By Shari Prymak
The 500 is certainly a cute little runabout, but for many, its small size does create certain limitations. That’s where the 500X comes in. It takes the overall charm and character of the 500, and translate them onto a compact, but still very practical, crossover.
If Fiat’s marketing department is to be believed, the 500X can be thought of as a 500 hatch that’s been given a bit of Viagra. There’s no doubt that the 500X shares many design traits with the smaller 500, but to simply view it as a 500 that’s been inflated with an air pump might be selling it short. To my eyes, there’s a faint resemblance to the quarter million dollar Bentley Bentayga, especially the rear end and those B-shaped taillights. Resemblance or not, there’s no doubt that the 500X is one of the more stylish subcompact crossovers on the market.
Where the 500 is sort of a frenetic, city runabout, the 500X is more of a multi-dimensional vehicle. It’s happy to carry four adults as well as a fair bit of cargo for a long-distance ride. It’s equally as happy cruising down the freeway as it is navigating busy city streets. And with its available all-wheel drive, it can even manage to dig its way out of a few challenges that Mother Nature might throw at it.
The 500X offers two drivetrain configurations. The first is a 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Most, however, will choose the optional 2.4L engine and its 9-speed automatic transmission that my test car came with. Though a tad coarse when pushed, the 2.4 does an acceptable job of pulling the 500X around. The official fuel economy ratings of 11L/100km city and 7.9L/100km highway for the all-wheel drive model are reasonable, but far from class leading.
The inside of the 500X is full of well-designed touches. The U-connect touchscreen remains one of the most responsive, easy to use systems on the market. The centre stack contains a fair number of buttons and knobs that make adjustments to the climate control system or dynamic drive modes a breeze. All the latest active safety technologies are available, and you can even get a few rare for the class options such as a heated-steering wheel and a large dual-pane sunroof.
If there’s any concern to speak of with the 500X, it’s the price. It seems that Fiat decided to go after niche Mini rather than mainstream Honda with its pricing. MSRPs start at a reasonable $22,995, but desirable options like the automatic transmission equipped drivetrain, all-wheel drive, navigation, heated seats and steering wheel easily take the MSRP over 30 grand. The MSRP of a full optioned model approaches 40 grand. By comparison, the most expensive versions of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V carry MSRP’s of $30,495 and $29,990 respectively.
So the 500X can’t match its mainstream rivals when it comes to dollar value, but it does make up for it with a few unique features, a stylish design, feel-good factor, and boatloads of charm. Mini customers have paid extra for those things for years, why shouldn’t others do the same? If you love the brand and you’re looking for something chic, give the 500X a test drive. Just don’t go crazy with the options.