The 2016 Fiat 500X, which goes on sale this month, is the right for the US market. It’s the first Fiat that doesn’t require some compromise of sorts from American buyers.
The 500L had been the largest in Fiat’s fleet, but even that was a tight compact. Granted, the L had decent interior space, but there was still a sense that it wasn’t substantial.
Enter the 2016 Fiat 500X. It’s substantial. Heck, it’s gargantuan by Fiat standards. There’s room for four adults—five if they are petite. And for that quartet, the car is truly comfortable, with decent legroom in the back, even for my 6’1’’ frame.
The driving position is almost comfortable. That’s more because my right knee couldn’t find a comfortable position and kept bumping the center stack. Maybe with a few days behind the wheel, I could have found a proper adjustment.
That negative no way detracted from my driving enjoyment. The model I drove across Southern California had the Trekking Plus trim level with all-wheel-drive. It’s equipped with automatic, sport, and traction plus. In sport setting it provided excellent handling on twisting roads and inspired confidence going into curves.
Is the 500X going to chew up twisty roads like a Fiat Abarth? Frankly, no, but it’s the best handling mainstream compact crossover I’ve ever driven. It seems to retain the spirit of Fiat even if it doesn’t have its dimensions.
The model tested had the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine, which produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque, and is paired exclusively to a 9-speed automatic transmission on all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive models.
The Fiat 500X is also available with a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, with an output of 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Unfortunately, that car wasn’t available to drive. It’s my sense, though, that it should be up to the task, with horsepower and torque that are similar to the larger engine option. Fiat expects this model, called the Pop, to only draw 10 percent of sales. It’s a shame because the Pop will probably feel the most like a Fiat in the lineup.
One noticeable hindrance to the 500X is its A-pillars, or the front windshield posts. My view felt obstructed when checking traffic coming from the right. It didn’t seem noticeable for the left A pillar.
Something else to consider: Fiat had initial quality problems last year that saw it place dead last in the J. D. Power Initial Quality Study. That’s not to say the problems will repeat themselves with the Fiat 500X, but it is a new model so problems can be expected.
The 2016 Fiat 500X offers up to 70 standard and available safety and security features, including forward collision warning-plus, LaneSense departure warning-plus, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross path detection. Electronic stability control (ESC) with hill-start assist and electronic roll mitigation is standard on all models, as are seven air bags.Fiat expects 35 percent of sales to come with the Easy trim level that starts at $22,300 and 30 percent for the Trekking trim level at $23,100. The Lounge trim level starts at $24,850 and the Trekking Plus at $27,100.
It’s that last model with AWD that starts to get expensive. The Trekking Plus AWD has a starting price of $29,000. Add in options like a dual-pane sunroof and Beats premium audio and you’re looking at an MSRP of $31,800.
The Fiat 500X faces some stiff competition in this segment, even from its platform sibling the Jeep Renegade. Of the two, the Renegade has serious off-road chops and a lower starting price. The Nissan Juke is probably equally engaging to drive as the 500X but is cramped inside. The Fiat is a clear choice over the Chevrolet Trax.
For whom is the Fiat 500X a good fit? Topping the list would be folks who resisted buying a Fiat in the past because of its size. That’s no longer a concern. It’s also going to be a smart choice for drivers who like crisp handling with good interior space.
2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus AWD
Price, base (with destination): $31,800. Fuel economy: Not announced yet. Drivetrain: 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine. Body: Compact crossover utility.
Horsepower: 180 @ 6,400 rpm. Torque: 175 @ 3,900 rpm. Overall length: 167.2 in. Wheelbase: 101.2 in. Height: 63.7 in. Width: 75.5 in. Curb weight: 2,967 lbs.
Interior space is roomy, 2.4-liter inline four performs admirably, and handling is strong with all-wheel-drive.
Visibility can be hampered by the A-pillars, it’s price is not that competitive for its class, and only time will tell what initial quality is like because Fiat has had its problems.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Finally, there is a Fiat without excuses for its size.