500’s new big brother has lots of X-ap­peal JUSTIN CON­NOLLY

Macclesfield Express - - MOTORING -

FIAT clearly knows a good thing when it sees it. The re­vamped ver­sion of its clas­sic 500 has, if the sheer num­ber you see on the roads is any­thing to go by, cer­tainly been a good thing for the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer.

And so, fol­low­ing what BMW has done with the Mini, it makes sense for it to milk that 500 mar­que for all it’s worth.

The 500L came first – a larger ver­sion MPV-type car that took de­sign cues from the mini 500 and turned them up to 11.

And now the 500X joins the fam­ily, aim­ing to bring the same clas­sic ap­peal to a cross­over.

To my eyes it doesn’t work as well – aside from the name, the nods to the 500’s de­sign lines seem fewer and another step re­moved from the orig­i­nal.

It doesn’t mat­ter that much, as it hap­pens, as it’s still a very hand­some ve­hi­cle (which, per­haps, it wouldn’t be if it were more ob­vi­ously big brother to its tiny sta­ble-mate).

So if there was a choice be­tween mak­ing it look like a 500, or mak­ing it a cool cross­over, Fiat has clearly taken the lat­ter route, and I’d say that was the right choice.

It’s a sporty-look­ing cross­over, which aims to hit that sweet spot be­tween be­ing ca­pa­ble in chal­leng­ing con­di­tions, with­out be­ing too big and un­wieldy for town and city driv­ing. And it hits that tar­get com­fort­ably.

It’s a fine look­ing car with a sturdy feel – and when Mo­tor­ing took it off-road at a spe­cial launch event ear­lier this year the true 4x4 ver­sion ac­quit­ted it­self well in the rough-ish stuff

In­side our 1.6 Mul­ti­Jet 120hp front-wheel-drive Pop Star test car, it con­tin­ued to im­press. Red leather ac­cents on door pan­els gave a lux­ury feel which con­trasted nicely with the shiny red plas­tic else­where.

This model had a ex­cel­lent spec, too, es­pe­cially given its £21,295 on-the-road price. Air-con, cruise con­trol and speed lim­iter, and a 5in touch screen to con­trol en­ter­tain­ment, all come as stan­dard on the £17,595 base model, with all the usual tech and com­fort add-ons avail­able for more.

Driv­ing the 500X is also a joy – and the 4x4 looks are not just win­dow dress­ing, even if our test car didn’t ac­tu­ally boast all-wheel drive.

That base model price gets you a ‘city look’ and a petrol en­gine, while our model – the next one up in the range – of­fered the ‘off-road look’ with a 1.6l diesel power unit. Nei­ther sport four-wheel drive at the base level, but do of­fer some ‘off-road’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

A ‘driv­ing mood’ se­lec­tor of­fers three modes – sport, auto, and all-weather, which ad­just the ve­hi­cle’s han­dling to match your mood.

Not just a gim­mick, this fea­ture no­tice­ably changes the char­ac­ter of the car, and gives you the best of all worlds at the flick of a switch.

The diesel model we had boasted ex­cel­lent mpg fig­ures, too – 69 com­bined is not to be sniffed at in a car this size.

When teamed with the op­tional £650 safety pack (which brings in lane de­par­ture warn­ing, blind spot de­tec­tion, for­ward col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion – a loud beep ac­com­pa­ny­ing flash­ing brake signs on the dash if you ap­proach a ve­hi­cle too fast – and a rear view cam­era), the 500X of­fers a sound fam­ily car with lots of room and cross­over style.

Enough to keep ev­ery­one happy – it has plenty of ‘X ap­peal’ of its own and doesn’t need to ride on the pop­u­lar­ity of its lit­tle brother.

●● The Fiat 500X is less like the re­vamped 500 than the name would sug­gest

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