Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Trading cuteness for space: the 2016 Fiat 500x Sport

Few SUVs offer TV ads that display their products honestly. Maybe that’s why Italian automaker Fiat’s ad was a breath of fresh air, disguised by humour typical of the brand’s ads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lcc62nrl9Y

Disclaimer: The 2016 Fiat 500x Sport I test drove came with the little blue pill pre swallowed, it seems, and I didn’t get the attention the lucky Italian enjoyed at the end of the ad.

2016_Fiat_500x_Sport

First impressions

No, the Fiat 500x isn’t the largest vehicle on the road. But it sure is larger than the other 500s that share its numbers.

My Bronze Metallic tester could by no means be considered “compact” other than by SUV standards. Fiat does what it can to keep the iconic look, but the (ahem) “swollen” design unquestionably changes the character of this vehicle. Without the tiny dimensions, it could be mistaken for other vehicles on the road, something that would not happen to tinier 500s.

Designers did manage to transfer a number of features, like the headlights and a certain slant to the liftgate. Still, to give the X more size, designers ultimately compromised the nameplate’s distinctive, iconic cuteness.

Interior

Cuteness is overrated.

I had all sorts of headroom and legroom in the cloth bucket driver’s seat, a welcome change from a 500 turbo I crammed myself into for a week or so a year ago.

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

A quick stay in the rear seat (again, a novel experience for me in a 500-badged car) showed me why: the ceiling above the driver and front-seat passenger is “scooped out” to offer more than an extra inch of headroom. You can just make out the “ceiling scoop” in the image below. I suspect that headroom wouldn’t be there if the car had a moonroof.

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

Headroom was decent in the back, and I say that from a 6’5” perspective. Legroom? OK as long as the driver isn’t as tall as me.

There’s just one small issue: the headrests are tightly wrapped round things, and I couldn’t raise mine to the point where I didn’t feel the top edge of the headrest against my head.

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

Keyless entry is joined by keyless locking – just press a button on one of the two front door handles or on the liftgate, the 500x beeps, and the vehicle is secure. Power window buttons sit on the door handle, a more conventional place for them than the centre console of smaller 500s.

Hockey bag test

The bag fits snugly widthwise and leaves a few centimetres between it and the gently sloped liftgate. The sticks fit over the privacy cover, which sat flat above the bag.

2016_Fiat_500x_Sport_hockey_bag_test

IKEA trip test

Yes, you read that right: I took a Fiat 500 to pick up stuff at IKEA, specifically: a desk that measures 80 cm by 160 cm. We sloped one end of the desk on the front-seat headrests with the other end resting against the liftgate sill. The rear-view mirror was useless during that trip, but the side views were fine.

The cargo load floor is adjustable, which makes it easier to bundle more stuff in height-wise  (presuming it isn’t as long as my desk).

In-car technology

Fiat and Chrysler share components across brands, so don’t be surprised to find Uconnect and other Chrysler electronics in the 500X.

Flanked by the speedometer and the tachometer, the 3.5” in-cluster display serves as the Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC).

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

You can choose the information you want to see there (fuel level on the left and engine temperature on the right are permanent fixtures here) using the five buttons on the left side of the steering wheel. The EVIC can display just about everything it can tell you about the vehicle and your driving, tire pressure, battery voltage, navigation, trip mileage and so forth.

These buttons sit just above the handsfree phone buttons. The right side steering wheel buttons are for cruise control.

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

The Sport’s 5” touchscreen drives satellite, AM and FM radio through 6 speakers producing reasonably good sound. Mobile devices connect via Bluetooth or using the two USB ports in the cabin.

My favourite part of the steering wheel’s design are what you can’t see: track select and volume adjustment buttons on the back of the wheel, at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Instead of moving your thumbs on the front of the wheel to access these frequently-used features, and taking your eyes off the road as you do so, Fiat Chrysler places these dedicated buttons behind the wheel that you, the driver, can’t look at. They’re easy enough to get used to, and drivers ought to be able to use them with little thought and fewer glances away from the action in front of them.

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

My tester didn’t include navigation and other goodies. The FiatChrysler rep who arranged this loan told me this is the model, with the options provided, that has been selling best.

Driving

My tester shipped with a 2.4-litre Tigershark Multi-air I-4 engine driving the two front wheels. It delivers  180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Fiat offers all-wheel-drive variants as well as a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. The optional 9-speed automatic transmission (the standard option is 6 speeds) takes power from the engine to the wheels, and it helped keep gas consumption reasonable.

Overall performance is adequate for comfortable city driving and highway cruising alike. There’s power to accelerate, but I wouldn’t push it. This is, after all, a smallish SUV.

Want to change the 500x’s driving behaviour? Use the drive-mode selector between the centre armrest and the shift lever to choose either Sport mode or Traction mode. (Thanks, Jeep, for lending this feature to your cousin.)

image courtesy FiatChrysler

image courtesy FiatChrysler

Fuel economy

Canada EnerGuide numbers for the 500x are 9.3 L/100km combined (10.6 city, 7.6 highway). The 500x takes regular unleaded in its 48-litre tank. Fiat recommends 91 octane for the 1.4L turbocharged engine.

Pricing

The Fiat 500x Sport sells for $27,495 MSRP base. Options, taxes and destination charge on my tester bumped that up to $33,445.

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