The 500X is Fiat’s entry into the ever-flourishing crossover market, offering drivers a multifunctional car that boasts sporty looks whilst retaining its space and practicality credentials. The 500X is certainly a winner when it comes to versatility, but does it tick all the other boxes?

This isn’t the first time that Fiat has branched out from its ever-popular 500 city car; last year, the Italian carmaker released the 500L MPV, which, despite being practical and well built, suffered scrutiny for its marmite appearance. Whilst attempting to transfer its cutesy looks onto a larger platform, the 500L ended up looking slightly slab sided and uneasy with its own appearance.

The 500X, on the other hand, is arguably the perfect application of the 500’s looks on a larger scale.

What is it?

The 500X is a larger and more practical version of the 500 city car. It’s designed for drivers who are looking for a little more interior space without forsaking the desirability of the Fiat 500.

Offered in two and four wheel drive specifications, the 500X is ideal for those looking for a little more safety when the weather gets a little, well, British. A raised ride height, along with chunkier tyres, means the 500X will keep you safe in all-whether conditions.

What’s it like to drive?

Sportier than you think. Whilst the increase in ride height would lead you to believe the 500X is going to be softly sprung and heavy, it is quite the opposite. However, at low speeds, it does jiggle when it clips a pothole.

Up at motorway speeds, it’s predictable and level. Throw it through some corners though, and the 500X really responds with very little body roll. The gearshift is smooth and relatively accurate making it easy to maintain speed through twisty country lanes.

Then there’s the steering. Unfortunately, it lacks any road-to-wheel feeling. On the motorway it’s onyx-heavy, whilst around town it becomes almost comically light. There’s also very little blending in between. That said, it isn’t difficult to park and the handling is accurate, but there’s little in terms of feedback that you feel separated from the driving experience, which, if you believe the 500X’s ‘sporty’ description, is what the car is all about.

Just by the electronic handbrake, you’ll notice a ‘Drive Mood Selector’ switch, which offers three driving modes; auto, sport and all-weather. If you really concentrate, you will notice the difference, but most people will leave the dial in auto, which achieves the best fuel economy.

What’s it like inside?

Our test car was bursting with colour and gadgets. In Pop Star trim, there’s plenty of soft-touch material used throughout the cabin. Interestingly though, this soft-touch material isn’t used in the rear seats. Manufacturers always use lesser quality materials in certain areas to save money, but this seems a little obvious.

Up front, there’s a five-inch touchscreen, which incorporates satellite navigation, DAB radio and media player. The Bluetooth connection system it uses is easy to navigate, and both calls and filter through the speakers clearly. We'd steer you away from using the voice command system, though; it had us pulling our hair out after trying to dial one number. There’s plenty of storage space inside, with decent sized cup holders. As well as this, there’s a really useful split glove box, offering even more storage space.

Moving on to the exterior, the Fiat 500X sits on 17-inch wheels, which are enhanced by chunky, wide arches designed to make the 500X look beefy on the road. To some extent, Fiat has achieved this, and it manages to be both imposing and cutesy at the same time. A bit like a Great Dane wearing a pink bow.

All in all, the style and quality of the interior is very good with design cues brought across from the top-selling 500 fitting neatly into the 500X. Boot space isn’t the best thanks to a full sized spare wheel, but the seats can be lowered to create a larger loading area.

What’s under the bonnet?

This particular 500X was powered by a 1.6-litre diesel, which produces 120bhp. Whilst it can be a little rough when cold, that’s of small importance when returning a combined fuel economy figure of 68.9mpg. We saw 54mpg so, with some extra light-footed driving, it’s easy to see how the claimed figure could be achieved.

The engine accelerates well, but loses puff at the top of the rev range, although this is inevitable with a smaller diesel unit and won’t be noticeable to all drivers. Motorway speeds are easily achieved and the 500X will cruise comfortably at higher speeds, with performance around town just as predictable.

Fiat also offers a 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol, which would certainly be smoother, but wouldn’t return such an impressive economy figure. It still achieves a claimed figure of 47.1mpg, so if you’re looking for more response from the throttle and a slightly smoother ride, that’s the one to go for.

Should I buy one?

Following the anti-climax of the 500L, Fiat has managed to pull of something special with the 500X. Offering a good range of engines, in both two and four-wheel drive, Fiat has really entered the crossover coliseum with a fighting spirit, taking the fight to competitors like the Mini Countryman and the Renault Captur.

For good looks and charm, along with prices starting at £14,595, it’s hard to see a more attractive package than the 500X.

The facts
Fiat 500X 1.6-litre turbodiesel
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power/torque: 118bhp/320Nm
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Top speed: 116mph
Economy 68.9mpg
CO2: 109g/km

Photo: Newspress