Test Drive: 2016 Fiat 500X
Class: Compact Crossover
Miles Driven: 575
Fuel Used: 21.3 gallons
Driving mix: 25% city, 75% highway
Real-world fuel economy: 27.0
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/30/24 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $24,200 (not including $900 destination charge)
Options on test car: NA
|CG Report Card|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||C+|
|Fit and Finish||C+|
Price as tested: $25,100 (excluding optional equipment)
The great: Comfortable front seating, excellent observed highway fuel economy
The Good: Sporty handling, ample cargo space
The not so good: Balky transmission can be slow to downshift
Check out Consumer Guides compact crossover Best Buys
Problems on Test Vehicle
A piece of interior trim located on the inside of the driver’s-side B-pillar broke loose during our evaluation.
Fiat extends its 500 franchise for 2016 with a timely addition—a newcomer to the compact branch of the red-hot crossover/SUV field called the 500X. There is a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, 2 powerteams, and 5 models in the fold with starting prices ranging from $20,000 to $30,000.
Consumer Guide® had the opportunity to test a 500X in Easy trim, which is the model second from bottom. It starts at $22,300, but CG’s test vehicle came with AWD, which adds $1900 to that price. The AWD system features a fully disconnecting rear axle that can be engaged at any speed in situations when extra traction is needed. (All but the entry-level Pop model can be ordered as all-wheelers, and the Pop is the only member of the clan that comes with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission.)
CG’s example also included the Dynamic Selector traction-control system with a choice of “Auto,” “Sport,” or “Traction +” modes activated by a dial on the console. Auto is right for most on-road driving situations, while Sport changes shift and throttle behavior for more rapid driving response. Traction + enables 2nd-gear starts and maximizes low-speed traction on low-friction and off-road surfaces.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir 2 engine that was in the vehicle we tested is rated at 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to the 9-speed automatic transmission that is finding its way into a number of products in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family. Engine power and performance are OK for the 500X, but the trans leaves something to be desired. In this driver’s experience, every upshift seemed to be telegraphed with a momentary flat spot in acceleration, followed by a somewhat forceful engagement. This process seemed even more pronounced—and off-putting—in Sport mode, at least at lower speeds. Racking up 201.8 miles during my test stint, 75 percent of the distance under city driving conditions, the 500X averaged 22.25 mpg. EPA figures for this powerteam are 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
Steering is nicely weighted and direct, and braking is good. Ride is on the firm side, and pavement imperfections registered as stout jolts at times.
As for accommodations, front passengers enjoy good head and leg room. However, rear riders will be dependent on the size of those in front for their degree of comfort. Somebody sitting behind my 5’-10.5” form already would have been pinched for leg room. Rear head room isn’t as good, either. Two adults is the limit in the rear. Visibility is fair; entry and exit through all 4 doors are pretty good.
Two-tone fabric seats and a wide body-color panel across the center of the instrument panel lend some visual interest. As far as materials go, there’s some give to the material atop the dash panel. The same grained surface is found on the door panels, but it’s not the least bit spongy. For true soft-touch stuff you have to look to the cloth in the center of the door panels, on the arm rests, and on the console-box lid. Seats were a little nicer to look at and touch than to settle into.
One nice touch is twin glove boxes—the upper one has a vent that allows the space to be cooled. It’s a good thing, too, because the console box under the center arm rest is very small. Two open cup holders are set in the console, and front door pockets include bottle holders. Smaller pockets with bottle holders are found in the rear doors, but that’s it for back-seat passengers—there isn’t even an arm rest in the 60/40 split seats.
Rear cargo space is good for a vehicle of the 500X’s size. It loads at bumper height, and the floor actually is a panel that can be raised to expose additional small-item storage beneath—or be removed altogether to open up deeper cargo capacity. Second-row seats fold nearly flat, and the back of the front passenger seat also folds to open up the possibility of carrying long items.
Other key standard equipment includes the Uconnect 5.0 infotainment system with a 5-inch color touchscreen, a USB port, 3.5-inch driver-information digital display between the speedometer and tachometer dials, heated power side mirrors with integral turn signals, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and deep-tinted windows. Most options come in “collections.” The Easy can be upgraded through 6 such collections, with prices ranging from $200 to $4000. In their various combinations, the collections provide items like Uconnect with a 6.5-inch screen, GPS navigation, premium 9-speaker audio, dual-zone climate control, a back-up camera, rear parking assist, heated front seats and steering wheel, a dual-pane sunroof, and more. However, with too much “and more” the 500X can clearly cost “a lot.”
Most of my time in the 500X was spent at highway speed between our Chicago office and South Haven, Michigan. I found the X to be a capable highway machine, with supportive seats, good power available for Interstate passing and merging, and surprising fuel economy. I averaged a commendable 31 mpg on my trip, actually beating the 30-mpg EPA highway estimate for this vehicle.
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