Fiat 500X SUV
"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 Plus version, which can't be had with four-wheel drive but feature Fiat’s Traction+ system, which boosts its off-road ability without affecting running costs. Whichever Off-Road Look version you go for, it should navigate a muddy campsite field with ease.
In 2019, the Fiat 500X Sport model joined the range, aimed squarely at the Peugeot 2008 GT-Line and SEAT Arona FR, and is expected to mop up as much as 40% of 500X sales. A styling kit adds a muscular look, with bigger wheels and twin tailpipes. The Sport is available with a 1.0-litre or 1.3-litre petrol engine paired to an automatic gearbox.
The 500X also received a pretty substantial update in 2018 with a fresh new look inside and out, more standard equipment and a restructured model line-up. The 500X gains a similar LED light signature to the 500 city car that inspires its looks, and is now available in a brighter range of colours, which – as before – decorate the dashboard as well as the bodywork.
Under the bonnet, the most significant changes included the introduction of two new turbocharged 'Firefly' petrol engines, a three-cylinder 118bhp 1.0-litre and 148bhp 1.3-litre automatic, which replaced the entry-level 108bhp 1.6-litre E-Torq in the engine range. Fiat no longer offers a diesel 500X.
Trim levels now consist of Urban, Lounge, City Cross, Cross Plus and Sport trim. None of them are sparsely equipped, though; Urban 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.
Lounge trim level adds 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, upgraded interior materials. The City Cross comes with cornering front foglights, body-coloured door mirrors, satin chrome door handles and a 3.5-inch digital instrument cluster. The Cross Plus is well equipped, with off-roader styling, full LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, sat nav and rear parking camera. The range-topping 500X Sport adds a dual chrome exhaust, Alcantara interior materials, black 18-inch wheels and sportier bumpers.
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 can’t quite match those found in conventional hatchbacks like 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 2020 survey, but Fiat as a brand came 23rd out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 carmaker survey.
Sadly, the 500X's independent Euro NCAP crash-test result could be better, too – it scored four out of five stars under the latest and toughest testing criteria. 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, 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 City Cross trim with a manual gearbox.