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2017 Fiat 500X CUV Review By John Heilig

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2017 Fiat 500X

But First An Editor's Note: This past fall my wife and I toured the hill towns of Italy and rented a 500x from Hertz 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.

2017 Fiat 500X CUV Review By John Heilig

By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2017 Fiat 500X

ENGINE: 2.4-liter I-4
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 160 hp @ 5,500 rpm/184 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
WHEELBASE: 101.2 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 167.2 x 75.5 x 69.7 in.
TIRES: P215/60R17
CARGO CAPACITY: 12.2/19.9 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway/24.5 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 12 gal. (est)
CURB WEIGHT: 3,305 lbs.
TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Chevrolet Trax, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V
STICKER: $31,720 (includes $995 delivery, $3,690 options)

BOTTOM LINE: The Fiat 500X is by far the best looking of the many Fiat 500 models. While it is an okay CUV, it is hampered by a buzzy engine and poor fuel economy for its size.

It seems everyone has seen the Fiat 500 “Viagra” commercial, where a humble two-door 500 is transformed by the addition of a blue pill to the gas tank into the 500X crossover sport utility vehicle.

The pill did a wonderful job of transforming the 500X into the best looking of the many 500 variants. The exterior styling is cute. In many cases, that’s where the appeal ends.

The 500X is a sister vehicle to the Jeep Renegade. It is two feet longer than the base 500, and the same length as the 500L The X’s 101-inch wheelbase is 10 inches longer than the base 500.  Inside, the front passengers are faced with a metal dash that is painted body color, in our tester it was bright red. Upper dash surfaces are soft touch.

Seat upholstery in our tester was a nice deep brown. While the color was striking, it certainly didn’t go with the red dash. Now if they painted the dash a nice matte black, it would have looked a lot better. Front seats are also firm and don’t have a lot of side support. They were comfortable on long rides, and they were heated. Rear seat upholstery matches the front, but there is minimum legroom. One neat feature of the rear seats is that they have their own sunroof, with the front seats having another. The front sunroof moves in all the standards ways, while the rear is fixed.

Ride quality is not great. We took the 500X on a long road trip and probably felt every road nonconformity over 300 miles. With a relatively stiff suspension, one would think handling would be good to very good, but it is less than that. 

My biggest complaint is with the engine. Our tester was equipped with the 2.4-liter I-4 rated at 160 horsepower. A 1.4-liter turbo four is available. The engine had decent power and acceleration was good.

For example, the 500X did a good job on highway entry ramps and merging was never a problem. However, the engine tended to be buzzy most of the time. It was less buzzy on long Interstate runs, but it was always there to some extent.

I felt that our test fuel economy of 24.5 mpg was unacceptable for a vehicle of this size. And this included hundreds of Interstate miles. We have a large 16-year-old American sedan in our garage that gets more than 30 mpg on the highway with a V6 engine.

There are three transmission settings: sport, normal (automatic), and snow and rain. Sport mode increases steering feedback and changes the transmission shift schedules, for example.   

Cargo capacity is about what you’d expect from a small CUV. We had more than enough room for our luggage and a few extras even without flipping the rear seat backs. For empty nesters like ourselves, cargo capacity was what we would need more than 90 percent of the time. 

The instrument panel consists of a central digital speedometer that can be con figured other ways, an analog speedometer to the left and a tachometer on the right. The centrally mounted infotainment screen contains an easy-to-program navigation system that picked up our intended destination easily. 

The audio system is okay, but because of small speakers and the noisy engine, it was sometimes hard to hear. The HVAC system did its job as we traversed from freezing temperatures to those in the 80s.

Interior storage consists of two glove boxes, one in the red metal section and one below. There’s a cubby at the base of the center stack that has 12-volt, USB and AUX plugs. The small center console/arm rest also has a USB plug. There’s room for water bottles in all four doors.

We were impressed with the number of safety features. The 500X has a blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and back up camera. With the blind spot monitor, if you engage the turn signal while there is a vehicle in the blind spot (even if you can see it) you get a very loud alarm.

The 500X is disappointing because it has a lot of very good features. The engine isn’t one of them, because it’s noisy and has very poor economy. Maybe Fiat would have been better served if they had used a Fiat engine, rather than  the Jeep engine.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

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