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