GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

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.

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