Fiat 500X SUV review
"The Fiat 500X is a stylish and affordable compact SUV which is also great fun from behind the wheel"
- Attractive retro styling
- Handles nicely
- Well equipped
- Reliability reputation
- Automatic gearbox not great
- Entry-level engine is underwhelming
If you want something a bit bigger and a little tougher than the Fiat 500, but don't want to turn your back on that car's cutesy retro styling, the 500X could be right up your street. With two extra doors and a taller, larger body than the 500, it takes on compact SUV and crossover rivals that include the Nissan Juke, MINI Countryman and Renault Captur, as well as the SEAT Arona.
To give it extra appeal, buyers can choose from the standard, more style-conscious models or the more rugged Cross versions, which can't be had with four-wheel drive but feature Fiat’s Traction+ system, which boosts off-road ability without affecting running costs. Cross cars should navigate a muddy campsite field with relative ease.
A Fiat 500X Sport model joined the range in 2019, aimed squarely at the Peugeot 2008 GT and SEAT Arona FR, and represents a respectable proportion of 500X sales. A styling kit adds a muscular look, with bigger wheels and twin tailpipes. Besides these, you can choose the entry-level Club trim or the RED special-edition. Prior to the most recent update, the 500X was available in Pop, Connect and Hey Google trim levels.
The 500X also received a pretty substantial update in 2018 with a fresh new look inside and out, while in 2021 a new Fiat 500X Dolcevita model was launched. Picking a Dolcevita gives you a folding fabric roof, like the one on the Fiat 500C convertible. Available on RED, Cross and Sport editions, it’s more practical than a Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet, offering the best of both worlds if you want open-roofed driving and space for passengers and luggage - as long as your rear-seat passengers aren’t very tall.
All versions of the 500X are available with a 1.0-litre petrol engine, and all except Club are also offered with a new 1.5-litre mild-hybrid engine paired to an automatic gearbox, which replaced the 1.3-litre engine in 2022. Both are turbocharged, unlike the old 108bhp 1.6-litre E-Torq that felt underpowered. Fiat no longer offers a diesel 500X.
The 1.5-litre engine might have been the pick of the range if it wasn’t so expensive, but the 1.0-litre engine will still suit many buyers - particularly those who do lots of trips around town. Meanwhile, the Ford Puma EcoBoost is better to drive, slightly more economical than the 500X mild-hybrid and cheaper to buy.
If you’re set on a 500X, none of the trim levels are sparsely equipped; Club trim includes air-conditioning, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels and a seven-inch Uconnect infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Cross is well equipped, with off-roader styling, two-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and sat nav. The range-topping 500X Sport adds a dual chrome exhaust, Alcantara interior materials, black 18-inch wheels and sportier bumpers. Between the Cross and Sport currently sits a RED special edition which, among other things, gets antibacterial treatment and a bottle of hand sanitiser; the car supports the RED charity which raises money for causes including Covid relief.
Take to the road and the Fiat 500X is a surprisingly responsive car to drive, particularly the Sport version. It grips the road well, there isn’t too much body lean in corners, but there's little steering feel and the firm ride isn't as comfortable as some SUV rivals. It’s pretty quiet when cruising at motorway speeds, though; the suspension and sound deadening work well together in muting unwanted noise.
Placing a clear emphasis on style, the interior is also pleasant, with high-quality materials and plenty of attractive touches that don’t detract from functionality. It's easy to be cynical, though, and take the retro style as an excuse for omitting the latest technology. Occupants will be comfortable in the supportive seats, have plenty of room and will enjoy the light and airy feel. With 350 litres of luggage space, the 500X’s boot is respectable but it’s one of the smaller boots in this class – nor can it match the space you get in many conventional hatchbacks such as the Vauxhall Astra.
Like the 500 city car, there are plenty of options for personalisation, with Fiat teaming up with American parts maker Mopar to give customers plenty of ways to customise their 500X. Some are purely practical, including roof racks and bike carriers, while others are just for fun and include decals and styling parts.
In our 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the pre-update Fiat 500X finished in an unspectacular 71st out of the 75 cars covered, including the worst score for reliability and build quality. Too few owners took part in our 2021 survey but the Fiat 500 hatchback didn’t post particularly flattering scores. Fiat as a brand came 26th out of 29 manufacturers in our carmaker survey.
Sadly, the 500X's independent Euro NCAP crash-test result could be better, too – it scored four out of five stars in 2015, and the test has got tougher since then. The 500X performed well in terms of protecting both adult and child passengers, but fell down on its limited standard safety assistance kit. Fiat’s autonomous emergency braking system is a cost option, which is odd given it’s fitted as standard on the Fiat Tipo hatchback, while an alarm is also an optional extra. You do get a roster of airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control as standard.
The style and fun personality of the Fiat 500X are its greatest attributes. It’s a desirable car, and one that has the measure of its rivals in many respects, although it doesn’t excel in any specific area. We recommend going for the 1.0-litre petrol in Cross trim with a manual gearbox.