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Fiat 500X: could this be the crossover for you?

Fiat's 500X brings style and cutting edge technology to the crossover market.

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Style and substance come together in the new Fiat 500X crossover, as it combines the cool, iconic design of the hugely successful Fiat 500 with the chunky looks of an SUV. So buyers get all the iconic charm of the cute city car in a versatile and practical package.

Fiat’s designers have pulled off the neat trick of giving the 500X a more muscular stance without detracting from the compact looks of the 500 on which it’s based. This means you get much more space – enough for five people and all their luggage – as well as the high seating position that attracts many buyers to crossovers in the first place, without feeling like you’re stepping up to a much bigger car. The 500X is “still” only 4,273mm long, 1,796mm wide and 1,620mm high. Plus, it promises class-leading comfort, technology and safety kit, too.

There’s a choice of two versions: City Look models retain most of the classic appeal of the 500, with body-coloured bumpers, plus a dashboard panel in the same body colour – there’s a choice of 12 finishes, including a striking matt bronze. Alternatively, go for an Off-Road Look model, and your 500X gets more muscular visual appeal in the shape of bigger bumpers with off-road protection, and a satin chrome finish on the exterior details and roof rails.

Whichever you decide on, there’s plenty of scope to add a personal touch to your 500X – just as there is with the 500. Fiat offers a choice of seven fabric and leather finishes for the high-quality interior, for example, as well as 11 wheel trims, while a whole host of accessories is available to make your car stand out. Many are grouped together in packs – from a Comfort Plus Pack with a height-adjustable passenger seat to a Navigation Pack Plus featuring a 6.5-inch touchscreen Nav system with 3D landmark function, and from a Visibility Pack bringing heated door mirrors to a Winter Pack with a heated screen and steering wheel. These offer savings over the options bought individually, and represent super value for your money.

To match their choice of metropolitan chic or rugged off-road looks, buyers can select from three drive options on the 500X. Fiat offers standard front-wheel drive, front-wheel drive with the clever Traction+ system for those who want the reassurance of extra grip now and then or, on the most powerful versions of the 500X, full-on four-wheel drive.

Click the image above to see more Fiat 500X pictures

Of course, this isn’t the only cutting-edge technology Fiat offers on this muscular new car. A host of advanced kit is available inside, most of which is controlled through the intuitive Uconnect Radio touchscreen, depending on the version you choose. Uconnect comes in a choice of 5-inch or 6.5-inch sizes, and can display sat-nav maps and control DAB radio. In its LIVE version, it can also be connected to the most important social networking sites and various smartphone apps when owners hook up their mobile (depending on their data allowance).

The screen can also relay images from the optional reversing camera. Blind spot assist and lane departure warning are among some of the other hi-tech safety features available. And that’s over and above the six airbags, electronic stability control and daytime running lamps standard on all versions, plus the foglamps with cornering function and tyre pressure monitoring also offered.

On top of all that, drivers can specify automatic headlights and wipers, plus keyless entry and go, while a high-end Beats audio system and an electric sunroof are also available. And once they’ve climbed aboard and started the car, owners can tailor the driving experience to suit the type of road or conditions they’re faced with by twisting the Mood Selector dial standard on select versions of the 500X.

This offers a choice of three modes that adjust the settings of the engine, brakes and steering (as well as the gearbox settings on automatic models). Auto mode promises the best balance of comfort and efficiency for normal everyday driving, Sport tightens things up for high-performance driving, while All Weather (on City Look models) gives maximum security when there are low levels of grip. On Off-Road Look cars, All Weather is replaced by a Traction mode, which sends more torque to the rear on 4x4 versions, or activates the Traction+ system on front-wheel-drive models.

No matter which mode is selected, the 500X promises a strong blend of sharp and agile handling and a smooth and refined ride – even on the biggest 18-inch alloy wheels available on the new car – largely thanks to its MacPherson rear suspension set-up. This strong driver appeal really sets the Fiat apart in its class, and is key in helping it achieve its four-star Auto Express rating.

From launch, buyers have a choice of one petrol engine and two diesels; Fiat will expand the range over the coming months. The 138bhp 1.4-litre MultiAir II turbo petrol is available with front-wheel drive and a six-speed gearbox, as is the 118bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel. But the big news is the 138bhp 2.0-litre MultiJet II diesel, which not only features four-wheel drive, but also one of the first nine-speed automatic gearboxes in the compact crossover class. It’s the first nine-speed auto to be used in a Fiat, and promises a big step forward in smoothness and efficiency over conventional automatics.

There’s yet more clever technology working under the skin. Four-wheel-drive versions of the 500X benefit from a clever rear axle disconnection system, to ensure owners aren’t wasting energy. These top-spec models are front-wheel drive most of the time, to maximise fuel economy – the 2.0-litre MultiJet II 4x4 claims 51.4mpg and emits 144g/km of CO2 – but as soon as you hit the trails or the car senses some slip, drive to the rear axle is reconnected and you have a true off-road 500X again. It’s four-wheel drive on demand, yet the switch between two and four-wheel drive is so seamless that the driver won’t notice it.

The Fiat 500X certainly delivers on the promise of its beefed-up crossover looks, then. It’s a genuine all-rounder in this highly competitive class, combining great design with quality, efficiency, technology and practicality. Style and substance really can go hand-in-hand, and the 500X achieves it in a capable yet compact package.

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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