CITY CHIC: FIAT 500X AIMS TO TAKE UR­BAN FUNK TO A NEW LEVEL

Fiat’s given the 500X a tech-filled makeover. Tom Wiltshire checks it out in Ur­ban Look trim

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY TOM WILTSHIRE

WHAT IS IT?

Which­ever Fiat board mem­ber sug­gested ex­pand­ing the 500 range be­yond the cute city car is a ge­nius. Though the iconic 500s two larger sib­lings – the 500L and 500X – aren’t best­sellers in the UK, they lead their re­spec­tive seg­ments on the con­ti­nent and make the Ital­ian brand a tidy packet.

But the 500X has al­ways been slightly old-fash­ioned, trad­ing on its retro ap­peal rather than its moder­nity, so Fiat has seen fit to give it a sub­stan­tial mid-life facelift.

WHAT’S NEW?

On the out­side, the fun­da­men­tals aren’t hugely changed, but re-pro­filed bumpers front and rear give a neater aes­thetic. Of more ap­peal are the new lights – stan­dard LED day­time run­ning lights and tail­lights, with op­tional full LED head­lights. They bring the car well up to date, and look rather slick – es­pe­cially the 500-ap­ing ring-shaped tail­lights.

Of the three en­gines on of­fer, two are all new: A 1.0-litre three-cylin­der and a 1.3-litre four-cylin­der. They join a new suite of safety tech as well as an in­te­rior that’s been up­dated with smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity and a new, more leg­i­ble in­stru­ment panel. Trim lev­els have been sim­pli­fied to two – Ur­ban Look and Cross Look – but un­der­neath this there is a range of en­gines and other choices.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET?

We tried both the new petrol en­gines, of which the 1.0-litre will likely be the biggest seller. We’re glad to re­port it’s an ex­cel­lent unit – very re­fined for a three-cylin­der en­gine, re­fus­ing to sound strained even

at higher rpms. It’s also de­cently pow­er­ful, with 118bhp on tap and a 10.7-sec­ond 0-60mph sprint, mean­ing there’s plenty of punch for town driv­ing.

The 1.3-litre doesn’t feel quite so pleas­ant, de­spite be­ing fun­da­men­tally the same as the 1.0-litre but with an ex­tra cylin­der. It does, how­ever, gain you power, and is a very de­cent work­horse, nev­er­the­less.

With 148bhp, the 1.3-litre is os­ten­si­bly a ri­val for the likes of the VW T-Roc’s 1.5-litre TSI EVO en­gine.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Key to the 500X’s ap­peal will be how it han­dles rut­ted sur­faces and tight city streets. It dealt with the tight con­fines of the city of Turin with aplomb, thanks to quick steer­ing, good vis­i­bil­ity and an easy man­ual gearshift.

How­ever, we would’ve ap­pre­ci­ated a lit­tle more cush­ion­ing in the ride – the 500X thuds over bumps that a Citroen C4 Cac­tus would have ironed out.

That firm ride does pay div­i­dends on faster roads, where the 500X cor­ners very tidily, though mid-cor­ner bumps can un­set­tle it. There’s plenty of grip, but the light power steer­ing doesn’t re­ally give much in­di­ca­tion of what the front wheels are do­ing – and it’s a lit­tle twitchy on the mo­tor­way.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

The retro-pas­tiche looks of the stan­dard 500 trans­late far bet­ter onto the 500X than they do on the 500L mini-MPV. This is a re­ally ap­peal­ing small cross­over, and, af­ter a re­cent shake-up, wo distinct flavours: Ur­ban Look and Cross Look.

In short, ‘Ur­ban Look’ mod­els fea­ture body-coloured bumpers and fewer trim ad­di­tions, while ‘Cross Look’ trims get beefy faux skid­plates, black cladding around the whee­larches and an al­to­gether more rugged aes­thetic.

Ur­ban Look, priced from around £17k, is a city-based small SUV aimed at town dwellers and ma­jor­ing on tech: there are new head­lights, Day­time Run­ning Lights and rear light clus­ters with LED tech­nol­ogy. Plus the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior has been nicely re­freshed.

The more ex­pen­sive Cross Look (about £2k) opts in­stead to ma­jor on an off-road sort of ap­peal, with more rugged am­bi­ence also in­clud­ing beefier bumpers and roof rails. Fiat this year also in­tro­duced a sportier S-De­sign flag­ship model.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE?

A wide swathe of body-coloured ma­te­rial across the dash­board bright­ens up this in­te­rior, which can feel a lit­tle dark and dingy in other places. Ma­te­rial qual­ity is good, as is space: four 6ft adults can travel in rea­son­able com­fort. At 350 litres, boot space is less than you’d get on a fam­ily hatch­back such as a Volk­swa­gen Golf, but it’s rea­son­able.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is com­fort­able, vis­i­bil­ity is good and the new in­stru­ment panel is clear and easy to read. There’s also an up­dated Ucon­nect touch­screen, set high on the dash for ease of sight, though it’s rather far away and you’ll need

“On the out­side, the fun­da­men­tals aren’t hugely changed, but re-pro­filed bumpers front and rear give a neater aes­thetic. Of more ap­peal are the new lights – stan­dard LED day­time run­ning lights and tail­lights, with op­tional full LED head­lights. They bring the car well up to date, and look rather slick – es­pe­cially the 500-ap­ing ring-shaped tail­lights.”

to lean for­ward to op­er­ate it.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

Those new LED day­time run­ning lights and tail­lights are stan­dard across the range, though full LED head­lights are only stan­dard on higher-spec mod­els. Mer­ci­fully stan­dard are al­loy wheels and An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay con­nec­tiv­ity, ac­cessed through a 7-inch Ucon­nect touch­screen.

Higher trims also brings a colour screen in the in­stru­ment panel, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, cruise con­trol and 17-inch al­loy wheels. There are also heated front seats, the afore­men­tioned LED lights, lane as­sist, a rear park­ing cam­era and 18-inch wheels.

VER­DICT

If style mat­ters and you’ve out­grown a reg­u­lar 500, the 500X is a great choice thanks to its retro charm – but the wel­come tech boost and ex­cel­lent new 1.0-litre en­gine en­sure there’s some sub­stance to the style.

It’s de­cent to drive, spa­cious enough for a young fam­ily, and well-priced.

“Key to the 500X’s ap­peal will be how it han­dles rut­ted sur­faces and tight city streets. It dealt with the tight con­fines of the city of Turin with aplomb, thanks to quick steer­ing, good vis­i­bil­ity and an easy man­ual gearshift.”

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