- Tidy exterior styling
- Just right proportions
- Above average ride and handling
- More characterful than most rivals
- Automatic gearbox can be touchy
- Sunroof steals head room, especially in back
- Small infotainment screens
- Not an off-roader
With more personality than most small crossovers, the Fiat 500X is definitely worth a look.
The Fiat 500X is the first real chance for the Italian purveyor of small cars to win over America. It's certainly the brand's most mainstream offering here—perhaps ever.
The compact crossover SUV enters a popular but crowded segment, sharing running gear with its architectural sibling, the Jeep Renegade. Rivals include the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, and Chevy Trax.
The 500X has been pared down to just three trim levels for 2017 after its rather confusing debut, a move that should make it easier for consumers to find the 500X of their dreams on a dealership lot. Remaining trims include the entry-level Pop, the more rugged-looking Trekking, and the range-topping Lounge.
We rate the 500X a 6.6 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
2017 Fiat 500X styling and performance
The Fiat 500X was brand new last year as a companion to the subcompact 500 and the decidedly awkward 500L.
The 500X leverages the familiar design of the smaller 500 hatch, but replaces its cuteness with smarter styling. It still wears Italian-penned sheetmetal, but more mature, aero-driven profile than its dainty 500 and dorky 500L cousins. That doesn't mean it's thrown the baby out with the bathwater as it still wears the chrome mustache-and-badge face of its siblings, a clamshell hood, and rounded, twin headlamps.
Trekking versions wear unique front and rear fascias with a more rugged design—but there is no real off road capability with them. That duty is left to the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.
Two powertrains are available in America. A 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is fun but we wouldn't describe it as refined. Surprisingly, it's mated solely to a six-speed manual transmission and it only powers Pop trim models. A larger, naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine powers the wheels in the rest of the 500X lineup, but does so via FCA's maligned nine-speed automatic, which arrived a few years ago to mostly negative reviews. Since its debute, FCA has worked hard to retune the transmission to eliminate rough gear changes and time-consuming downshifts.
Dynamically, the 500X performs well compared to rivals, but it's not as flingable as its smaller 500 relative. Its suspension is firm but complaint, soaking up the bumps of city streets even when it's fitted with the 18-inch wheels on Trekking and Lounge models. And as with most electric power steering systems, responsiveness is spot on but it lacks feedback. Overall, the 500X delivers an entertaining drive for the price; the Mini Countryman is more fun, but also more expensive.
Buyers can opt for the 500X's optional $1,900 all-wheel-drive system that enhances its ability to take on slippery train, but this is no off-roader. Those looking to get dirty should consider the 500X's cross-brand sibling, the Jeep Renegade, which includes extra ground clearance and skid plates to protect vital components.
Comfort, safety, and features
While comfortable, Fiat still finds ways to put style before function. Front seats are surrounded by enough space and offer enough cushioning for most drivers and passengers, but optional leather seats use bottoms that lack definition and headrests that have too much of it. Taller passengers will find scant leg and headroom in the 500X's second row, especially behind taller drivers and front passengers and underneath the car's optional cabin-encroaching sunroof. Thankfully, the 500X offers competitive cargo space that can be extended by dropping the rear seat; unfortunately, that seat doesn't fold flat.
Seven airbags, hill-start assist, and stability control are standard on all models, while forward-collision warning, land-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, and a rearview camera are either standard or optional on most models. This combination of features helped the 500X earn a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though it hasn't yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Aside from safety features, the 500X is fitted with Uconnect touchscreen audio, Bluetooth, ancillary digital gauges, keyless ignition, navigation, heated steering wheel, and heated front seats.
EPA estimates bestow all-wheel-drive versions of the 500X with ratings of 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. Front-wheel-drive models are slightly better. When powered by the base-model 1.4-liter turbo engine, the 500X is good for 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 28 mpg combined. The larger 2.4-liter engine sees that decrease to 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, 27 mpg combined.
2017 FIAT 500X
Just quirky enough, the 500X is a much better expression of Italian style than the 500L.
Small crossovers and SUVs offer more spunky flavor than their larger siblings, but they tend to belong to one of two distinct groups: those that leverage rugged visual cues that suggest off-road talent (even if it's completely absent) and ones that pitch themselves honestly as urbane alternatives.
Clearly, Fiat's new 500X fits in the latter group, but we like its Audi-esque lines and its classic Fiat cues enough to rate it an 8 out of 10 for its interior and exterior style. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Though it may share its underpinnings with the bulldog-like Jeep Renegade, the Fiat dons a strikingly contrasting roofline and vintage heritage design cues. Its face wears a classic Fiat chrome mustache-and-badge face flanked by stacked lamps on either side of its grille. Hiding its heart is Fiat's signature clamshell hood.
Down its side, the 500X looks more like an Audi, which isn't a bad act to follow. Unlike the 500L, the 500X's roof swoops a gentle arc over passengers' heads and its flanks rid themselves of non-essential details. Overall, it cuts an organically drawn profile both more mature than any other Fiat and classier than the boxy Renegade.
Within the lineup, there is some minor visual distinction. A more aggressive snout graces the 500X Trekking, which also gets its own wheels, but it isn't actually an off-road version like the chunky Subaru Crosstrek is to the pedestrian Impreza.
A neat, clean interior is composed of large, circular gauges and climate controls. It's matched with body-color interior trim, surprisingly nice materials, and an adequately sized LCD screen.
2017 FIAT 500X
Though the stick shifted 500X is a hoot, the mainstream automatic model does little to stand out.
The ingredients are there, but they still need some fine tuning in the Fiat 500X. We like the way this little 'ute rides and handles, but it needs another semester of finishing school, which is why it scores a 5 out of 10 for its performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 500X is offered in two flavors: turbo and manual or naturally aspirated and automatic. All-wheel drive can be specified with the latter only. Trekking and Lounge trim levels include Fiat's Dynamic Drive system that includes Auto, Sport, and Traction+ modes to modify its throttle response, steering heft, and transmission tuning at the tap of a button.
Its upmarket 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine delivers good performance and decent fuel economy, but it is mated exclusively to a 9-speed automatic that could use some tweaking. The standard 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo, meanwhile, pairs to a six-speed manual and it simply doesn't provide enough power to motivate the 500X with any authority.
The 180-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4 brings with it a stout 175 pound-feet of torque, matched exclusively to Chrysler's nine-speed automatic transmission used in other front-wheel-drive-based vehicles. The engine comes from the days of the Dodge Caliber, but improvement over the years has turned it into a smooth-running mill with enough grunt to easily motivate the 3,000-plus 500X with some level of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the 2.4-liter is letdown by Chrysler's nine-speed automatic. It's slow to downshift in Sport mode, hangs on to its lowest two gears far too long when accelerating, and performs cog-swapping duties with all the aplomb of a sledgehammer at times. A pair of paddle shifters would help, but we concede that they would ultimately be a nuisance in daily driving.
For real shift-it-yourself operations, the 1.4-liter-powered 500X Pop comes standard with a six-speed manual. We find it lacks the power required to motivate the 3,000-pound 500X with any authority. Fiat says that fewer than 1 in every 20 500Xs is likely to have this powertrain, however.
At least the 500X is available with the same trick all-wheel-drive system as the Renegade. The system completely disconnects the driveshaft and rear wheels via an axle-disconnect system to improve fuel economy, but the on-fly-fly system engages again if it senses low traction. That system doesn't make the 500X trail rated, however. Its comrade Renegade sports an additional 0.8 inches of ground clearance, better approach/departure angles, and front and rear skid plates to fulfill the wants of off-roaders on a budget. Instead, the 500X is more of a tall-riding, high-style hatchback rather than a mini-Jeep Wrangler, which explains its nimble driving feel. A firm ride is paired with quick, light steering to deliver commendable responsiveness both around town and on the highway, while its strut-type suspension corners with composure. Credit is due for the 500X's brake feedback, which is perhaps the best of all its driving inputs.
2017 FIAT 500X
Comfort & Quality
The 500X is reasonably well-packaged.
The 500X's interior is surprisingly capacious for a small crossover SUV, which is good news for American buyers. It's the first Fiat product in America suited for the market.
Additionally, the 500X is comfortable for four and some luggage, and it is nicely equipped with quality materials—enough to earn it 6 out of 10 points for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 500X rides on a 101.2-inch wheelbase and stretches to an overall length of about 168 inches, although Trekking models are slightly longer due to their modified bumpers. It's about five inches shorter than the 500L, but there's not much interior space lost with the shrinking thanks in part to a little extra width and generally better packaging all around.
Firm front seats with good lumbar and limited side bolstering hold even larger passengers well, but head room can be skimpy with the optional panoramic moonroof. Headrests on leather-equipped models have an uncomfortable edge that's too pronounced for their intended purpose, though there's a thoughtful knee pad on the side of the center console.
The Honda HR-V bests the Fiat for rear-seat passenger space, but the 500X provides decent space for average size riders provided, again, that the optional moonroof is not ordered. Again, the HR-V looms large(r) in the cargo area. In all, the 500X delivers 18.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its second row, increasing to 50.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. But those seats don't fold quite flat and they don't free up as much vertical space as the "Magic Seat" system in the HR-V, which is borrowed from the Fit subcompact hatchback. Conversely, Trekking and Lounge models include an innovative height-adjustable cargo floor that works with a flat-folding passenger seat for excellent large item hauling.
Where the 500X makes up ground versus almost all rivals is in its interior trim. Despite a shiny, reflective swathe of black plastic on its dash, the 500X otherwise delivers beautiful color inserts ranging from orange to brown. Frankly, it makes the Honda look like it was styled by accident, and it's a fairly good-looking car.
Noise levels in the 500X are fairly low until you're at full throttle or an 80 mph cruise. Even then, they're better than acceptable for a car shaped almost perfectly to amplify noise.
2017 FIAT 500X
The IIHS rates the 500X highly and it offers lots of safety tech—but the NHTSA has not yet tested it.
The Fiat 500X has performed well in what crash tests have been conducted, and it offers a wide range of safety tech at a reasonable price.
However, since it hasn't yet been tested by the federal government, the highest we can go right now is a 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The IIHS has given the Fiat 500X top scores, however. The model earned the safety agency's Top Safety Pick designation with "Good" marks for every test, including the notoriously difficult small overlap front test. The 500X also managed an "Advanced" rating for front crash prevention—when it is ordered with available automatic emergency braking. Advanced safety is around $1,300 on the top two trims.
As for standard safety equipment, the 500X includes seven airbags, stability control and hill-start assist. A rearview camera is standard on the Lounge and is optional on Pop and Trekking models.
An Advanced Safety Package optional on Lounge and Trekking trims includes a host of valuable equipment: forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems, blind-spot monitors with rear cross traffic detection, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beam headlamps, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Visibility to the rear isn't great in the 500X due to its stubby dimensions and tall rear-seat headrests, but the relatively low shoulder lines and hood keep a mostly clear view to the sides and front of the car.
2017 FIAT 500X
Even with a pared down lineup, the 500X delivers good value and offers a wide range of options
Fiat chopped two models from its 500X lineup after its inaugural year—but it still offers a wide range of customizing options and rates as a 7 out of 10 for available features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Remaining are the base Pop model, the off road-esque Trekking, and the premium Lounge.
Standard features across the board include power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; tilt/telescope steering; steering-wheel audio controls; an AM/FM radio with a USB port and an auxiliary jack; and cloth seats.
Only the Pop is available with a manual transmission and the turbocharged engine. A 9-speed automatic and a more powerful, but naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder combination is optional on the Pop and standard elsewhere.
The Trekking adds some cosmetic equipment plus tinted glass, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, a color screen between the instruments, upgraded cloth seats (or optional leather), a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a proximity key.
Topping the line is the Lounge, which builds on the Trekking with a 6.5-inch infotainment system, a heated steering wheel, and its own appearance.
Options are mostly grouped in packages. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel can be added to the Trekking.
A Popular Equipment Package brings a rearview camera, a 5-inch infotainment system, alloy wheels, and leather-wrapping for the steering wheel to the Pop, and the Trekking's version of that package delivers a power driver's seat and automatic climate control as well.
Trekking and Lounge models offer a Premium Package that combines a headroom-robbing moonroof with Beats-branded speakers and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Exclusive to the Trekking and Lounge models is an Advanced Safety Package with forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems, blind-spot monitors with rear cross traffic detection, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beam headlamps, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
All-wheel drive is optional on the Trekking and Lounge.
2017 FIAT 500X
All variants of the 500X net greater than 30 mpg on the highway.
The Fiat 500X may not lead its class for its fuel efficiency, but all models top 30 mpg on the highway on the EPA's test.
That's enough to score a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Remember that the 500X is a tale of three configurations: Manual transmission and automatic transmission models with front-wheel drive, and an automatic-only all-wheel drive version.
The most frugal of the Fiat trio is the manual model that makes 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined.
Opt for the automatic and the EPA rates the all-wheel-drive version at 21/30/24. Those figures are slightly better with front-wheel drive: the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder ekes out 22/31/27 mpg.
That leaves the 500X at a disadvantage with other vehicles; you'll see 29 mpg combined with the Honda HR-V or 27 mpg combined with the Chevrolet Trax.