Fiat 500X Review
The Fiat 500X has chic styling and a choice of cheap-to-run and willing petrol engines, but alternatives feel more solidly put together, have more space and better infotainment systems
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The Fiat 500X isn’t a bad choice if you’re looking for a small, stylish SUV and find yourself put off by the bland looks of the SEAT Arona or the stodgy drive offered by the Citroen C3 Aircross.
The 500X was launched in 2014 and – to help it keep pace with the SEAT and Citroen – got a facelift in 2018. Changes included an updated interior, a new infotainment system, extra safety kit and a couple of new petrol engines. The diesels from the old model have been dropped.
In terms of exterior styling, only the lights have changed – you now get new daytime running lights and rear LEDs – so you’ll struggle to tell the difference between the old car and this 2018 model. You can also choose from two exterior (rather optimistically coined) ‘body styles’ – Urban Look, which has conventional body coloured bumpers or Cross Look which has chunkier bumpers with mock skid plates.
The interior gets the same retro look as the outside, the large swathe of body-coloured plastic that runs across the dashboard gives the 500X a playful feel that’s missing from the dingy SEAT Arona. But, while the 2018 500X gets a new instrument binnacle and a new steering wheel, its interior plastics look cheap in places, particularly in the back, and its switches and buttons are a little flimsy.
The 500X looks like a cutesy Fiat 500 that's been blown up like a balloon and given a pair of extra doors
The infotainment system has also been updated but doesn’t have the clear graphics or ease of use you get in the SEAT’s system. You do, however, get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard in the Fiat, so it is easy to use your smartphone’s apps on the car’s 7.0-inch screen.
Up front, there’s plenty of space to get comfy even if you’re tall and someone of a similar size should be able to squeeze behind you, too. The Fiat has a slightly smaller boot than its aforementioned alternatives, but it is easy to load and has space for a couple of large suitcases.
Filled to the brim with people and stuff, the 500X’s otherwise nippy 120hp petrol engine isn’t going to feel quick, but it’s still the engine to go for because the quicker 150hp 1.3-litre model’s standard automatic gearbox is frustratingly slow to change which blunts acceleration.
It’s a shame the more powerful engine is spoiled because there’s not much wrong with the way the 500X drives.
In town, you can zip in and out of gaps in traffic, while at faster speeds there’s not too much body lean to worry about and the Fiat’s weighty steering makes it easy to place in bends.
On the motorway, the suspension smooths out bumps better than it does at slower speeds, although the cabin does suffer from a fair amount of wind noise.
The Fiat 500X might look like the 500, but its larger size and rear doors make it much more practical. However, alternatives offer more flexibility and have bigger boots.
Could this be the ultimate vehicle for carrying industrial quantities of pasta? Maybe, and you can take the kids along too!
The 500X’s cabin is roughly on par with family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf for space. Up front, tall adults will fit just fine and the front seats have a wide range of adjustment. The same is true of the steering wheel and the 500X’s raised height means you get a decent view out of the front of the car when driving.
Even in the back, six-foot adults will fit with relative comfort, although a third passenger sitting in the middle will find their seat is uncomfortably hard and they’ll also be short on foot room because the front centre console intrudes into the floor. Unlike in the Citroen C3 Aircross, the Fiat’s back seat doesn’t recline and can’t be slid backwards and forwards to let you get a balance between boot space and rear legroom.
The small rear doors mean access might be more of an issue and the hidden Isofix points make it tricky to fit a child seat. Although, the 500X’s height means you don’t have to bend your back too much to get it into position.
The 500X has plenty of nooks and crannies to swallow the odds and sods that family life seems to accumulate.
You get two gloveboxes and nets on the backs of the front seats, as well as a couple of cupholders and big door pockets up front, with smaller ones in the back. The centre front armrest also hides a deep pocket, although the way the whole assembly wobbles when you nudge it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
The 500X’s 350-litre boot is big enough to swallow a couple of suitcases and its low load lip and large boot opening make it easy to pack with luggage. You also get a large hidden cubby under the floor that’s big enough to hide large valuable such as a camera.
There are no useful luggage clips or nets to help secure smaller, more awkward loads, but at least the rear seats fold flat leaving a nice flat floor that means you can slide longer items into place.
The 500X has comfy suspension that soaks up bumps well, resists body roll and feels nicely controlled at high speeds, but its automatic gearbox is a letdown
The Fiat 500X petrol engines have a terrier-like energy that suits the charismatic 500X
The Fiat 500X is available with a choice of three petrol engines with 1.0, 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre capacities.
Despite having the largest capacity, the 110hp 1.6-litre model’s old design and lack of turbocharger mean it is the slowest and least economical model in the range. It’s worth avoiding, as a result, despite being the cheapest option.
The 120hp 1.0-litre petrol model is much more attractive. Its power hike might be modest on paper but it feels like a peppier performer than its 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds might suggest. It’ll happily rev to more than 6,000rpm and pulls strongly to that point with a satisfying growl that suits the 500X’s cheeky character.
More to the point, it is cheap to run with Fiat quoting fuel economy of 47mpg – a real-world figure that should be more easily achieved than the pie-in-the-sky numbers that were quoted in the past.
If you need more power – for example, if you’ll often be driving the car fully loaded – then it’s worth considering the 150hp 1.3-litre model. It gets from 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds, has more mid-range shove for quick overtakes and will still return decent fuel economy of 46mpg. The only downside is that comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox that’s slow to respond when you want a sudden burst of acceleration.
Owning a car that is fun to drive might not be a huge priority if you’re looking for a sensible family car but, nevertheless, the Fiat 500x’s direct steering and notchy gearbox mean it feels sportier than you might expect.
In town, both the 1.0 and 1.4-litre models have all the punch you need to nip into and out of gaps in traffic and its accurate steering means you can nose into tight spaces confident that you’re not going to end up in a scrape. That said, it’s disappointing that automatic emergency braking doesn’t come fitted as standard.
Although the pillars around the rear windscreen do cause a little bit of a blind spot (you can spec the optional blind spot alert to get around this), the 500X is still easy car to park and its raised driving position gives you a good view out the front of the car.
Find yourself on a country road and the 500X’s weighty steering means you can turn into bends with confidence that the car will respond as you expect and there isn’t much body lean to worry about. The 1.0-litre petrol model is actually a little bit nicer to drive because its lighter engine makes it feel a touch more agile.
You’ll want to stick with the 1.4-litre model if you do lots of motorway driving, though. It has a little bit more power in reserve for overtakes and its slow automatic gearbox is less of an issue at higher speeds. Active cruise control is a new option that was added in 2018 and its ability to brake and accelerate the car automatically helps take the strain out of long drives, when combined with the standard lane assist, which can gently steer the car in lane.
The Fiat 500X’s interior is scattered with retro touches and its body coloured trim makes the cabin pop next to more bland alternatives, but interior quality could be improved upon