Quick Summary The 2016 Fiat 500X is an all-new five-passenger subcompact SUV. Built on the same underpinnings as the new Jeep Renegade, the 500X offers a choice between two engines and either front- or all-wheel drive. Its modern mechanical features and a clean interior design give it a far more refined feel than previous Fiat models and make the 500X a solid contender in the class.
What Is It? Fiat's all-new 2016 500X doesn't share any underpinnings with its Italian-badged brethren. In fact, it's an all-new platform that's mechanically unrelated to other Fiats. This is a very good thing, as the new structure introduces an all-new driving position, packaging and suspension. Though the powertrain options are familiar, this Fiat ushers in an entirely different feel to the brand.
Five trim levels are available: Pop, Easy, Lounge, Trekking and Trekking Plus. Pop models start at $20,900 and come standard with a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. A larger 180-hp four-cylinder engine is optional on the Pop trim and standard on all other trim levels. The 2.4-liter engine comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels except the base Pop. The range-topping all-wheel-drive Trekking Plus 500X equipped with the 180-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder tallies $34,400 when fully loaded.
Our Lounge-trim tester with blind-spot detection and rear parking sensors stickered at $26,100.
How Does It Drive? Though you won't find yourself searching for twisty roads in the 500X, it's certainly a more confident and reliable partner than Fiat's other models. Its steering is weighty and it directs the small SUV with reasonable precision. There's a distinct on-center heft that's harder to overcome than we'd prefer, but the thick-rimmed steering wheel feels good in your hands.
The downside to this responsiveness is a fairly busy ride. It's apparent on less than perfect roads, but only sensitive drivers will notice.
You'll find a Sport mode among the 500X's three drive mode options, but even the most mild on-ramp enthusiasm is quickly dulled by aggressive stability control. Despite this, the 500X provides the most intuitive response and control feedback in the Fiat lineup. An "Auto" drive mode optimizes efficiency across throttle and transmission calibrations, while the "Traction +" mode allows wheel slip in low-grip situations.
The nine-speed automatic can be rough in the first few minutes of operation and often struggles to find the right gear at low speeds. Manual shifting is an option, but with so many gears it's usually more trouble than it's worth to find the cog that provides the desired response. Reaching 60 mph from a standstill requires 9.0 seconds, which is slower than the Mazda CX-3, but likely faster than the Honda HR-V.
Braking from 60 mph requires 121 feet, which is about average for the class. There's considerable nosedive, and our tester required small steering inputs to remain straight during full-ABS stops. Pedal feel in normal driving is firm and responsive.
Bottom line: This is the best-driving Fiat in the lineup, but it's not the best-driving subcompact SUV you can buy. Mazda's CX-3 is both quicker and more rewarding to drive.
What's the Interior Like? Combining brand identity, style and modern utility in a way that minimizes compromises is a challenge for brands seeking to infuse high style like Fiat and Mini. Fortunately, the 500X does a solid job of maximizing all three elements into a competent, attractive package.
A large, easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment interface takes center stage in the presentation. Though small at 6.5 inches across, it's still big enough to be effective thanks to intuitive controls. Dual-zone climate controls offer knobs to adjust temperature, and there are steering wheel buttons to manage cruise control and audio functions.
Materials and assembly quality are better in the 500X than in other Fiats. Secondary controls operate with satisfying precision, and the overall character of the interior approaches that of higher-spec vehicles. Partial leather is optional on Lounge models and standard on top-trim Trekking Plus trims.
A wide range of adjustment accommodates occupants of virtually any size in front seats that offer both compliance and valuable support during long drives. Rear-seat legroom, as with most vehicles in this category, isn't overly accommodating when the front seats are positioned to suit average-size adults. Three passengers across the rear seat is a tight squeeze.
Cargo space, at 32.1 cubic feet total, is less than most already-small competitors. Rear seats are 60/40-split folding but don't lay flat when folded.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect? The EPA estimates that our front-drive 2.4-liter tester will manage 25 mpg combined (22 city/31 highway). During our 837-mile test, the 500X produced 22.9 mpg overall. However, on our highway-heavy test loop it managed an impressive 32 mpg, besting the EPA's highway estimate.
What Features Are Offered? Seven airbags are standard, including a driver's knee airbag. Though they're not included across the 500X lineup, a host of safety features are available including a rearview camera, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
Our tester provided a solid array of features given its cost: heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and navigation, plus keyless entry and start. The Easy and Trekking trim levels come standard with a 5.5-inch dashboard display that allows access to the satellite radio and Bluetooth connection. The larger 6.5-inch setup with navigation is an option on the Easy and Trekking and standard on the Lounge and Trekking Plus. A Beats premium audio system is optional on all but the base trim. There are numbered packages for each trim level that add various options like additional convenience and safety features.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider? There isn't yet an established big player in this new segment. However, Honda's 2016 HR-V offers a roomy, versatile interior and very good fuel economy.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3, which is based on the compact Mazda 2, maintains the brand's identity with responsive handling and adds impressive interior materials and design.
Why Should You Consider This Car? The 500X is probably the best Fiat ever sold in the U.S., so if you've been attracted to the brand's styling and personality but fearful of its quality, it's worth a look. It's also a good value when you consider the features it offers for the money spent. Materials and assembly quality are at or above the segment standard, and our testing proved that excellent fuel economy isn't out of the question.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car? There are SUVs in this segment that handle and ride better than the 500X — sometimes in the same package. And even among this very compact group of utility vehicles, this one offers less space than most.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.