We take Fiat's crossover out for a blast in the Mendip Hills
While you might not class the family of Fiat 500 cars as adventurous, this new Fiat 500X is worth a closer look.
Like many product names with an X on the end of it, that X describes something extra or new, and in the case of adventure, X usually marks the spot or to describe ‘crossing’ over any kind of terrain.
The Fiat 500X has a sporty logo on the tailgate and the brand has pushed the X messaging hard, calling it the ‘neXt generation crossover’. While it isn’t a 4×4, the style updates give it a rugged look and it’s the kind of car that’s within reach of us all; something that is easy to park and load up with kit. With two new turbo-charged petrol engines on offer, a 1.0 litre and a 1.3 litre, which give plenty of poke, this is a car that isn’t going to cost you a fortune in fuel to run.
Car manufacturers are always listening to the market to try and understand what drives our decisions to buy a car and with the Fiat 500X, they’ve created a vehicle that can hold its own in the city, but can also let us escape and get outta town for an adventure. It’s fair to say after I spent a day driving around the Mendip Hills, I’d say Fiat has done the job very nicely.
I drove the Cross Plus version, the most adventurous version out of the three on offer (the other two are called the Urban and the City Cross). The additions that make the Cross Plus version different are that it comes with LED headlights, front fog lights,18-inch wheels and built-in roof bars so that you can carry bikes, skis, snowboards or an extra luggage compartment. Inside there’s TomTom navigation, along with a rear parking camera and a dusk sensor that automatically switches on the headlights for you.
My drive started in the middle of Bristol, an ideal place to show that the Fiat 500X can escape a busy city centre swiftly and get you into the outdoors. The route went via the Clifton Suspension bridge, south to the beautiful seaside town of Clevedon and then on through the Cheddar Gorge (there are some great climbing routes here) and into the Mendip Hills (perfect for mountain biking).
On offer was a really good mix of roads, everything from dual carriageway to motorway, to A roads and B roads, and I have to say, the car was pretty impressive to drive. I’d expected the handling to be a bit off, but no, it glided its way through sharp country bends with finesse, like a seasoned trail runner, and the 120hp 1.0-litre engine really surprised me. The engines have been given the name ‘Firefly’ and Fiat said before I left that “you’ll find them to be very refined, quiet and fuel efficient”. At the end of the day I saw a 29.6mpg average figure on the dash, not too bad for a petrol and considering a day of stop/starting.
Fiat’s product guy, Jerome de Biasi explained that they’ve done a lot of Noise Vibration & Harshness (NVH) work on the existing Fiat 500X to make the new 500X much less noisy and smoother to drive.
Fiat UK’s managing director, Arnaud Leclerc, says that the 500X is one of the biggest launches in recent years for the brand. “It’s not just a facelift,” he is keen to point out. “It was time for us to modernise and keep the 500 ‘feel’ but bring something with style, efficiency and safety.”
The new bumper design and headlight do give the Cross Plus a more rugged look than the ‘cuter’ Urban and City Cross versions. Even the front bumper looks like it has the arrival angle of a 4×4 and the front and rear of the car, including that 500X logo, do help with making this look more like a SUV. Other changes like making the instrument cluster much more readable with a new, modern looking font instead of the older style have a big impact on how it feels inside, as does the body coloured dashboard. There are also some great fabric and colour options for the interior, with a stunning Copper Fabric with black ‘technoleather’ and copper piping one of my favourites. There’s also a brown leather option with ivory piping which has an adventurey theme. And the stitching of the 500X logo in to the seat, again helps with positioning the car as something sporty and adventurous.
I drove the Techno Green version (metallic paint) and there’s a large choice of 14 colours to choose from, two that are tricoat, six that are metallic, four that are pastel and two that are matt. Fiat might hate me for saying this, but I’m still not bowled over by the looks; it does keep that overall profile of the ‘500’, but I find myself lusting over the other SUVs and crossovers in the segment. You have to really love that Fiat 500 shape to fall in love with the 500X.
I’m really impressed by the safety technology that comes as standard on this car though. The lane assist works very well and as I passed over the central white lines on some of the A and B roads near to the Cheddar Gorge, it immediately flashed up a light in the centre of the instrument cluster to tell me to do something about it. One of the other cool things on this car is there’s a camera that can recognise speed limit signs and road signs, and it notifies you by flashing up an image in the cluster (Fiat calls this Traffic Sign Recognition and Intelligent Speed Assist). Even better is that with a click of a button you can adjust the speed of the car to automatically match the speed sign that the car has just seen. Elsewhere, especially on the motorway, the Blind Spot Detection works well and a light comes on in the side mirrors if there’s a car sitting either side of you, just out of view. The rear parking camera works very well too.
The 7” HD touchscreen is impressive as well, coming with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay os that it can mirror what’s on your phone. The Cross Plus version has 3D TomTom navigation (with live weather and traffic) and there’s a USB input, an AUX input and Bluetooth to connect devices. There’s a further three USB ports, one in the central tunnel and another two on the dash. For music on road trips, you’ll love the ‘Beats’ speaker system, consisting of nine speakers and an amplifier!
Let’s talk about some of the additions and options that an adventurer might want. To make the car even more capable in the winter there’s a Winter Optional Pack which gives you heated front seats and a heated wiper area for frosty starts. There’s also a Premium pack that adds a rain sensor for the wiper blades to come on automatically. There’s also a ‘Carrying System Line’ which lets you add a bike rack or ski rack as well as guards, nets and organising systems for the luggage compartments. And if you want to improve the looks even further there’s a big choice of customisation kits made by the brand Mopar.
“We say the 500X is a nice little crossover with plenty of features for anyone who wants a day-to-day car that’s manageable in towns and cities, but that can also hold its own in the outdoors. The 500X Cross Plus is ideal for those wanting to show off outdoor style on city streets.”
Fiat 500X Cross Plus 1.0 120hp Manual £20,995
Fiat 500X Cross Plus 1.3 150hp DCT Automatic £23,195 (so £3,200 more that the 1.0 litre one)