The 2016 Fiat 500X

The one that should have been the first

By Marc Bouchard

The new 2016 Fiat 500X is the car everybody has been waiting for, at least those who were attracted to the Italian styling of the diminutive 500 but were too claustrophobic just to get in it.

The 500X uses the same pedigree as the smaller version (or even the bloated 500L wagon), but with a bolder exterior styling and more interior space. The 500X is exactly the car Fiat should have brought out at first to conquer the North American market. This lovable small car gets bigger in a very assertive way, preparing to go head-to-head with other sub-compact crossovers—like the brand new Mazda CX-3—in a battle that promises to be fierce.

This lovable small car gets bigger in a very assertive way, preparing to go head-to-head with other sub-compact crossovers—like the brand new Mazda CX-3—in a battle that promises to be fierce.

All in the family

Don’t look for visual distinctions here. From the front, the 500X looks awfully similar to its older, smaller sibling: the circular headlights, curvy fenders and rounded hood. Fiat designers are proud of this resemblance and they should be, because styling and appeal are primarily what draws people to the 500.

Taller, wider and longer than every other model in the lineup, the Fiat 500X offers actual seating for five (although the middle rear passenger will have to make a few compromises) along with a lot of cargo room (with the 60/40 split rear seats folded).

The modern dashboard in the 500X features a high-resolution display ranging from 5 to 6.5 inches in size, depending on the trim level. Beyond radio and entertainment functions, it handles navigation duties (if so equipped) and the larger one comes with a touchscreen. The hands-free connectivity system for smartphones is one of the most intuitive on the market. Other interesting amenities inside the base 500X Pop include cruise control and air conditioning, as well as power everything.

Those looking for a more rugged, adventurous-looking 500X can turn to the similarly specked Trekking and Trekking Plus models, which feature unique front and rear fascia designs along with satin silver accents.

Higher trim levels start with the Sport, which adds 17-inch wheels, a larger display and, more importantly, a Dynamic Selector system that allows the driver to choose from three modes (Auto, Sport and Traction +) for the most suitable vehicle configuration for different driving conditions.

Next up is the Lounge model, with a rear-view camera, park assist, heated leather seats with power adjustments and a heated steering wheel. I seriously question the longevity of certain materials, however, like the leather trim pieces on the door panels, which are bound to get scratched a lot.

Those looking for a more rugged, adventurous-looking 500X can turn to the similarly specked Trekking and Trekking Plus models, which feature unique front and rear fascia designs along with satin silver accents.

Pop, Sport and Trekking models come standard with the same 160-horsepower 1.4L turbocharged MultiAir engine that drives the 500 Abarth. Here, a six-speed manual transmission sends power to the front wheels only.

All 2016 Fiat 500X models can be equipped with a 2.4L Tigershark engine that produces 180 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive system with disconnecting rear axle. This particular powertrain can also be found in the new Jeep Renegade.

The disconnecting rear axle improves fuel economy in normal driving conditions by letting the front wheels take care of everything. However, the 500X automatically reverts to all-wheel drive under hard acceleration, when reversing, in cold or slippery situations, or when the driver activates the windshield wipers.

More spacious, more comfortable and especially a lot more versatile, the 2016 Fiat 500X displays the same Italian character as the previous models.

A few too many gears

On the winding roads of Southern California, where we first test drove the 500X, it handled relatively well. I found it nimble and lively, while the Sport mode significantly altered suspension settings to ensure more fun in the twisties.

Steering felt properly assisted and the brakes proved totally up to the task, even in the heavily congested Los Angeles area. Road noise was fairly well kept in check, although I would have liked a bit more insulation at times, depending on the quality of pavement.

Here’s the real downer, though: The nine-speed automatic transmission never seems too sure about which gear to select. If you don’t prod the throttle convincingly enough, it will waver between gears—resulting in a fair amount of hesitation and vibration.

It’s the same story when downshifting. You get the impression the autobox is learning to count every time you require forward momentum or want to get the most out of the powerband. Consequently, downshifts are late and jerky, often making passing manoeuvres an unpleasant affair. The manual transmission does a slightly better job, but alas it comes with the smaller, less powerful engine only.

Once you get over that, however, the 2016 Fiat 500X proves to be by far the most sensible of all the 500 models. More spacious, more comfortable and especially a lot more versatile, it displays the same Italian character as the previous models of the Fiat brand. Simply put, it’s the 500 we’ve been waiting for.


marc bouchard
Marc Bouchard has been a journalist for Guide de l’auto before becoming editor in chief of Autonet.ca and co-creator of AutoGO.ca. He has since joined the Netmedia team, specializing in automotive content. Member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, where he served on the board for five years, he is also presently on the air on a dozen radio stations in Quebec where he share his passion for cars.



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