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One of the advantages of choosing a 500X in this segment is that it offers a decent range of proper four-wheel drive options for the few customers in this segment who’ll want that. Most users though, will have an only occasional need for extra traction, something that can be covered off by this car’s neat ‘Drive Mood’ Selector system, operated by the rotary dial down by the gearstick. As well as dynamic ‘Sport’ and ‘Auto’ settings that tweak throttle, steering, stability control and gearchange response, this set-up offers a mode that gives even 2WD variants extra traction in slippery conditions: it’s called ‘All Weather’ or ‘Traction’, depending on the model you select.
As for engines, well petrol buyers get an entry-level 110bhp E-TorQ unit, but green pump-fuelers are better served by 140 and 170bhp versions of Fiat’s smooth 1. 4-litre MultiAir powerplant, the latter available with 4WD. Both these units can also be ordered with a hi-tech 9-speed auto gearbox you can also have on the top 140bhp 2. 0-litre MultiJet diesel version, another 500X variant available with 4WD. Further down the diesel range, there are 1. 3 and 1. 6-litre MultiJet units, respectively offering 95 and 120bhp. Whatever your choice of engine, handling is taut and bodyroll well controlled, the pay-off for a firm ride.
There aren't too many small Crossovers with styling that gets an almost universal vote of confidence, but we really haven't chanced upon anyone who doesn't like the 500X. Designed in-house by Fiat’s Centro Stile studio, this model not only has clear links to its siblings in the current 500 family but also to the iconic 1957 original, most notably when it comes to these large circular headlamps, the brightwork on the nose and this distinctive clamshell bonnet. ‘Cross’ and ‘Cross Plus’ models like this one get the full ‘urban SUV’ look, with extra plastic cladding, roof rails and chunkier bumpers with skidplates front and rear.
Raise the tailgate and you discover a 350-litre boot capacity. Push forward the ‘Fold&Tumble’ 60:40 split-folding rear bench and 1,000-litres of fresh air will be freed up thanks to seat backs that fold almost completely flat.
Seat yourself at the wheel and it doesn’t initially feel very ‘Fiat 500’. What’s delivered here is as different from that little citycar as you’d expect it would be, this being a larger and more expensive design. Some semblance of familiarity is maintained by a smattering of ‘500’ model line design cues – things like the quirky metal door handles, the hard round head restraints, the boiled sweet-like buttons and the pool ball-style gearknob you get on manual gearbox models. The model-branded body-coloured plastic dashboard facing is a familiar touch too, though the enamelled surface you get on cheaper versions is preferable to the sandpaper-style finish applied to plusher models. The panel surrounds what is arguably the cabin’s most eye-catching feature, the 5-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreen fitted to all but entry-level versions and expanded to 6. 5-inches in size on top variants.
In the rear, once inside, there’s reasonable room for three. As usual in this class of car, room for your knees and legs is at a bit of a premium, pitched somewhere between the space you’d get in a Fiesta-sized supermini and a Focus-sized family hatch. But it’s fine by segment standards.
In terms of the combination you’ll probably need of efficiency and all-round performance, there’s a clear sweet spot in the 500X line-up and it lies with the 120bhp 1. 6-litre MultiJet II diesel variant. Here’s a unit that’s just as clean as the much feebler 95bhp 1. 3 MultiJet diesel, delivering 109g/km of CO2. Yet it can easily enable you to tow, take you to 62mph in around 10s and waft you around on an easy wave of torque. You can expect very good economy too – 68. 9mpg on the combined cycle.
Though the 500X draws upon the heritage and history of Fiat’s 500 model line, it doesn’t depend on it in the way that previous spin-off models have done. Even if you had no idea what the original 500 was, you’d enjoy this car. It looks good, drives well, is decently equipped, comes with a pretty efficient set of running costs and is anything but boring.
Combine all of this with clever connectivity, practical versatility and the prospect of fashionable personalisation and you can see why Fiat’s hopes are high for this car. It has the X-factor.