500X Ups Its Appeal

By Derek Price
Nearly a decade ago, Fiat revived its sales in America with a car that was distinctly un-American in nature: the adorable 500.
While it was always lovable — especially in the fun-to-drive, powerful and loud Abarth version — it also never was a perfect fit for this country. As American vehicle sales tilted more strongly in favor of trucks and SUVs in ensuing years, the cute 500 fell so out of favor with buyers that Fiat decided to axe the model after 2019.
Fiat’s American lineup is now down to just three vehicles: the 124 Spider two-seat sports car based around the Mazda Miata; the roomy but bland 500L; and the brand’s best shot at success in America, the 500X crossover.
I just spent a week driving the 500X, and it’s worth a close look for people who like the styling. While the lines evoke the same huggable personality as the 500 coupe (may it rest in peace), the X offers considerably more practicality with four doors, a roomier cabin, extra cargo capacity and higher ride height.
If Americans’ choices were limited to Italian cars, the 500X would be a no-brainer. But as it is, with so many strong competitors from Japanese, Korean and domestic manufacturers, the 500X struggles to stand out for anything other than looks and gas mileage.

Fiat added a new Sport model to the 500X line for 2020. It has a distinct fascia with body-color trim and dark accents.

Fiat helps its case with the new Sport model that ups its appeal both inside and out. It has different fascias in front and back, body-color trim, dark accents and a sporty cabin, including Alcantra inserts on the seats.
Optional black paint on the roof helps the 500X Sport stand out even more. Its standard all-wheel drive, adaptive cruise control and long list of safety features add to the intrigue. It’s priced at $26,895, or about $2,000 more than the base model.
Will that be enough to help it find success in a crowded market? My week-long drive left me without a clear answer to that question.
The 500X has three strong points in its favor: the classic Italian looks, standard all-wheel drive across the lineup, and good fuel economy. A 1.3-liter turbocharged engine is the only offering, and it’s rated for 30 mpg in highway driving — phenomenal for any vehicle with traction at all four wheels.
Beyond that, it’s hard to find reasons to pick it over a slew of strong competitors.
Pricing is on the high end for a subcompact crossover — although incentives are sure to drive the out-the-door price lower — and its cabin and equipment don’t seem to justify a premium price in the same way that, say, the BMW-built Mini Cooper lineup does.

The new trim level’s interior has a sporty look with a dark headliner, new finishes and red stitching on the upholstery.

The handling is reasonably enjoyable, tuned for a mix of comfort and fun. Enthusiasts would be happier with the crisp-driving Mazda CX-3 ($20,640) or the tossable Hyundai Kona ($20,400). Neither of those prices include all-wheel drive that the 500X comes standard with, though, making the Fiat’s pricing slightly more palatable.
While its 7-inch size is starting to feel dated, the touchscreen infotainment system performs as well as any on the market. It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration, along with satellite navigation and easy-to-use controls for the sound system.
Pricing starts at $24,590 for the Pop trim, which includes remote start and a security system. Other models include the more rugged looking Trekking ($25,995) and feature-packed Trekking Plus ($29,495).

At A Glance

What was tested? 2020 Fiat 500X Sport AWD ($26,895). Options: Sport leather-trimmed bucket seats ($995), premium group ($1,695), cold weather group ($295), comfort group ($795), advanced driver assistance group ($1,395), driver assistance group ($895), black painted accent roof ($445), compact spare tire ($295), UConnect 4 Nav ($695). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $35,895
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 167.2 in.
Width: 79.7 in.
Height: 63.7 in.
Engine: 1.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder (177 hp, 210 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 24 city, 30 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 5
Price: 5
Handling: 6
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 5
Overall: 6

Why buy it?
It has a cute European look, standard all-wheel drive and impressive fuel economy from its small turbocharged engine.
Posted in Fiat