A distinctive choice among the vast SUV market, the 2016 Fiat 500X is a larger, taller version of Italy’s iconic small car, the 500, and is the first Fiat with all-wheel drive.
The 14-foot-long 500X looks cute compared with more mainstream compact SUVs and is one of the few available with a manual transmission. In addition, the 500X’s four-cylinder turbocharged engines provide more horsepower and torque than the non-turbo four cylinders in competitors.
However, the Fiat 500X doesn’t come with standard equipment that many SUV drivers consider necessities, such as Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a rearview camera, and has less cargo space than some competitors.
The 500X is affordable with its starting retail price of $20,995 for the base, manual, front-wheel drive, 160-horsepower 500X Pop model. The price rises to $22,595 for a front-wheel drive Easy model with nine-speed automatic transmission because the automatic comes with the 180-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder as well as Bluetooth. The rearview camera still isn’t standard on this model, but part of an option package.
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For buyers who want all-wheel drive, the price rises to at least $25,630, and comes with the 2.4-liter, turbo four-cylinder mated to the nine-speed automatic.
Affordability drops when one adds things like a sunroof or safety features, such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning systems. The test 500X in Trekking Plus trim and with front-wheel drive, leather-covered seats, sunroof, backup camera and power driver’s seat topped $33,000.
A variety of small SUVs that have a car-like platform, unibody construction and sit a decent distance above the ground compete with this new Fiat, especially the 2017 Honda HR-V and 2016 Mazda CX-3. Both the HR-V and CX-3 are longer than the 500X, but only slightly.
The 500X comes with 32.1 cubic feet of cargo space when rear seats are folded down. That’s less than the 55.8 and 44.5 cubic feet in the HR-V and CX-3 respectively. Plus, the 500X cargo floor is not completely flat. Back-seat legroom of 34.6 inches and rear headroom of 37.8 inches are less than what the HR-V provides.
Disappointingly, the test 500X with front-wheel drive averaged less than 23 miles a gallon in mostly city traffic. This compared with the federal government’s estimate of 25 mpg for combined city/highway travel and is less than federal government estimates for several other small SUVs, including the HR-V and CX-3.
Still, the turbo power makes the 500X a spunky drive, and neither the Honda nor Mazda can deliver the 500X’s 175 foot-pounds of torque at 3,900 rpm.
In the test vehicle, the engine was readily heard during acceleration, and road and wind noise intruded to the point that at times it was necessary to crank up radio volume to overcome it. Passengers also felt a good amount of road bumps.
The 500X is wider than the HR-V and CX-3, providing decent room inside. But this Fiat still is maneuverable and fits easily in parking spots.
But, for sure, no one will confuse the Italian-styled 500X with a Mazda or Honda or anything else.
The 500X was among more than 412,000 vehicles recalled last summer because a crimp in a wiring harness could impair electronic control of the nine-speed, automatic transmission and cause it to randomly shift into neutral and increase the chances of a crash.