By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
With the addition of the 2016 Fiat 500X to the lineup, the Italian automaker finally offers a competitive mainstream choice to buyers for whom the cutesy 500 and oddball 500L just don't cut it. Developed primarily for the U.S. market, the little SUV's combination of features, style and value make it a compelling choice in a growing segment that includes the Mini Countryman, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, and Mazda CX-3. Not only does this little Italian job have the features, size, and price equation nailed, it also offers high-tech features like lane-keeping assist and forward collision warning. The downside is that the suspension sacrifices a comfortable ride for snappy handling. If you don't mind a bouncy ride around town, it's worth a close look.
If you like the idea of owning an Italian car, but Fiat's specialized offerings haven't fit your lifestyle, the new 500X may be just what you've been waiting for. It's also good for anyone wanting a handsome compact SUV that offers lots of features and good handling at a modest price.
The new 500X isn't as off-road ready as its Jeep Renegade cousin, and its around-town ride is notably stiff. Additionally, the 9-speed automatic transmission isn't the most refined transmission in the class. The Honda HR-V isn't as stylish, but it is more versatile, and its shiftless CVT offers unmatched smoothness.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Fiat 500X is an all-new vehicle for Fiat this year. Sharing its basic underpinnings with the Jeep Renegade, it's the most mainstream vehicle available from the Italian company, and is sure to have broader appeal than the tiny 500 or the oddly styled 500L SUV.
It's hard to escape the fact that the Fiat 500X bounces and bumps over even modestly sized dips and humps, although it handles things like freeway expansion joints well. The...
... payoff is in handling, as this compact crossover SUV puts its stiff suspension and quick electrically assisted steering to good use on twisty mountain roads. A Dynamic Selector system lets you choose between Auto, Sport and Traction+ modes. Auto is the default, while Sport quickens shifts, stiffens steering, and sensitizes your right foot's activities. Traction+ retunes everything to make sure you don't lose traction on slippery surfaces. While there's plenty of power from the 2.4-liter engine, the 9-speed automatic transmission hinders the fun with slow reactions and the occasional hard shift. The base 500X setup is a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder with a 6-speed manual gearbox. On the road, the new 500X is surprisingly quiet for the class, with wind and road noise well controlled.
While many vehicles now offer adjustable drive modes, the Dynamic Selector in the new 500X surprised us not just by offering notable differences between the modes, but by being available in almost every model, and in front- and all-wheel drive.
ADVANCED SAFETY SYSTEMS
It's gratifying to see how quickly things like lane-keeping assist and collision mitigation systems have trickled from luxury cars to mainstream vehicles like the 500X. Everyone deserves safety, and these optional systems, along with blind-spot detection, expand that safety envelope for Fiat 500X buyers.
The new 500X offers a surprisingly refined feeling interior, with soft-touch points on the dash and armrests, and high-quality controls all sensibly arranged. The front seats are very comfortable, and it's easy to find a good driving position regardless of driver height. Rear headroom is pretty good, although there's not a lot of legroom for tall passengers. Cargo space expands quickly thanks to fold-down rear seats, and the flip-forward passenger seat helps this little SUV handle long loads, like a surfboard. We also like the digital display between the gauges, which is user-configurable through buttons on the steering wheel.
Fiat wisely chose the sporty and cute 500 as inspiration for its most mainstream vehicle, and the new 500X may very well be the best looking Fiat you can buy in the U.S. With nice proportions and just enough hints of the smaller 500 to make it interesting, the 500X is a sharp-looking compact crossover SUV, one that turned plenty of heads in style-conscious Los Angeles. The 500X comes in two general styles, with the more "street"-designed Pop, Easy and Lounge trim levels contrasting with the slightly more rugged off-road look of the Trekking and Trekking Plus models.
The base 2016 Fiat 500X Pop model comes standard with air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, and USB and auxiliary inputs for the 4-speaker audio system. It also comes with a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission. However, the next step up is the Easy trim, and it offers considerably more standard equipment, including the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic transmission, aluminum-alloy wheels, Dynamic Selector, push-button ignition, improved Uconnect audio with Bluetooth, Uconnect Access via Mobile, SiriusXM satellite radio, and an additional charging-only USB port.
Aside from color and drivetrain, the base Pop model doesn't offer much in the way of options. Higher trim levels include Easy and Lounge, or the more ruggedly styled Trekking and Trekking Plus. Here you have your choice of several option packages that add niceties like automatic climate control, a dual-panel sunroof, parking sensors, blind-spot detection, and a backup camera. The good news is that even the lower-level Easy model can be equipped with navigation and most other high-tech options, although lane-departure warning and forward collision mitigation are reserved for the top-line Lounge and Trekking Plus models.
The base Pop model comes standard with a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. It's the only way to get a manual transmission in the new 500X. Optional on the Pop, and standard on all other models, is a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Available in front- and all-wheel drive, the engine puts out plenty of horsepower, but the drivetrain suffers from slow downshifts and even the occasional hard upshift from the 9-speed automatic. The Sport mode on the Dynamic Selector makes things a little quicker, but doesn't cure the problem. On the plus side, the part-time all-wheel-drive system fully disengages the rear-drive portion when the SUV doesn't need it, helping fuel economy.
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
180 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
175 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
Prices on base Fiat 500X Pop models start very reasonably, just below $21,000 – including the $900 destination charge. If you like the cleaner "street" look of the Pop but want a little more, the up-level Easy and Lounge SUVs start at about $23,000 and just below $26,000, respectively. On the other hand, the more ruggedly styled (but no more rugged) Trekking and Trekking Plus start at $24,000 and $28,000. All-wheel drive adds $1,900, and options can push the price to more than $30,000 on top-trim models. We think the mid-level Trekking and Lounge models offer a solid value compared to competitors like the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and Mini Countryman. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying in your area for their new 500X. Resale is an open question on this new model, but residual value hasn't been a strong point for Fiat generally.