The nametag should offer a strong clue as to the styling cues of this five-door crossover, but the 500X still manages to wear its retro-inspired clothes well, and far more convincingly than its MPV sibling, the 500L. Depending on your preferences, you can give your 500X a city look for that supersized 500 vibe (available in Pop, Pop Star and Lounge trim levels) or an off-road look that adds faux skid plates and bumpers (available in Cross and Cross Plus versions) for a more rugged stance. We’d avoid the Pop version, which reveals its entry-level status with 16-inch steel wheels and non-painted door mirrors.
The 500X is full of charm, with boiled sweet-like buttons and chunky door handles
The cabin of the Fiat 500X is full of character and charm, with boiled sweet-like buttons and chunky door handles. Its seats are supportive, too, although they don’t feel as high-set as in other crossovers, and the infotainment screen is easy to operate. All the major controls feel chunky and solid, but some of the larger sections of plastic around the doors and transmission tunnel are scratchy to the touch and feel brittle. Specify the off-road-biased models and the body-coloured dashboard gets swapped for a gunmetal fascia with the texture of sand paper. This is not a good thing.
The 500X is nearly as long and as heavy as a Volkswagen Golf, yet it’s only marginally more spacious inside than a Volkswagen Polo. True, the boot features a removable floor to help create a flat loading bay and it’s a decent size (350 litres). There’s also 1,000 litres of space available when you fold the ISOFIX-equipped rear seats flat, though this is still bettered by the Renault Captur (377/1235 litres), amongst others. We like the little details, such as the large speedometer complete with a kph readout for European adventures, plus the pair of large cupholders located well away from any primary controls, but a super-practical Honda HR-V it is not.
Ride and handling
The ride is constantly busy, crashy and noisy, even on the smaller 17-inch alloys
The Fiat 500X may look good, but just like those sepia-filtered Facebook posts that project family perfection, life isn’t always a bed of roses. The 500X suffers the traditional drawbacks of being a tall, boxy and heavy small car. It rides competently and comfortably enough at higher speeds, but in town, where this car will spend the majority of its time, the ride is constantly busy, crashy and noisy, even on the smaller 17-inch alloys. If you were to spec any off-road version of the 500X, the all-terrain tyres only generate more road noise. Fortunately, the six-speed manual gearbox has a positive action, but when it’s combined with steering that’s woolly and vague, it prevents you from entering a corner confidently. If you want a small crossover that steers precisely, handles securely and rides competently, try the Mazda CX-3.
Fiat offers the 500X with two diesel engines and one petrol engine in two states of tune. The 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel is the UK’s best-selling version and is good for 0-62mph in 10.5sec and 69.9mpg combined, while developing a competitive 109g/km of CO2. Unfortunately, the diesel unit lacks punch and is audible at all speeds. Even when you upgrade into the bigger 2.0-litre diesel, with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, the car still feels noisy and strangely sluggish, with jerky gearchanges and a nose-heavy demeanour.
If you want your school run to have a bit more zest, the 138bhp 1.4-litre ‘Multiair’ turbocharged petrol engine is fizzier, smoother and far quieter. Combined fuel economy figures of 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km may not be anything to shout about, but this engine will keep you and the family entertained for longer. Four-wheel drive is available, but only as an option on the rugged Cross or Cross Plus versions; and, while it can get you through some muddy car parks, it isn’t exactly a mountain goat. Or a Fiat Panda 4×4.
The affordability of the Fiat 500X is incredibly dependent on spec. Choose the 2.0-litre diesel with 4WD and a nine-speed automatic gearbox, for example, and you’ll be en route to an unstable £27,000 precipice. However, if you don’t mind heading for the cheap seats, the Fiat 500X makes much more fiscal sense in a lower specification with the cleanest 1.6-litre ‘Multijet’ diesel matching the equivalent Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke or Mazda CX-3 for emissions and fuel consumption.
With no predecessor, it’s too early to forecast the reliability of the Fiat 500X, but the three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is more robust than the three-year, 60,000-miles warranty offered on the Nissan Juke. We also know this car’s siblings, the 500 city car and 500L MPV, have performed well in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index.
The levels of standard safety equipment on the Fiat 500X should play well to families, incorporating six airbags, ESC (electronic stability control), emergency braking, cruise control, lane-assist and blind spot assist all provided as standard. You can also specify a reversing camera, but other items that are available on other small crossovers, such as hill start assist, traffic sign recognition or head-up displays, aren’t available.
Even the entry-level Pop specification gives you air-conditioning, plus electric front and rear windows, but it looks visually malnourished. Mid-level Pop Star specification adds alloy wheels, climate control, digital radio, a (lethargic) sat-nav system, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth for streaming music or taking hands-free phone calls. Range-topping Lounge cars have all this, plus keyless entry and excellent Bi-xenon headlights.
If you’ve fallen in love with the style of the Italianate 500, but need space for an expanding young family, then the 500X has been built for you. That said, keep in mind that this market is brimming with competitors in the shape of the Renault Captur, Skoda Yeti and Mazda CX-3, all of which we’d recommend before the 500X.