BECAUSE THE FUTURE OF MOTORING IS SMALL. FACT.
Small is the future, so we take Fiat’s 500X for a spin.
SUVS are the dinosaurs that refuse to die. Even the big ones, which should’ve been crushed by layers of stratospheric oil prices and public outrage over emissions, are still ‘big’ in Australia – market share level with our US cousins. But the cars of the future will most certainly be smaller. We’re all for downsizing our carbon tyre print, so took a spin in this updated Fiat 500X, a ‘micro SUV’. The 500X, based on the even more Italianately stylish Fiat 500 city car, is set to scoop up burgeoning SUV buyers. But there are plenty more competitors coming, including the hilariously titled Citroen C4 Cactus (the marketeers clearly know nothing of Aussie vernacular), which has plastic pads on the outside (called Airbumps) that scream, “I can’t drive, but will try to hit you gently.” Back to small-but-purposeful-fiat, which recently did duty as a Popemobile during his sold-out US tour. It’s far more sensible, and attractive, than a Cactus, though it also fails on nomenclature – offering a manual-only model, the Pop, from $28,000 (plus on-road coasts) or an automatic Pop Star from $33,000. The range tops out at the Cross Plus, from $39,000, which has all-wheel drive, the others being front-wheel only. Fiat says it sells two kinds of cars – ‘Denim’, which are cheap and affordable but durable, and ‘Red Leather’. The latter takes in the whole 500 range and claims to be capable of activating “the dormant Italian gene that lies within all of us”. True. For a car of its size – plenty of head and shoulder room, but not ideal for lanky back-seat passengers (the Pope’s clearly short) and with little boot space – the 500X is pricey, though you do get a stylish, expensive-feeling cabin. And an optional ‘Beats by Dr Dre’ hi-f system – because that’s a selling point. Not many 500Xs will be doing serious highway time, but it’s as a city car – with plenty of zip, nicely sorted ride quality and fun, small-car steering – that this Fiat excels.