The 500X strikes a great balance between an absorbent, comfy ride while also resisting body roll and feeling nicely controlled at high speeds – not something all its rivals manage.
In general, the petrol engines suit the 500X best. Its diesel units are a bit gruff and noisy, especially under hard acceleration and the extra efficiency they allow isn’t worth the increased purchase price unless you’re covering very high mileages. The petrol engines – in particular the 1.4-litre turbo – are smooth and powerful across the rev range and, when cruising, settle down into the background.
The six-speed manual is smooth and precise so, unless you need an automatic, is the gearbox of choice. The 140hp 1.4-litre petrol is offered with a six-speed twin-clutch automatic but the more powerful 170hp version and 2.0-litre diesel are offered with a new nine-speed automatic. This unit is smooth, changes gears intelligently and, thanks to its abundant ratios isn’t much less efficient than its manual counterpart.
Popstar trim and upwards get a driving mood selector offering all-weather, comfort and sport modes. We’d recommend leaving it in comfort for the most part – the steering remains light and the throttle response is more natural. Sport mode massively increases the response to prods of the accelerator making it hard to modulate your speed and causing you to leap away from the lights in uncontrolled bursts. Sport mode does put a turbo boost gauge in your instrument cluster, however, which your inner four-year-old will appreciate.
Sweet petrols, but diesels are a little rough
Unless you’re covering very high mileages, the petrol engines suit the 500X better. In particular, the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with either 140 or 170hp offers a great balance of performance and efficiency. It hits 62mph from rest in 9.8 seconds (8.6 seconds for the 170hp version) and can average 47.1mpg (42.2mpg for the 170). The entry-level non-turbo 1.6-litre unit feels wheezy in comparison and is best avoided.
If you spend most of your time on the motorway and cover very high mileages, you might want to look at the diesel options. The entry-level 1.3-litre version is very slow – taking 12.9 seconds to cover 0-62mph – and sounds very gruff when revved. The 1.6-litre with 120hp is much better and matches the 1.3’s 68.9mpg figure, making it the pick of the diesel range. A 140hp 2.0-litre is offered with four-wheel drive but the extra cost and 57.6mpg average efficiency doesn’t really seem worth it.
The steering is precise and intuitive – it responds consistently and exactly as much as you expect and, with a relatively quick ratio, you don’t find yourself twirling the wheel excessively when parallel parking. Nor do you find yourself making constant corrections to the wheel on the motorway meaning your arms don’t get tired on long trips. Around corners, the car remains admirably stable and composed – it leans a fraction when you turn in but, once settled, there’s plenty of grip and bumps don’t upset its line.
In addition to feeling stable on the move, it’s also very compliant. Rough road surfaces are insulated from the cabin and only the biggest of bumps make their way up through the seat base. It’s not quite as comfortable as the Nissan Qashqai, nor as sporty as the Nissan Juke but strikes a balance between both those models.