Over the last 10 years I have been lucky enough to spend lots of time with the Fiat 500 range. I have always been a fan of the quirky 500 despite its somewhat feminine looks, however as it morphed into different variants including the 500L, MPW and the Trekking it grabbed male attention as it became more practical and capable. For me, making a purchase with my heart would have always led me towards the 500 adorned with the Abarth badge which is just a spectacular little performance car but as a family man, living in the country, the Trekking would probably suit my needs far better.
Now I have another choice in the shape of the seductive Fiat 500X which is a completely new vehicle. Based on the new Jeep Renegade platform the 500X retains the 500 cheeky nose and tail attributes in an all-together more grown up fashion. Measuring 4.25 metres in length,1.8 metres in width and 1.6 metres in height it will sit perfectly alongside the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Opel Mokka and no doubt these compact SUV’s will be the main competition. This new 500X will be offered in five trim levels Pop, Easy, Lounge, Trekking, and Trekking Plus. Trekking and Trekking Plus versions have their own front and rear end designs, for a slightly more rugged look and it also adds a couple of centimeters to overall length. It’s still too early to tell what engine and transmission specs Ireland will get to choose from, but on the international launch we learnt about a number of power-plants. The 1.4-liter Turbo MultiAir II engine comes with 110hp mated to a 5-speed manual, or the more potent 1.6-litre “E-torQ” block 140hp comes with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
On the diesel front you can choose between the 1.3-litre MultiJet II turbo diesel, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox or the 120hp 1.6-litre with a six-speed manual transmission. The vehicle that caught my eye was the range topping four-wheel drive diesel 140hp, 2.0-litre, which had a nine-speed automatic transmission. After the brief sign on process in the beautiful Italian city of Turin, I got keys to the 2.0 litre diesel to test drive. Minutes later I was joined by one of Northern Ireland’s finest automotive photographers Graham Curry and we set off with the world famous Balocco Proving Ground as our destination. This three-hour trek gave us plenty of time to become acquainted and although it will never be the volume seller it is nice to spend time with the model that we find most appealing. The electronically controlled, nine-speed automatic transmission is seamless through the gears and there is also the option to switch to manual-sequential mode. The clever drivetrain disconnects the rear axle for save fuel and engages all wheel drive when needed without the driver having to do anything. Through the fast flowing mountainous bends the steering feels properly weighted and offers loads of feedback through the taught chassis. We pushed it on several occasions through tight hairpins, the 500X felt surefooted inspiring nothing but confidence.
To customise your driving preference you can change the “Drive Mood Selector” on the centre console which will allow you to adjust between Auto (or normal), Sport and All Weather altering the engine, brakes, steering and transmission settings. The last setting, All Weather, activates a Traction mode on all-wheel-drive models that purposely shifts torque to the rear axle. On front-drive models it activates “Traction Plus,” which is basically a more sophisticated version of the brake-based traction and stability control system.
Inside the cabin it’s a nice place to be with the dash plastics, trim level and layout all well thought out and of a higher quality than seen in some of its siblings. The Uconnect 5-inch Radio Nav option now features Tom Tom 2.5D navigation which is welcome after the rather tricky to use Garmin system used in years past. It has an extensive range of auxiliary inputs including USB, iPod, SD card, Bluetooth for hands-free calling, audio streaming, and voice texting connectivity. Like so many new vehicles now the addition of a new Uconnect Live allows to integrate apps from your smartphone. There are ample amounts of space both up front and in the rear with 350 litres of boot space and storage pockets dotted throughout making it very practical. Once at our destination we took the opportunity to put the 500X through its paces off road. Not everyone will of course go off road but there is good chance that Farm & Plant readers will so with this in mind, we entered the purpose built Balocco 4×4 track that incorporates inclines, descents, cobbles, water splashes and ample amounts of mud. By selecting manual so the auto box doesn’t shift up or down in the wrong spot we tackled the 1-kilometre course with ease. Feeling the 500X engage all wheel drive and splitting the torque to the wheels with the most grip was very impressive.
Once finished filming and shooting we arrived at the Balocco headquarters to return the keys. In my humble opinion the Fiat 500X does exactly what it says on the tin. Yes it’s quirky and can be customised in 12 different body colours with 8 different alloy wheel designs but there is more to this vehicle than being just cool. Its functional, practical good to drive and depending on the specifications we get here in Ireland, it could be the compact SUV to have. Well done Fiat we say!
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