Los Angeles, California – With sales of small crossovers expected to double in the next five years, Fiat’s new 500X compact crossover seems well-timed to take advantage of the segment’s burgeoning popularity. Ranging in price from $21,495 to $32,690 and built on a platform it shares with the new Jeep Renegade and a few other FCA vehicles in Europe, the 4-door 500X is about the same size as the other four-door Fiat, the 500L and is considerably larger than the much cuter two-door Fiat 500. The 500X is also slightly larger than its competitors such as the Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore but a bit smaller than the Subaru XV CrossTrek and Mitsubishi RVR.

At first glance, the 500X appears to be a jacked up, more rugged version of the 500L, but the two vehicles are not related, other than by brand. The 500X has a different platform, different dimensions, different (if similar) styling, a higher ground clearance, different interior design and is built in a different assembly plant (Melfi, Italy). The 500X is also the first Fiat available with all-wheel drive, a key feature of its appeal as a small utility vehicle. In fact, according to Ed Broadbear, VP of Marketing at FCA Canada, all-wheel drive is the number one feature desired by buyers in the small utility vehicle segment.

Despite that, all five 500X trim levels come standard with front-wheel drive and the base Pop trim isn’t available with all-wheel drive. If you want all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission in the new 500X, you’ll have to look at the Sport AWD trim or above, starting at $29,190. FCA predicts the Sport will be the most popular 500X trim, with FWD and AWD model sales split evenly. According to FCA’s own price comparisons, 500X pricing is competitive with comparably-equipped competitors.

There are two powertrains available in the 500X: Pop, Sport, and Trekking FWD trims come standard with a turbocharged 160 hp 1.4L four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission, the same powertrain offered in the Fiat 500, 500L and the Jeep Renegade. The turbocharged engine uses 91 octane Premium gas, but 87 octane is acceptable, according to FCA. A new nine-speed automatic transmission is available on all 500X trim levels but it must be teamed with a 180 hp normally aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder engine (also available in the Renegade). The 2.4L engine uses regular 87 octane gas. This engine/transmission combination is optional on the 500X Sport FWD and Trekking FWD trims and standard on the Lounge FWD/AWD and Trekking Plus FWD/AWD trim levels. All 500X models with all-wheel drive come standard with the 2.4L engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.

If you’re a bit confused by all these possible trim/engine/transmission/driveline combinations, you’re not the only one. I had to use an FCA spreadsheet to figure it out.

Another choice you’ll have to make is between the urban-cool appearance of the Pop, Sport and Lounge bodystyles with their body-coloured bumpers and body-coloured dash trim, and the more rugged, SUV-like appearance of the Trekking and Trekking Plus trims which feature upturned front and rear bumper inserts in a titanium colour, dark satin door handles, and satin metallic instrument panel trim. Personally, I like the latter because I think the cuteness of the classic Cinquecento styling is lost on the 500X (as it is on the 500L).

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