The all-new 500X model is based on a new global platform from Fiat – Jeep’s new Renegade sits on the same one.
While the 500X certainly stands out from its Cinquecento-derived 500 stablemates, its snout and profile are instantly recognizable as Fiat, and certainly do pay homage to the original Fiat car. It’s bigger in every way, of course.
While the Renegade tries to make the most of its broadened shoulders, the 500X’s “brawn” is concealed in a set of sleek Italian lines that I found quite attractive from a number of angles. Fiat adds further flair with splashes of chrome – the door handles, and the surrounds for the headlights and tail lights all get the bling treatment. Female onlookers loved this thing, by the way, and it got a ton of “Cute!” compliments.
My review vehicle’s deep Rosso Perla paint looked great, and it had some serious stance sitting on those 225/55-wrapped 18-inch rims. The Trekking trim gives the 500X a couple of aesthetic extras implying off-road worthiness, but it’s nothing more than visual add-ons. Even their literature calls it “rugged appearance” in quotes. I think the designers got the proportions right, and overall, the styling is well done. It certainly has some character and it’s interesting to look at. It’s not for everyone, but what Italian car is?
Inside, it’s a sea of dark plastics, a few of which are soft-touch and the swath of material over the dash has a very nice leather-like texture on it. Ergonomics are decent, and as you’d expect in a Fiat, you find rounded edges and shapes everywhere you look. Fit and finish is decent, but there was an incessant creaking from the sunroof overhead and I thought that some of the controls (the rotary knobs for the automatic dual-zone climate control, for example) felt flimsy. In terms of spaciousness, I’m 5’10” and I had more than enough head room up front.
The 500X’s heated cloth seats were comfortable and quite supportive. Any information you could wish for can be gleaned from the driver information screen between the main gauges. Centered in the dash is the Uconnect 6.5-inch touchscreen – its interface remains one of our favourite infotainment system, handling your navigation and phone functions as well as the tunes coming out of the upgraded Beats Audio stereo. I wasn’t thrilled with the audio, considering it’s a thousand-dollar upgrade.
Optioned as it was, my review car had some swanky touches like keyless entry and push-button ignition, a heated steering wheel with a nice fat and grippy rim, a remote starter, automatic headlights, and a sizeable dual-pane sunroof overhead. The driver assistance technology was competitive for this class – it had rear parking sensors and a back-up camera as well as blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-path detection system.
You get a few places to stow your stuff around the cabin. There’s an open drop-in bin at the front of the console, complete with 12V, USB and auxiliary plugs, and there are two glove boxes – a smallish upper one, and a typical lower one. You also get a bit of space underneath the sliding armrest lid.
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The rear wheel well makes things a bit tight when getting in and out of the back seat, and it’s not hard to get your pant legs dirty as you try to clear the sill. I felt that the back seating – there are three seats – was a bit too upright, and that made it less comfortable than many other rear seats. The seats are not adjustable in any way, and leg room isn’t great, though it was adequate for me. Head room is also somewhat limited – I only had about an inch to spare. The middle seating position is narrow but can accommodate an adult if necessary, providing they’re OK with straddling a bit of a floor tunnel. Our three children didn’t complain and had enough room back there, and you have two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats if that’s something you require.