The Fiat 500 has become a ubiquitous site on UK roads over the past 8 years & is currently the market leader in it’s sector, selling over 44,000 units in the UK in 2014. Fiat launched the larger 500L & 500MPW three years ago, but their success has not been anywhere near as great as with the original 500,because they are designed to be practical rather than cute. However, Fiat launched another 500 last year the 500X, which is targeted at the sector currently dominated by the Nissan Juke. It also goes go head to head with the likes of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Citroen Cactus, MINI Countryman, Mazda CX-3 & Skoda Yeti.
Fiat have spilt the 500X into two distinct flavours. One is designed with a ‘city-look’ to appeal to those with a fun-loving, spirited, metropolitan outlook & is available in Pop, Pop Star and Lounge trim levels & looks more like the smaller 500, whilst a more aggressive styling is on offer with the rugged ’cross-over’ version & is available in Cross & Cross Plus specifications & also comes with the option of AWD. A choice of 12 different body colours & with eight different designs for the 16, 17 & 18-inch alloy wheels, also adds to the new models sense of fun & also allows the 500X to appeal to both men & to women with these customising options.
Safety is never far from car designers minds nowadays & the 500X is rammed with safety features. These include ESC with DST; ABS with EBD; ERM (electronic rollover mitigation); Hill Start Assist; ASR (traction control); MSR (gearshift engine torque management); electronic parking braking, TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system); front fog lights with cornering illumination (excluding Pop); automatic windscreen demisting (excluding Pop) and six airbags are all standard as part of the FIAT 500X’s safety package.
Sidle up to the 500X & it immediately becomes apparent that like the MINI Countryman, it’s a Fiat on steroids. In reality it’s actually a similar size to the Countryman, but it is larger than the Juke & therefore offers a more spacious & comfortable cabin. The interior has been well thought out. There are four places to store a drink, one in each door & two in the centre console. Twin glove boxes are also on offer & there are two USB connections, offering both front & rear passengers the chance to connect separately. On the drivers side located in the door, the electric window/mirror controls can be found & these too are easily accessible to the driver an important consideration many manufacturers choose to ignore. The steering wheel contains the cruise control & speed limiter on the left, with the media & telephone functions to the right. In the centre of the dash board is the touchscreen for the infotainment 6.5”DAB radio with Bluetooth & SatNav system & this is easily reached from both the driver & front passengers perspective. Bluetooth connectivity via this was quick & simple & the hands-free dialling worked well. However, I spent a week & 500 miles in the 500X but was unable to get any traffic alerts or to activate the TA function, even though I had a number of attempts. Next time I will have to read the hand book !
The quality of the materials used inside the interior of the 500X is excellent. A mixture of hard & soft touch plastics work well together. The designers have managed to accommodate all of the 500’s cuteness in the cabin, but have also kept it simple with the majority of functions controlled through the infotainment hub.
The 2 litre auto was a pleasure to drive, with the auto box coming into it’s own in traffic, as I spent over 5 hours in the car getting to Leeds & back -a journey that should take no more than 2.5 hours- after the M62 was closed due to a serious accident. Most of my miles were driven on the motorway or along the A55 on a weekend trip to N Wales, where the 0-62 mph time of 9.8 seconds came to the fore.Despite Fiats claimed combined fuel economy of 51.4 mpg for my test car, I was unable to get anything other than about 33 mpg whilst in it. I also I found the leather interior a little hard to sit on & would have preferred standard black cloth. Even though Fiat sent me the all-singing all-dancing 2 litre Automatic Cross Plus AWD to drive for a week, costing an eye watering £26,315 OTR & with CO2 emissions of 144g/km. CCV would suggest that the best version for the SME fleet market is the 1.6 diesel, in City livery. The 1.6 engine is quick off the mark, 0-62 mph is reached in 10.5 seconds & quite punchy when required, whilst offering great fuel economy of 74.3 mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. Company accountants will like this version too.
The 500X has been designed to appeal to those with a growing family, or for those who just need more space full stop. As our family car is a MINI Countryman, it was interesting to make a comparison between the two, as the 500X is really targeting the large MINI & it’s competitors. The 500X offers better head & leg room then the largest MINI as well as the Juke, or latest Mazda the CX-3, which both have much smaller cabins & are definitely only large enough to carry four in any kind of comfort. The boot offers 245 litre of storage space with the seats up, but this can be increased by folding the rear split fold seats down. There is a shelf in the boot, underneath which is a proper spare wheel & this does somewhat eat into the boots capacity, as we found out when moving my daughter from halls of residence into next years digs. The three rear seats do fold almost flat though which increases the capacity to XXX litres.
With it’s beefed up looks capturing the prettiness of Fiats 500 1957 original, most notably its large, circular headlamps (albeit with a sportier, more aggressive shape than the 500 or 500L), its unmistakable nose brightwork & distinctive clamshell bonnet, the 500X really looks the part. The Juke on the other hand still divides opinion being described by my son as looking like a bull dog who’s run head first into a wall. It is the sectors most popular car though & has inspired many copy cats of which the 500X is but one, that’s trying to steal its crown.
Despite Fiats claimed combined fuel economy of 51.4 mpg for my test car, I was unable to get anything other than about 33 mpg whilst in it. I also I found the leather interior a little hard to sit on & would have preferred standard black cloth. Even though Fiat sent me the all-singing all-dancing 2 litre Automatic Cross Plus AWD to drive for a week, costing an eye watering £26,315 OTR & with CO2 emissions of 144g/km. CCV would suggest that the best version for the SME fleet market is the 1.6 diesel, in City livery. The 1.6 engine is quick off the mark, 0-62 mph is reached in 10.5 seconds & quite punchy when required, whilst offering great fuel economy of 74.3 mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. Company accountants will like this version too.
If MINI can convince customers like Mrs Walker to buy a larger MINI, I still see no reason why Fiat cannot pull off the same trick with the 500X, which is far more pleasing on the eye than the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Citroen Cactus or Skoda Yeti. Fiat have not yet set the world on fire with 500X sales since launch last year, but this I think, is due to a crowded market place rather than there being anything wrong with this Fiat. Basically, the 500X offers buyers a bit of the 500’s cuteness with a lot more practicality & to my mind is a very good effort by the FCA designers in Turin.
Overall, a Roberto Bettega 3.5/5.