Fiat has given the 500X a significant upgrade, so we took it for a spin to find out whether the 500’s big brother has the X Factor…
The Fiat 500X is now a familiar sight on our roads, but it’s fair to say that it hasn’t reached the iconic status of its smaller sibling – the dinky 500.
When the 500X joined the growing Fiat 500 family in 2014, it certainly looked grown-up and ticked a couple of big boxes – allowing Fiat to tap into the booming compact crossover market and tempting 500 owners who’ve outgrown their car to move up to the 500X.
However, since then its list of rivals has multiplied. In terms of size, it sits somewhere between the Nissan Juke/Citroen C3 Aircross and the slightly larger Skoda Karoq/Seat Ateca, so it has no end of competitors.
Unlike the 500L, which divides opinion aesthetically, the 500X is much better proportioned and actually looks like a bigger 500.
And for this upgrade, Fiat has wisely decided to leave the 500X’s exterior design pretty much intact.
There are also still two versions (‘Urban’ and ‘Cross’ look), though the trim levels have been simplified down to just three – Urban, City Cross and Cross Plus – and there’s now no 4×4 option or diesel.
New LED daylight running lights and LED rear light clusters are standard across the range, bringing the 500X closer in looks to the rest of the 500 family, and delivering a distinctive front light signature.
The other subtle changes include a tweaked front and rear bumper design for the Urban version, while the Cross gets new-look protective skid plates.
There are also new wheel options and three cool new colours – Techno Green, Italian Blue and Ivory.
Inside, the dashboard has also been brought into line with the rest of the 500 family. For instance, the instrument binnacle ahead of the driver maintains its three circular elements, blending retro style and modern technology. Two analogue dials (speedometer and tachometer) flank a 3.5-inch TFT display which provides key information to the driver.
Elsewhere, areas of the dashboard now feature the car’s body colour (just like the 500), and there are more 500 logos sprinkled in and outside the cabin.
Perhaps the most significant change is under the bonnet where the 500X becomes the first Fiat model to feature the new ‘Firefly’ series of efficient turbo engines.
Priced from £16,995, the line-up includes a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit which delivers 120hp and is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
There’s also a four-cylinder 1.3-litre engine with 150hp combined with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT).
The 1.0-litre engine can reach 62mph from standstill in 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 117mph. Fuel economy is up to 48.7mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 133g/km.
The larger petrol turbo is slightly faster with a 0-62mph of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 124, while fuel economy is up to 45.6mpg with CO2 emissions from 140g/km.
There’s also an entry-level 110hp 1.6-litre petrol engine, but it’s the 1.0-litre unit that’s likely to be the most popular option and I tested this in top-of-the-range Cross Plus trim, starting at £20,995.
The new 500X now offers safety assistance systems. Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Assist and Lane Assist are standard, while Blind Spot Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control and City Brake Control (Fiat’s version of Autonomous Emergency Braking, or AEB) can also be specified.
Last, but not least, all versions of the 500X now come with the latest Uconnect 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen system, complete with Apple CarPlay integration and Android Auto compatibility as standard.
More than a makeover, this upgrade brings the new 500X bang up to date, but what’s it like on the road?
The new 1.0-litre ‘Firefly’ petrol turbo may be small, but it’s punchy and unless you regularly have a full complement of passengers and luggage, it should have more than enough grunt for everyday driving.
It’s refined too for a three-cylinder and it’s only when pushed that you can hear that familiar thrum. You’ll need to work the six-speed manual gearbox if you want to make rapid progress, but generally it’s an impressive little engine.
The steering is light, making it ideal for urban driving, while the ride is on the firm side, which means it’s fine on smooth surfaces but feels less sophisticated on rougher roads.
It would be wrong to say the 500X has class-leading handling, but it’s perfectly acceptable. Generally, it feels solid and stable when cruising, while body lean is well in check when cornering at speed.
Elsewhere the 500X is much the same. With a high-driving position, there’s plenty of space up front and loads of storage spaces. It’s possible to squeeze three adults in the back, though taller passengers (over 6ft) might struggle for rear headroom. The boot is 350 litres, rising to 1,000 litres when the rear (60/40 split) seats are flipped down.
The new infotainment system is definitely an improvement, though the touchscreen is still on the small side, and there are units with clearer graphics out there. The retro-feel dashboard with body colour works really well and overall the car is well put together.
Verdict: The updated Fiat 500X is a distinctive, well-equipped choice in the incredibly competitive compact crossover sector. The willing new 1.0-litre petrol turbo and safety systems are welcome additions, while its improved connectivity will do it no harm either. Ultimately, finance deals may well be the clincher for many because the 500X is available on PCP from just £159 a month.