The 2016 Fiat 500X is Surprisingly Fun to Drive: Review
Here’s a dirty little secret about the 2016 Fiat 500X; in the top-of-the-line Trekking Plus trim level, it’s actually fun to drive. It’s no Abarth, but this could just be the most enjoyable mainstream compact crossover on the market. It’s that good. Fiat invited the media out to Beverly Hills for some wheel time with the Fiat 500X. At first it seemed like an innocuous setting designed more to give a fluffy ride with luxurious accommodations and breathtaking food. Then Fiat pointed us in the direction of some great canyon roads. No OEM will ever admit it, but that’s short hand for “Have at it.” The roads were perfectly matched to the 500X’s capabilities. RELATED: See More Photos of the 2016 Fiat 500X The Trekking Plus I was piloting came equipped with three settings: automatic, sport and traction plus. Well, the latter was never switched on because not even FCA amidst all of the movie studios in Southern California could make it snow. However, it’s the sport setting that gets the heart thumping. It inspired confidence to hit curves at 50 mph that were rated at 25 mph. Sure the tires squealed in protest but the 500X just shot through. Is it going to chew up twisty roads like a Fiat Abarth? Not necessarily, but it’s the best handling mainstream compact crossover I’ve ever driven. It seems to retain the spirit of Fiat even if it doesn’t have the correct dimensions. RELATED: See More Photos of the Fiat 500L The model tested had the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine that produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. It is paired exclusively to a nine-speed automatic transmission on all-wheel-drive and front-wheel- drive models. The Fiat 500X is also available with a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, with an output of 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Unfortunately it wasn’t available to drive. It’s my sense, though, it should be up to the task with similar horsepower and torque numbers to the larger engine option. Fiat expects this model, called the Pop, to only be 10 percent of sales. It’s a shame because this one will probably feel the most like a Fiat in the lineup. RELATED: See More Photos of the Fiat Abarth Gumball 3000 One noticeable hindrance to the 500X is its A-pillars, or the front windshield posts. My view felt obstructed when checking traffic coming from the right. It didn’t seem noticeable – oddly – for the left A pillar. The 2016 Fiat 500X is right sized for us bulkier Americans. Owning a Fiat no longer means squeezing two grown ups into the backseat and apologizing profusely. Heck, it’s gargantuan by Fiat standards. There’s room for four adults – five if they are more European sized than American. It is truly comfortable for four with decent legroom in the back, even for my 6’1” frame. The driving position is almost comfortable. That’s more because my right knee couldn’t find a comfortable position and kept bumping the center stack. Maybe with a few days behind the wheel I could have found a good adjustment. RELATED: See More Photos of the Fiat FCC4 Concept Fiat expects 35 percent of sales to come with the Easy trim level that starts at $22,300 and 30 percent for the Trekking trim level at $23,100. The Lounge trim level starts at $24,850 and the Trekking Plus at $27,100. It’s that latter model with AWD that starts to get expensive. The Trekking Plus AWD has a starting price of $29,000. Add in options like a dual-pane sunroof and Beats premium audio and you’re looking at an MSRP of $31,800. The Fiat 500X faces some stiff competition in this segment, even from its platform sibling the Jeep Renegade. Of the two, the Renegade has serious off-road chops and a lower starting price. The Nissan Juke is probably equally engaging to drive as the 500X but is cramped inside. The Fiat is a clear choice over the Chevrolet Trax. Who is the Fiat 500X a good fit for? Topping the list would be folks who resisted buying a Fiat in the past because of its size. That’s no longer a concern. It’s also going to be a smart choice for drivers who like crisp handling with good interior space.