Personality to spare

Fiat 500X is full of character outside, inside

This week’s vehicle can be called a crossover, because that’s technically what it is. But with all due respect, it doesn’t look much like a crossover, and certainly doesn’t perform like one, either. The Fiat 500X is in a class of its own, really.

With some Italian inspiration, it shares the “cutesy” looks of the regular Fiat 500 but sits higher off the ground and has all-wheel drive. Therefore, it’s categorized as a subcompact crossover. Let’s not try to label it as former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and David Mikesell take a closer look.

JIMMY: The appearance alone is undeniably a Fiat. It has character and personality oozing from its exterior shell. If you don’t like the 500 or the 500L, then you won’t appreciate the 500x. They’re all in the family with a resemblance that is undeniable. For me, the looks are too cutesy, especially for something trying to pass for a crossover.

The bulbous appearance, while certainly distinctive, will appeal to fewer consumers. That’s always the case with distinctively designed vehicles. The 500X is bold and is aimed at a younger crowd, and is more feminine-looking than other crossovers on the road. The entire front end of the Fiat 500x is cartoonish. You can almost see the round headlights blinking at you, and would be fitted with those annoying eyelash accessories, usually left for VW Beetles.

The 500X comes in a wide array of vibrant colors, too, all of which match its bubbly persona. My tester in fact was a bright yellow. It was bold, but these paint coats do look good on the 500x.

DAVE: Our review vehicles would have created quite a sight side by side as the one I drove was orange, or arancio as they say in Italian. Jimmy has a stronger feeling about the looks than I do as they left me rather ambivalent compared to other smaller Fiats, which to me are more unique and include the hatchback Abarth that I also recently drove and will review at a later date.

JIMMY: Inside, the five-passenger 500X has more space than any of the other 500s and also has the nicest interior of its Italian siblings. Touch points and interior materials are significantly improved from other Fiats. There are still some hard plastic materials on the dashboard, but considering the price point of the 500X, it’s forgivable. The center stack is clean and well organized. The angle of the center touchscreen works well with Chrysler’s UConnect system, as the infotainment system is intuitive and runs through a 6.5-inch touchscreen.

The back seat is adequate, but lacks significant legroom. Although technically designed for three passengers, it’s best suited for two.

DAVE: While there are two engine options for the 500X, Jimmy and I both sampled the 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. There is also a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 160 hp. Even with 180 ponies in a compact car, Jimmy and I agree that this version didn’t elicit much excitement. Coupled with a 9-speed automatic transmission, the 500X proved an adequate cruiser for me but shows its strength in town. My tester had the standard front-wheel drive, at which Jimmy scoffs.

JIMMY: To me, not getting this vehicle in all-wheel drive defeats the point as that’s one of the features that makes it a “crossover” and separates it from the regular 500.

DAVE: Where the 500X draws its advantages in the Fiat lineup is with its cargo space. It’s like a “regular” car with 18.5 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and 50.8 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded.

JIMMY: There are five trim levels for the 500X. Fiat continues the cutesy trim names like Pop, Easy and Lounge but then adds more rugged names like Trekking and Trekking Plus. We both tested the Trekking trim, which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a more rugged front fascia and fog lights. This is a more “SUV-like” trim for the 500X, and the choice I’d recommend.

DAVE: With decent fuel economy (25 mpg EPA average for front-wheel drive), the eye-catching Fiat nameplate and expanded dimensions, the 500X takes a run at the masses, don’t you think, Jimmy?

JIMMY: The Fiat 500X represents Fiat’s entry into the growing compact crossover segment. Aimed at urban and youthful consumers, it brings personality and pizzazz to the segment where so many vehicles look the same. Too bad there’s not that same enthusiasm in the powertrain, otherwise, the Fiat 500X could be a real contender in the segment.

David Mikesell is a freelance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis. Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

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