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2016 Fiat 500X

2016 Fiat 500X

At just about the time Pope Francis was being driven away from Joint Base Andrews in his Fiat 500L, I was pulling out of the parking lot of Northtown Fiat in this week’s test car, the new Fiat 500X. Sorry, Your Holiness, but I drove a 500L ages ago. Getest thee with the program!

While the 500L was Fiat’s first four-door iteration of the tiny little car, the 500X is its first all wheel-drive crossover, so I decided to see how it measured up.

Fiat may not want to hear this, but the 500X is still a cute car. With the addition of another set of doors and the (available) all wheel-drive setup, it now becomes an everyday practical family vehicle for families of more than one (or two). It has a very usable 60/40 folding back seat with plenty of storage behind in the multi-level floored cargo area. The front passenger seat also folds flat for carrying extra-long items with the hatch closed. Everything was well in reach and simple to figure out, but I wish that either the speedometer or tachometer were in the center area of the gauge cluster in front of the driver. Checking my speed I kept searching for the right dial. I guess you get used to it, but still...

Entry into the 500X is easy as the raised ride height makes it simple to slide in. The rear seemed a little more cramped getting in, but once seated there was plenty of room all around. I see no problem with two full-grown adults or three kids back there for a long drive.

My test car, chosen for me by Northtown’s Paden Preziotte (assisted by Michael Flessa, who I promised I’d mention!), was the Easy AWD model, second rung up in the 500X pecking order. Pricing starts with the Pop (on which the AWD system is not available) and moves up through Easy, Trekking, Lounge, and Trekking Plus. Standard powerplant for the Easy is Fiat’s 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir four cylinder, rated at 180 hp. It’s connected to an excellent nine-speed automatic transmission — a combination good for an EPA rating of 21/30 mpg city/highway. This engine-tranny combo is standard on all models except the Pop, which comes with a 1.4L 160 hp four and a six-speed manual transmission (the 2.4 and nine-speed are optional). And the 2.4 moved the small crossover right smartly along on my test drive, which consisted of highway, back road, and Interstate driving. Good pickup, nice engine/exhaust sound, and smooth shifting from the nine-speed made the 500X seem like a more expensive car.

The starting price for a Pop, front-wheel-drive with a stick shift, is a manageable 20 grand even. My test car, with the AWD option, listed at $24,200 plus destination. Included on the Rosso Passione (you probably know it better as “red”) test car were: 17-inch aluminum wheels, Auto-Sport-Traction+ driving mode selector (I was quite content to leave it in Sport for most of the test drive), five-inch touch screen six-speaker radio with SiriusXM, and a center console with the all-important center armrest.

Getting back to the styling, the 500X is every bit a 500, but looks more like a real car than does the original 500 Hatch which still reminds me of something from the Disney movie Cars. Although Fiat tells us in their PR package that the front of the car has the “...signature ‘whiskers and logo face’ (which pays) homage to the original Cinquecento,” male owners might not want to bring that at up their next poker game. Overall it’s a pleasing shape which is much in tune with other compact crossovers on the market right now. And it’s good to see a little color in the interior—there’s more than one two-tone interior combination available, and the car’s exterior color is carried through via accents on the dash. And speaking of color, Fiat offers more than the usual range, as there are two reds, an orange, a soothing gray, a bronze, and a handsome dark green.

Anyone shopping compact crossovers owes it to themselves to take a look at the 500X. Before the Pope shows up causing a stampede.

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