I’ll admit it, the main reason I’ve been wanting to drive the 2017 Fiat 500X is the advert. You know the one: the Fiat 500 blue pill Superbowl ad from 2015. It’s rife with innuendo, and well worth the watch. It meant that each and every time I walked up to my own blue (HA!) 500X tester I was chuckling like a teenager who just typed “eight, double-zero, eight, five” into his calculator.
Driving the Fiat CUV is best described as “remarkably simple.”
Based on the same platform as the 2017 Jeep Renegade and running FCA’s 2.4-litre TigerShark MultiAir engine, the 500X is paired with a nine-speed auto that powers the front wheels in the billboard-only trims and all four wheels in every other guise. Its styling is an unashamed appropriation of the Fiat 500, Fiat’s little heritage hatchback that is closer to the original than most throwback designs. It’s a better-executed aesthetic design than the 500L, but lacks the glasshouse feel and spaciousness of that unit.
The 2.4L engine’s 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque are accessed high in the rev range, making it a busy and harsh engine under heavy acceleration. The nine-speed auto is better matched with every iteration and I found no complaints here. The 500X seemed to be in the right gear all the time and kicked down cleanly and quickly to get to the power when I requested it. Power is decent, especially with only 1,346 kg to hustle along, but it takes a while to wind up, and squawks its dissatisfaction loudly.
Driving the Fiat CUV is best described as “remarkably simple.” The gear shifter is a rarity these days – a simple PRND shifter with a lock-out button. It has a manual mode set up the correct way too! Forward for down, back for up. Not that I bothered with it; this is no sports car. There are no paddle shifters either, but I didn’t find that an issue at all. Having said that the Fiat is no sports car, it does have enough pep, composure and steering response to generate some fun – especially after a blanketing of snow.
Brake feel is consistent and linear. The steering is light, the turning circle is decent and the $995 Technology Group adds safety tech like lane-departure warning/assist and forward collision with active braking. You need to fork out an extra $500 for blind-spot monitoring though and our test car didn’t have it. Frankly this feature should be standard on a $40k SUV with limited side visibility.
Ride quality and sure-footedness in the Fiat are both better than expected and suspension noise is kept to a minimum. In our 2015 compact SUV comparison test the 500X was marked down heavily for a harsh ride, something we later found out may be related to over-inflated tires. After driving it here I think that may have been the case because this time around bumps were absorbed well.
The wide, flat leather seats (here resplendent in mottled brown with white piping – because retro) are utilitarian and built for North American backsides. The steering wheel has a subtly flat bottom – which is hilarious. But the back of the steering wheel spokes have a feature I never stop raving about and never will – UConnect’s tuning and volume controls. Next year, the 500X will have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity too, which will be amazing.
There are three drive modes that affect only the engine and transmission mapping – they are not named but instead articulated with a snowflake, a normal car and a chequered flag. The difference in modes was not significant and I left the Fiat in normal for most of my drive.
Heated seats, heated steering wheel and automatic climate control combine to ward off the effects of Canada’s winter on my fragile mood but I couldn’t get the side mirrors or windows to stop fogging badly in the underground carpark at the office on snowy days. That’s okay though, it gave me an excuse to share some Aussie hip-hop with all my colleagues as I drove by.
The trunk is moderately sized at 524 L behind the 60/40 split fold rear seats, and 1,439 L with them folded to an almost-flat position. An additional glove box on the dashboard gives a modicum of cabin storage and there’s one USB and one 12 V power available for your phone/audio device – so prepare for a power struggle on road trips.
The 2.4L is not bad on fuel, but it’s not great either. Official ratings are 11.0/8.0/9.7 L/100 km city/highway/combined and I saw 11.4 L/100 km after a week of heavy winter driving – including a few snow flurries.
This is a competent city runabout with the sort of creature comforts (panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel) that really appeal to people like me, but in its class the Fiat 500X is very much the emotional proposition. It’s charming, and quirky and fun, and ultimately those are the best reasons to buy one.
|Peak Horsepower||180 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Peak Torque||175 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.0/8.0/9.7 L/100km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||524 L/1,439L|
|Model Tested||2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD|
|Price as Tested||$40,785|
$4950 – Blue metallic paint $195; Technology Group (rain-sensing wipers, lane-departure/lane-keep assist, auto high beam, forward collision warning/active braking $995; Navigation Group $1,100; dual-pane sunroof $1,295; Beats Audio $495; compact spare tire $295; 18-inch alloys $575