Thankfuly my tester this week is all-wheel drive and has a snowmode/traction+ mode because 50 centimetres of snow in one day was a little bit extreme. My tester is the 2016 Fiat 500X in Trekking Plus trim.
The 500x is built on the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, so it is a capable platform although perhaps not yet proven. I've driven the Renegade a few times now and I have been impressed with the little Jeep – although it does seem a little pricey compared to its stablemates and competitors.
You can see the Jeep design in the Fiat but with the Fiat flare including red accents on the seats to match the exterior colour, small details through out with “500” badges including in the headlights, on the dash, and around the interior.
My tester is the loaded model and comes in at over $36,000 which is a lot of coin for a sub-compact crossover. But it does have leather seats, all-wheel drive, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel which works a treat by the way. Also included is Fiat/Chrysler's best in the business infotainment system and included navigation as well.
On the safety and technology front there is lane departure warning including lane keep assist, a back-up camera and cornering light assist – suspiciously missing is blind spot detection though something I'd expect in a vehicle of this trim – it is available on the Jeep version.
Even with 50 cm of snow I don't expect I'll be needing a crawl mode or other high tech off-road features the Jeep version of this vehicle is equipped with, so I'm sure the Fiat's Traction mode would suffice for most.
Model: 2016 Fiat 500x Trekking Plus
Options: Navigation package -- $1,100; Dual power sunroof -- $1,295
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $38,430
The 500X's interior works well and I'm actually enjoying the layout more and more each day I drive this thing. For me the backseats are rarely used. I must point out that this is one of the larger sub-compact crossovers on the market but the back seats are still a little snug for everyday use and the rear door is actually very small which makes ingress and egress more of a problem even if there is enough room once inside.
You are reminded how small the vehicle is when you go to use the trunk space, a small box and my gym back barely fit next to it. Forget trying to get my curling broom in I didn't even try as it's not even close. The rear seats do fold 60/40 and of course you have the extra height you wouldn't have in a sedan but the shape of the hatch really eats into that rear cargo space.
Up front the driver's seat is powered adjustable and the steering wheel manually tilts and telescopes, these adjustments seem to have quite a bit of range. I was able to get the seat almost low enough where I had a hard time to see over the dash, so tall drivers shouldn't have much of a problem in this vehicle. The passenger seat is manual adjust but also includes height adjustment which is a nice touch.
I really like the fact that the heated seats and heated steering wheel automatically turn on full blast when you start the vehicle, especially if you use the included remote start. It is always great to get into a toasty-warm seat and be able to remove your gloves and have warm hands on the steering wheel. The seats get rather too hot though after just 10 minutes so I find myself turning them off pretty quickly.
Surprisingly for a small vehicle, it is a nice place to be, the inside of the 500X that is. Everything seems well put together and well laid out and intuitive.
I noticed when driving the Jeep Renegade that at certain speeds the transmission emitted an odd whine/hum and, as expected, this hasn't changed for the 500X either. My tester is equipped with the 2.4-litre four-cylinder Tigershark engine that outputs 180-horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.
The engine seems to be powerful enough for the platform, although not exciting or extremely quick in any way. It moves the 500X just fine and even heading out onto the highway doesn't really leave you wishing that the 500X had more power. The nine-speed automatic transmission may be helpful in this case; it is quick to downshift and put the engine in the correct powerband -- you'll most likely never or at least very rarely see ninth gear if you care. In order to lock the transmission into ninth gear you'll need to be travelling at least 120 km/h or more and most likely downhill.
Wind and road noise is subdued in the 500X, even with the winter tires with which my tester is equipped. For the category, the 500X and its stablemate, the Renegade, offer a serene driving experience. Vehicles like the CX-3 and HR-V are louder in comparison.
In small spaces like parking lots and in the city, the 500X offers an easy-to-drive character that is fun to maneuver. Visibility isn't the greatest, especially rearward, but the backup camera does help -- when not covered in muck from driving. The rear window is rather tiny and high, making it nearly useless for parking.
The 500X also offers three driving modes: Auto, Traction+ and Sport. Steering response, throttle response and sensitivity to all-wheel-drive engagement are modified with these settings. For the most part I have just left the vehicle in Auto mode and it seems to handle all situations plenty fine for regular driving, the transmission still downshifting quickly if you are trying to win a drag race.
I have to say that the 500X seems to be the best Fiat I have driven, everything about it seems more substantial and better built than the smaller Fiat 500. And don't get me started on the 500L a vehicle they simply should have never made.
The 500X rides and drives as one would expect in its category and is somewhat fun to drive as well. It feels solid on the road and sure footed, although I did notice it understeers quite a bit in snowy conditions so do take it easy if you are in doubt.
The one thing I was not overly impressed with was the fuel economy, I averaged 10.8 L/100 km over the week. It was cold but the week included a lot of highway travel as well as my normal daily commute. Considering I recently averaged much closer to 8.0 L/100 km with the Hyundai Tuscon I was expecting better from this small raised hatchback.
If you are looking for the Italian styling the 500X certainly offers some of that, but it really is a Jeep in different clothing, I'll leave that up to you to decide if that is a positive or negative. I do think if you test drive this vehicle you will be impressed, but keep the options in check because the pricing does get sky high.