Only the Italians could get away with a TV commercial that links a performance-enhancing ‘little blue pill’ with the transformer-like conversion of a small hatchback into a muscular SUV. That’s what Fiat has done in a brilliant ad that sees the pill eventually dropping into the fuel tank of a Fiat 500 hatchback and bulk it up into the 500X compact SUV with the closing line – “bigger, more powerful and ready for action”.
Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t seen it. Great fun.
The 500X was designed alongside the Jeep Renegade following the Italian company’s takeover of the American icon during the GFC which no doubt explains why the TV ad made its debut in the primest of primetime spots, the 2015 NFL Super Bowl match.
I’ve always loved the clean, unfussy looks of the new Fiat 500 and they work even better in the 500X.
It’s noticeably larger and heavier than the standard 500 on which it’s based. At 4248 mm it’s almost 20 per cent longer and, in the optional AWD version, is around 50 per cent heavier. It also comes with rear doors unlike the traditional two-door format of the iconic Cinquecento, and it has a reasonable 350-litre boot
Despite the size difference there’s a clear family resemblance between the two cars both from the front and in various details around the body, as well as the popular pseudo metallic look inside.
Younger buyers will be attracted by the various personalisation options including 12 exterior colours with nine different door mirror covers; 15 dress-up decals; five door-sill inserts and five alloy wheel designs. Inside there are fabric and leather options. There are even five different designs for the key fob!
Fiat 500X comes in four model variants, two with front-wheel drive and two with AWD. Prices range from $26,000 for the entry level FWD drive Pop with a manual gearbox, through to $38,000 for the AWD automatic Cross Plus.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
All engines are 1.4-litre turbo petrol units, that come in two states of tune. The FWD Pop and Pop Star generate 103 kW and 230 Nm with the AWD Lounge and Cross Plus peaking at 125 kW and 250 Nm.
The Pop has the option of six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic, Pop Star only gets the latter transmission. The two AWD models use a nine-speed automatic. All autos come with paddle shifters.
All 500X models come with seven airbags; ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution; Isofix child seat anchoring; electronic stability control with hill start assist and electronic roll mitigation; tyre pressure monitoring system; and rear parking sensors.
Pop Star adds all-speed traction control; blind spot monitoring; rear cross-path detection; and reversing camera. Lounge and Cross Plus both also get emergency automatic braking and lane departure warning.
Alloy wheels step up a size through the grades from 16-inch in the Pop, to 17-inch in the Pop Start and 18-inch in the two AWD models.
Likewise the higher spec models (Pop Star upwards) have a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the Fiat Uconnect system and satellite navigation. Pop doesn’t have SatNav and uses a 5-inch screen. Bluetooth, including voice commands, is standard across the range together with USB and Auxiliary sockets.
Lounge and Cross Plus get a higher quality BeatsAudio sound system with eight speakers.
Our test car was the AWD Fiat 500X Lounge. Entry and exit is surprisingly easy with large, comfortable and supportive front seats. External vision is excellent.
It’s sharp and easy to manoeuvre around the urban jungle especially with the choice of three driving modes (Auto, Sport, and Traction plus) accessed via what Fiat calls a Mood Selector.
It cruised relatively smoothly on the motorway with only an occasional use of the paddle shifters on long hilly stretches. Ride comfort is very good with noise and vibration making it one of the quietest cars in the compact SUV class.
Handling isn’t exactly Italian sporty, but the 500X is neutral in the way it feels until you’re well above the cornering speeds likely to be attempted by the average owner.
Fuel consumption from the 500X Lounge is listed at 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged just over eight L/100km.
So is that very cheeky TV ad right – is the Fiat 500X indeed “bigger, more powerful and ready for action”? It’s certainly bigger than the standard 500 with space enough for a family of up to two-plus-three, and with almost twice the kilowatts and Newton Metres there’s a fair bit more grunt.
By “ready for action” we must assume that they’re talking about off-road ability. We certainly wouldn’t recommend ventured too far off the bitumen but with the added safeguard of AWD we found the Lounge handled some mild gravel without any problems.
AT A GLANCE
500X Pop 1.4-litre turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $26,000 (manual), $28,000 (automatic)
500X Pop Star 1.4-litre turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $32,000 (automatic)
500X Lounge 1.4-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $37,000 (automatic)
500X Cross Plus 1.4-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $38,000 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Fiat dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Fiat 500X Lounge 1.4-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.368 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 125 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 250 Nm @ 2500 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.7 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 157 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4248 mm
Wheelbase: 2570 mm
Width: 1796 mm
Height: 1612 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1405 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Three years / 100,000 km