Cockburn Gazette - - SPORT - Bill Buys

RE­MEM­BER the TV ad where the old bloke drops his last Vi­a­gra tablet, which bounces off var­i­ous sur­faces and ends up in the petrol tank of a Fiat 500?

It then swells to a greater size, gains an ex­tra two doors and, as P.G. Wode­house might have said, gad­zooks; it be­comes the Fiat 500X.

The mini SUV is quite a hot­tie in looks, equip­ment and per­for­mance, and comes in four-model range that starts at $26,000 for the Pop, $33,000 for the Pop Star, $37,000 for the Lounge and $38,000 for the Cross Plus.

Lounge and Cross Plus have all-wheel drive, nine-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and 125kW/ 250Nm 1.4litre turbo en­gines.

The Pop mod­els are fron­twheel drive with 103kW mo­tors.

Ours was the top-spec Cross Plus, which dif­fers from oth­ers in the 500X fam­ily in hav­ing pro­tec­tion bars front and rear, bet­ter ramp an­gles – just in case you want to wan­der off the beaten track – 18-inch alu­minium wheels with matte chrome shadow fin­ish, a slightly dif­fer­ent dash and Xenon pro­jec­tor head­lights. Ours also sported a panoramic sun­roof, one of its (great) many op­tions.

Stan­dard equip­ment is ex­ten­sive and goes some way in jus­ti­fy­ing the ve­hi­cle's com­par­a­tively high prices.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC) with Hill-start As­sist and elec­tronic roll mit­i­ga­tion is stan­dard on all mod­els, like­wise a re­vers­ing cam­era, al­loy wheels, cruise con­trol, steer­ing wheel­mounted au­dio con­trols, a touch­screen, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and seven airbags.

The Cross Plus has a big colour TFT in­stru­ment dis­play, au­to­matic high-beam, sat­nav, a Beats Pre­mium au­dio sys­tem with sub­woofer and eight speak­ers, du­al­zone au­to­matic air­con, in­te­rior am­bi­ent light­ing and two-tone pre­mium in­te­rior trim.

It's a fairly tall car, easy for folk with creaky joints to get in and out of, and it will ac­com­mo­date driver and up to four more peo­ple, plus it has a fair-sized cargo area.

Vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent and the 500X has im­pres­sive ride com­fort and neu­tral han­dling. It's also qui­eter in­side than most SUVs.

The multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel is the same as fit­ted to the three-times pricier Jeep Grand Chero SRT and the Fiat comes with a smart elec­tronic park­ing brake, while the big Jeep has to make do with an awk­ward foot­op­er­ated con­trap­tion.

The specs say the 500X has a nine-speed ZF trans­mis­sion, but it prob­a­bly only gets into ninth at higher speeds than our laws al­low. So eighth is where it runs at 110km/h, and it re­turns around 8litres/100km on av­er­age. The trans­mis­sion also has sport and of­froad modes, switch­able via a ro­tary knob on the con­sole.

The 1.4 Mul­tiAir is a feisty lit­tle motor and with that touch of Vi­a­gra in its tank, es­pe­cially so in Sport mode, it can pro­pel the 500X to 100km/h in about 9sec­onds and on to a top speed of close on 200km/h.

The auto tran­nie does a bit of hunt­ing around for the right cog, but it's ac­tu­ally a clever de­vice that grad­u­ally adapts to driver habits, sort of like a mar­riage.

The nicely fin­ished and builtin-Italia 500X has a de­light­ful air of charm, a cheer­ful cabin and a lot of amore through­out.

And if you want to play dres­sups, well, you can choose from 12 body colours, 15 de­cals, nine dif­fer­ent door mir­ror cov­ers, five door-sill in­serts, sun­roof, bright ped­als, door sill guards, air fra­grance dif­fuser and about 80 other things.

Ver­dict: Bella, bella!

Fiat's 500 gets the X-fac­tor.

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