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2018 FIAT 500X Review

2018 FIAT 500X Review
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The 2018 Fiat 500X comes with more built-in personality than most other small SUVs, though it’s an urban warrior rather than an off-roader.

The 2018 Fiat 500X is peak Italian-American collaboration like espresso drinks. Designed in Italy for American tastes, the small crossover is related to the Jeep Renegade—not that it's immediately noticeable. 

Small crossovers are hugely popular right now, and the 500X adds sales to the aging Fiat lineup with a mix of Italian style and utility-vehicle practicality. We rate the 2018 Fiat 500X at 6.3 out of 10 overall.

This year the Fiat 500X adds a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera on all trims. Several appearance packages, including the Urbana Edition, are available for multiple trims, so if personal expression is your thing, do what you want to do.
Review continues below

The 500X faces a growing array of competitors, among them its corporate sibling the Jeep Renegade, the Honda HR-V, a pair of GM entries (the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore), the sporty Mazda CX-3, and soon, the Hyundai Kona (which we haven’t driven yet on U.S. soil).

Last year Fiat pared down a sprawling lineup of 500X models to a more comprehensible three trim levels. The Pop is the base level, with a smaller engine, a manual gearbox, and only front-wheel drive. The Trekking is a more rugged-looking mid-level model, though it doesn’t actually have any more off-road cred than any other all-wheel drive version, and the 500X Lounge is the top trim. All versions have decent road manners, though they remain more urban warriors than rock-climbing trucks.

Overall, we liked the 500X for its style and value, but we sense that perhaps it’s struggling to find its niche in a brand known for its lineup of small, very European front-wheel-drive economy cars. The 500X is the most North American of Fiats, but is that enough?

We like the design of the 2018 Fiat 500X, both inside and out; its Italian character shines through without verging into strangeness.

Now in its third year on the market, the Fiat 500X is hardly the most noticeable small utility vehicle. Instead, its charms are more subtle, and many are contained inside. Smart exterior design and an elegant interior add two extra points to our rating, giving it a score of 7 out of 10 points for styling. 

The outline of the Fiat 500X came from the company’s design studio in Italy, unlike the Jeep Renegade that shares its underpinnings. The smooth, low-drag outline almost echoes some Audi styling cues, but in a more subtle, well-tailored way. The little Fiat 500 minicar will always be a classic, but the third family member, the 500L tall wagon, instantly becomes the ugly stepsister next to the quietly confident 500X.

The “chrome mustache” that identifies a Fiat is still present, below a clamshell hood and twin headlights. It’s the most adult of the Fiat 500 range, though the mid-level Trekking trim butches it up with chunkier front and rear caps and more emphasis on the wheel arches. It’s a bit of a poser, though; if you want off-road ability, go for the Jeep.

A dashboard that contains large, round gauges and matching big, chunky round climate control knobs is topped by a smallish touchscreen in the center. Like the little 500 compact, body-color trim accents are available, but the quality and texture of the materials and fabrics combine with straightforward but somehow elegant lines to add up to more than the sum of its parts.

The 2018 Fiat 500X is most fun with a manual gearbox, but the mainstream automatic version doesn't stand out from competitors in any way.

Fiat has carefully packaged the powertrains for the 500X, which can be ordered with two engines, two transmissions, and two drive options. But each of them has drawbacks, and in its most common configurations, there’s not much to make the 500X stand out from the pack. We rate it at an average 5 out of 10 points.

The base Fiat 500X Pop with a 160-horsepower turbo-4 comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. That combination severely limits its sales potential, so although it’s the most fun to drive—if not very refined—it’s hardly relevant to the 500X models most buyers will choose.

Those will be fitted with a 180-hp 2.4-liter inline-4, paired only to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This combination comes standard with front-wheel drive; optional all-wheel drive adds just under $2,000. The 9-speed transmission has been problematic in earlier Fiat Chrysler cars, but various refinements have tamed its worst instincts and it’s no longer as unpredictable as it used to be.
The Fiat 500X has decent road manners for a small SUV, but it’s not the maneuverable roller skate that the original Fiat 500 compact car is. It rides firmly, but even the optional 18-inch wheels with lower-profile tires aren’t punishing as they are in some competitors. The electric power steering doesn’t have much feedback, but the 500X remains an entertaining example of the genre. Traction on the front-wheel-drive version is good, while the AWD system completely disconnects to reduce friction and fuel consumption until it’s needed for traction.

The 500X remains an urban warrior, though, not an off-roader. For that, you need to look toward its Jeep Renegade sibling.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Fiat 500X is well packaged, with distinctive and high-quality interior decor.

The 2018 Fiat 500X is the first member of the Fiat lineup designed for U.S. sale from the start, meaning its dimensions are as much North American as European. That translates to a suitably wide cabin and comfortable seats for four. We rate it at 6 out of 10 points, adding an extra point for the general quality of its interior materials. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Although it’s about five inches shorter than the Fiat 500L tall wagon, which doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, the interior volume and cargo space is roughly the same due to modern packaging. The front seats are firm, with enough bolstering to keep occupants of all sizes in place, but the panoramic moonroof cuts into head room. The 500X isn’t as spacious as the voluminous Honda HR-V in back, but it’ll hold four adults comfortably enough. If that moonroof it fitted, though, rear-seat riders had better be short.

Cargo volume is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seat up, and 50.8 cubic feet when it’s folded down. That rear seat back doesn’t quite lie flat, though, and the HR-V wins big-time for its supremely flexible “Magic Seat” that moves into many different arrangements to free up cargo space.

We liked the adjustable rear floor panel on the Trekking and Lounge models, which inserts into a pair of slides to raise the height. Installed that way, it sits at the same level as the fold-down front passenger seat, giving room for items as long as the whole passenger compartment. We also liked the thoughtful pad on the center console where the driver’s knee rests.

It’s the interior trim that distinguishes the 500X from rivals. Color inserts from brown to orange set it apart, and there’s clearly an Italian design aesthetic at play here. The HR-V looks moving-van utilitarian in comparison, despite a shiny black plastic dash that reflects in certain lights in the Fiat.

On the road, the 500X is quiet under most circumstances. Even on highways or at full throttle, it’s a modern vehicle and more than acceptable for a utility vehicle whose shape works against noise suppression.

The 2018 Fiat 500X has only been crash-tested by the IIHS, which gives it relatively high marks; it offers numerous advanced active-safety features.

The 2018 Fiat 500X hasn’t been tested at all by the NHTSA, but the IIHS gives it relatively high marks, including a Top Safety Pick designation. The institute gave it the best mark of “Good” on every test, including the challenging small-overlap frontal crash. Still, the incomplete information means the most we can give the 500X for safety is 6 out of 10 points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, a rearview camera is standard on all trim levels (as is hill-start assist). If the optional automatic emergency braking feature is ordered, the IIHS also gives the 500X an "Advanced" rating for front crash prevention—but it’ll cost buyers $1,300 and isn’t available on the base Pop trim level.

The mid-level Trekking and top Lounge trims offer an optional bundle of advanced active-safety features: lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, automatic high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.

Rear three-quarter visibility isn’t particularly good due to the stubby shape, thick pillars, and tall rear-seat headrests of the 500X. On the other hand, the low hood and shoulder line provide good side and front visibility.

The 2018 Fiat 500X has well thought-out trim levels that represent fairly good value for money.

The 2018 Fiat 500X continues with three trim levels: the base Pop, the more outdoorsy Trekking, and the high-end Lounge. All three are well-equipped in their segments, and a wide range of standard and optional equipment at reasonable prices give the 500X two extra points, rating it at 8 out of 10 on our scale.

All 500X models include standard power windows, mirrors, and locks; a rearview camera; audio controls on the steering wheel; air conditioning; cloth seats and a 7.0-inch touchscreen on all trims. The base Pop comes with the 1.4-liter turbo-4 engine and 6-speed manual gearbox, only with front-wheel drive. The 2.4-liter engine and 9-speed automatic that are standard on the Trekking and Lounge versions is an option for the Pop as well.

The Trekking, while it has styling accessories like wheels and new front and rear fascias to signal “outdoor adventure,” isn’t really any more capable than the others. But it adds tinted glass, 17-inch alloy wheels, better cloth (with leather as an option) on the seats, keyless entry, and a touchscreen on the dash. At the top of the line is the Lounge, which adds a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen, a heated steering wheel, and trim embellishments to give it more of a luxe look.

Options can be ordered individually, but most are grouped into bundles. The Popular Equipment Package for the Pop (truth in packaging?) adds parking assistance, alloy wheels, and a leather-covered steering wheel. For the Trekking, that package adds automatic climate control and power adjustment for the driver’s seat. A heated steering wheel and seats can be added to the Trekking as well.

The Premium package for the Lounge and Trekking adds a panoramic moonroof (which has a terrible effect on head room, ahem), 18-inch alloy wheels, and a Beats sound system. Finally, an Advanced Safety Package for those same two vehicles bundles automatic emergency braking, forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, blind-spot monitors, automatic high beams for the headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.

Fuel Economy
The most fuel-efficient version of the 2018 Fiat 500X recommends premium gas; the more common version is only average.

The most frugal version of the 2018 Fiat 500X has the smallest engine, a 1.4-liter turbo-4, and a 6-speed manual gearbox, rated at 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined. But there’s a kicker: premium gasoline is recommended for the high-output little engine.

The far more common 2.4-liter 4-cylinder version comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission; it’s rated at 21/29/24 mpg with all-wheel drive, improving slightly to 22/30/25 mpg if only the front wheels are driven. That engine uses regular gasoline.


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