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2016 FIAT 500X Trekking Plus, AWD - Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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Editor's Note: This past fall my wife and I toured the hill towns of Italy and rented a 500x for our pre-cruise road trip. As many of you know the roads in Italy run the gamut from U.S. sized super highways to back roads no wider than a driveway, in fact one road was actually even narrower so narrow that it was a good thing no other vehicle was coming in the opposite direction.

So there it was, a dichotomy of needs; the space to carry a cruise load of luggage on a diversity of roads, some medieval narrow and others 21st century autobahn-like, I’m happy to say the our Hertz rental turned out to be a Fiat 500x which filled our needs to fact our drive was filled with moments of terror but mostly with fun. The best advice I can leave with you about driving in Italy is rent an Italian sized vehicle; and the other BYOG (Bring Your Own Garmin) you ARE going to need it..I promise.


By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We’re off to the Chicago Auto Show in a new Fiat 500X subcompact crossover. It is a good 4-hour drive from mid-Michigan and we can usually count on slippery roads and limited visibility as we approach the Lake Michigan shoreline. We were not disappointed. Glad we have all-wheel drive.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) added this roomier little thing to the Fiat 500 lineup to offer a bit more space and utility for those who like the Italian personality of the 500 but need more than a tiny city car. By adding a usable back seat and at least a modicum of cargo capacity they expect to compete in a whole new segment. We think they’ve done a fairly good job.

Starting at 20 grand the Fiat 500X comes in five trim levels (see below review) . Our test car is the top-of-the-line “Trekking Plus” with all-wheel drive starting at 29 grand. Now, that sounds like a lot for a subcompact but plenty of content comes for that price like keyless entry, remote start, park assist, blind spot and cross traffic detection, dual zone HVA, navigation with apps, heated steering wheel, leather seats, heated front seats with lumbar supports, ambient lighting, 18-inch aluminum wheels, automatic halogen projector headlamps, windshield wiper de-icer and lots of nice trim. Our Trekking package adds premium audio and a dual pane power sunroof. The bottom line on our sticker is $31,800.

It is easy to see the family resemblance to the rest of the Fiat 500 lineup. Our test car is a brash, bright orange and those sporty, large aluminum wheels (unique to this model) set it off nicely combining with a relatively vertical profile to look almost off-roadie. Lots of oval shapes, rounded corners and a soft demeanor give it a cuteness I find quite attractive.

The impressive interior in our test car (remember this one is top-of-the-line) features a two-one scheme in brown and grey with classy stitching and beading. Materials, fit and finish are first rate as are most of the ergonomics. The heated steering wheel got so hot so quickly I had to turn it off after about 15 minutes. The 6.5-inch multifunction display high on the center dash offers info and takes your input without much confusion. As with any new vehicle we find a bit of a learning curve as we get used to what we need. I found the driver’s seat remarkably accommodating for such a small vehicle. The ingress and egress at the driver’s door was better than most as well. The comparable-in-size new Mazda CX-3 required some difficult contortions to squeeze my unconscionable girth inside. This one – not so much.

This is a new Fiat/Alfa platform, by the way, shared with FCA’s new Jeep Renegade -next on my review list. They share many parts and components but maintain quite different personalities. The 500X is much less Euro-quirky than progenitor 500 with a more sophisticated ambiance.

Powering the bottom-of-the-line 500X POP model is a 1.4-liter turbo that comes only with manual transmission. All other trim levels get this 2.4-liter, naturally-aspirated, 4-cylinder making 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, mated to a broad-range 9-speed automatic transmission. (The 1.4-liter has just about the same torque number.) The EPA estimates a highway mileage of 30 mpg, 21 in the city and 24 mpg combined on regular fuel. You can get all-wheel drive on all but the front-wheel drive POP model. Our colleagues at Edmunds measured the 0-to-60 mph time at an unremarkable but adequate 9 seconds.

Our drive to Chicago and back included a variety of conditions – dry, wet, icy, windy, fast, very fast, slow, plodding, night, and day – facilitating a good evaluation of the 500X. Driving position is vertical enough and good amount of glass area generous enough for a good view. Suspension is firm as we expect from any Euro-style car. Steering provides an in-control feel. It is not as quiet at speed on coarse pavement as some in the class but not unpleasantly hash. Acceleration is uninspiring and the transmission isn’t always entirely poised. While it is smooth and unobtrusive most of the time it can be a bit balky on an accelerator-triggered down shift.

Extra safety systems based on a multitude of sensors and scads of computing power like lane departure intervention, adaptive cruise control, braking intervention and park assist have made it from just the pricy luxury cars now down to the 500X and other cars in the class. I find the lane departure intervention a bit annoying and even disconcerting on slippery roads but it is worthwhile particularly for less experience drivers.

FCA’s new car warranty covers the Fiat 500X for 4 years or 50,000 miles - no extra coverage on the powertrain.

With a multitude of competitors in the exploding compact CUV space the Fiat 500X has its work cut out for it. What it lacks in fuel mileage (we got the advertised 24 mpg combined even though 2/3rds of our miles were on the highway) it makes up for in personality. If aesthetics comes in to your decision you might be drawn to the Fiat. In any case, this little thing ought to be on your shopping list.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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