The Fiat 500X is the Italian version of the Jeep Renegade and represents Fiat's entry into the enormous crossover market. We spent a week with it.The Fiat 500X is Fiat’s entrant in the ever-expanding compact crossover/SUV segment. It is positioned as a Nissan Juke or Opel Mokka rival, using a force-fed petrol engine and a raised ride height to attract buyers. It shares a platform and engine with the plucky Jeep Renegade, but tones down the machismo for a more rounded and fashion-conscious offering. We got behind the wheel of the Cross Plus, top spec model for a week to see what this pumped-up 500 is all about.
The LookMuch of this segment’s attraction is based on just that - attraction. The Renault Captur in particular is seeing great success with its appealing looks. The Fiat 500X is essentially a blown-out Fiat 500 - pretty much the same that a Mini Countryman is to a normal Mini. The 500X is cute, but probably not to everyone’s tastes, especially in a conservative market like ours. The Cross variants add the black plastic bits around the perimeter. These give the 500X a bit more of a rugged look and subtly improve approach and departure angles. It does not mean that the 500X is an off-road machine. In our test unit's black paint and with 18-inch wheels the 500X makes a statement and attracts second looks and raised eyebrows.
Skin deepLook a bit deeper and the Fiat 500X uses a 1.4-Litre turbocharged petrol engine. There’s a naturally aspirated 1.6-Litre in the range but the added go of the turbo makes for a more entertaining drive. The engine delivers 103 kW and 230 Nm of torque. Its smooth power delivery is refined and there’s an audible growl when you put your foot down. The six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to shift with its light and direct action. Around town the 500X is responsive and there’s not really any noticeable low-down turbo lag. Fuel efficiency is claimed at 6.0L/100km and that’s spot on compared to the competition.
The glamourous bitsClimb aboard the Fiat 500X and the interior really shows the hard work Fiat has done in order to improve its reputation. It has a unique and premium feel to it, something the competition can’t quite match. Spec wise it’s quite similar to the competition but has some nice touches that include a 6.5-inch touchscreen with built-in navigation. The seats are impressively comfortable and supportive and the rear seats are equally comfortable, but rear legroom is a bit restricted. There’s all the connectivity add-ons like Bluetooth, Aux and USB as well as voice command control and steering mounted controls. The Cross Plus model comes with a strange textured surface across the dashboard that feels scratchy. The standard gloss piano black is a better choice and doesn’t feel like sandpaper when you run your hand across it.
As a practical crossover, the 500X is a touch on the weak side. The rear seats fold down, but not entirely flat and the load space with the seats up isn’t great. Fiat has made sure the 500X is a safe buy. It is equipped with traction control, ABS with EBD and six airbags. There’s also hill-hold functionality and rear parking sensors on all models. You can also spec the 500X up with really high-tech stuff like lane departure warning, blind spot assistance and a rear camera.
Behind the wheelThe Fiat 500X seems to be geared towards the driver looking for an entertaining drive. It’s not quite as comforting as some of the competition over bumps and pavements but it trades some of that for drive capability. The 500X is a fun car to hustle around town and remains a treat through the bendy bits out of town, too.
There’s a ‘mood selector’ button that’s much like the DNA switch on Alfa Romeos. The rotary switch gives you a choice between Auto, Sport or Traction. Each selection changes the characteristics of the engine, brakes and steering. Slot it into Sport and you can have decent fun for a crossover. There’s not much body roll and the steering is heavily weighted, but reacts quickly to inputs.
VerdictAs a stylish, funky and stand-out crossover the Fiat 500X does a great job, it’s even really fun to drive. It’s not quite as practical as you think but it does have a good engine under the bonnet that offers an impressive combination of thrills and efficiency. It’s well kitted in the safety department and connectivity area and there are options available if you want more fancy bits inside. The snag comes in when the price is revealed. This Cross Plus unit is R379 900 in standard form and that’s significantly more than the top-spec Nissan Juke and the more practical Opel Mokka.
Fiat 500X pricing in SAThe basic 1.6 500X Pop Star starts off the range at R310 900 before the 1.4T Cross begins the turbocharged variants at R344 900. The Cross auto is R359 900 with our test model the Cross Plus at R379 900. The DDCT variant (dual clutch auto) tops the range at R394 900.
Test Team OpinionIt costs too much of course, but except for that the 500X impressed me. Lovely ride quality and quite sprightly too. -Hannes Oosthuizen
We Like: Premium interior, ride and drive, stylish choice
We don’t Like: Pricey, not all that practical
Also consider: Nissan Juke, Opel Mokka