windscreen impacts on practicality. With the rear seats folded, a very practical 1,000 litres of space becomes available so the 500X can still carry plenty of cargo.

➤ Engines and Transmissions

Engine choices are well covered by two petrol and two diesel units which may be coupled to either five- or six-speed manual gearboxes.

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The only gearbox available on the all-singing, all-dancing Cross Plus 4×4 is a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic. It’s the same auto ‘box used to better effect on the new Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee and the 500X is the first Fiat to use it. It’s a fairly decent pairing to the 2.0-litre, 140PS MultiJet diesel on such a smallish car but its weighty lump is not overly discreet.

Both 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains are available, as is a ‘drive mood selector’ (on all but the ‘Pop’) which allows the driver to choose from three options that optimise the driving dynamics of the car.

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All engine versions conform to new Euro6 standards and come with Start & Stop, providing healthy performance and fuel consumption with limited CO2 emissions.

➤ Safety First

The 500X is equipped with active safety systems which include front headlights with integrated daytime running lights, fog lights with adaptive cornering, ESC and a lane departure warning system. The options list includes blind-spot monitoring and a rear view parking camera. There are six airbags fitted as standard.

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➤ On-Road Cred

There is a confident feel to the 500X when under way as it displays surprisingly good road manners for a compact crossover and a fairly decent turn of performance – depending on engine choice. It won’t set any records in the sports department, but it makes calm, controlled and civilised progress. Should the mood take you, it feels grippy and entertaining through the twisty bits and there is little body-roll to mention.

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➤ Off-Road Cred

At both the Italian and UK launches, I drove the automatic 4×4 models over the off-road route provided. The 500X has decent approach and departure angles and its raised ride height makes for very capable soggy green laneing or shallow mud-plugging.

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➤ ICE and Connectivity

Depending on variant chosen, there’s a choice of 5.0- or 6.5-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreens, with standard Bluetooth and USB connections, plus optional DAB radio. All are operable via steering wheel controls or voice commands. The icing on the infotainment cake is the availability of the bass-friendly ‘Beats by Dre’ audio system as an optional upgrade.

The new Uconnect Live system integrates your Smartphone, mirroring apps and ensures permanent connection to networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Owners can stream music, get real-time news updates and even check the weather.

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SUMMARY

Priced from just £14,595, Fiat has created an immensely likeable car in the 500X. Its stylish retro looks, comfortable cabin, punchy engine range, soft-road ability, sharp handling and extensive personalisation options are all attractive ingredients for a winning Fiat pasta-bake.

So, could this be the best Fiat to come out of Italy during the past two decades? At the risk of being publicly flogged by the aforementioned 500 purists…yes, it is.

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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Driven

 

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