Most of us are cute when we’re babies. And then we grow up.
However some fortunate few manage to retain that adorability even as they mature. In the car world, that’s the 500X. If every time you happen upon a Fiat 500 you just want to pick it up and cuddle it, then you’ll like its bigger brother, the 500X. Okay, you may not want to pick it up – it looks firmly within its puppy-fat phase – but you’ll want to pull its cheeks (fenders) and pat it on the head (roof).
Here’s the thing though, beneath the look-a-likey 500 citycar style, is actually the bones of a Jeep Renegade. So much is shared between them in fact they’re built at the same factory in Melfi, Italy. That threw you didn’t it? Bet you thought the Jeep would be US-built, right? In fact the Jeep is also made in Brazil and China, but not actually America.
Back to the Fiat though… actually just before I do, I will spoil the verdict somewhat and admit that judged objectively, of the two, my money would go to the Jeep, it is just a tad more of a practical and logical purchase. Having said that the Fiat 500 was always an emotional buy, and so is the 500X.
It’s actually been around since 2015, and I previously tested the all-wheel drive version with a 184bhp 2.4-litre Tigershark engine and a nine-speed auto. However that was in a different market (UAE) and that version is not available in the UK. Here it’s all about buzzy little efficient three-cylinder engines. So the car tested here features the Firefly T3 motor (love the names parent company FCA gives its engines!) and front-wheel drive only.
This 1.0-litre three-pot puts out 120bhp and 190Nm of torque from 1750rpm driving the front wheels, in this case through a six-speed manual transmission. It gets to 62mph from rest in 10.9 seconds and reaches 117mph, whilst achieving 48.7mpg and emitting 133g/km CO2.
I drove it in town, but also on motorways and B-roads and never really felt any real shortcomings in the outright performance, especially as the engine is eager and makes an enticingly sporty noise when you egg it on, which you will. Whilst the economy will suffer a little as I found, it’s still well over 40mpg. Another reason to work it hard is that excellent six-speed transmission, which may feel a little elasticy, and grabbing reverse caught me out a couple of times, but is mostly a nice shifter.
The steering is light and stays so (there are no additional driving modes in this car) which makes it an easy to exploit its agility, even if my personal preference would be for meatier steering. Frankly I have to admit it’s well suited to the car, as is the ride, which is genuinely comfortable and able to cope with any nastiness UK roads can throw at it. Whilst not an off-roader in this guise, some of that inherent compliancy must help, as does very good body control, which keeps the cabin fairly well composed as you throw it about in the corners.
Would you do that? Yes, why not, it is grippy, with understeer reasonably under control and in this aspect of its personality, something of the fun chuckability of the little 500 shines through in its DNA. Ultimately though its more fun and family-friendly than sporty corner-carver with astonishingly decent space for rear occupants and more than generous luggage swallowing ability for its size.
Inside there’s a body-colour dashboard, dual-zone climate control, 3.5-inch instrument display, 7-inch centre screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as DAB radio – this one also had optional BEATS audio which is well worth having. There’s 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, lane-keep assist, cruise control (optional adaptive on this car), rear parking sensors and a full complement of airbags. It’s priced at £18,995 – not unreasonable at all for a compact crossover vehicle.
With the options already mentioned and additionally front parking sensors and rear camera, rain sensor, comfort pack, winter pack including heated seats, braking assist and blind spot monitor, navigation and tinted rear windows the total was £22,100.
Overall, for those that already own a Fiat 500 but are about to sprout a family, or regularly carry passengers and kit and need something bigger, but can’t relinquish the charming charisma of the little Italian, the 500X is simply a no-brainer. It’s still compact enough to be both cute and suited to the city, yet offers tons more space and way better comfort.