Motoring / Road Tests
Before we can talk about the updated Fiat 500X, we must turn back the clock a bit.
There are few modern cars that match the Fiat 500 in terms of personality. Cute. Perky. Daring. Call it want you want, it is an iconic piece of work that deserves its cult status.
But as much as most women I know love the Fiat 500, there is a teensy little problem with it. As live happens, everyone eventually needs more space, and with that the need for a bigger car.
Fiat’s first attempt at a bigger offering, the 500L MPV, was not the Italian carmaker’s finest moment. Instead of producing a bigger version of the 500 with similar charm, the 500L became an unflattering, bloated offering without the sexy round curve of the rear roofline.
But at least the Italians had the savvy to right their wrongs with the introduction of the Fiat 500X in the middle of the previous decade. This time, Fiat ditched the idea of a MPV in favour of an SUV (crossover of some sorts to be pedantic).
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The carmaker ticked two big boxes with the Fiat 500X. It resembles the Fiat 500’s rounded rear roofline and is the world’s most preferred body style: a compact SUV.
You could argue that the Fiat 500X is merely a Jeep Renegade wearing a different suit seeing the two products from the fellow Stellantis carmakers share the same platform. But there is no denying that the Fiat 500X’s styling as the SUV version of the Fiat 500 is spot on. It offers greater versatility and comfortably seats four adults.
On the outside it remains quite unique in its quirkiness without going over the top. And on the inside, its resemblance to the Fiat 500 in terms of styling is obvious, again being slightly more conservative on the switchgear.
You do have to give Fiat credit for factoring in that a few pairs of small hands will just get into trouble should there be too many things to play with.
Following in the immediate footsteps of the Fiat 500, Stellantis recently tweaked its local Fiat 500X line-up. The four-model range now consists of the entry-level Cult, followed by the Connect, Cross and Sport. We recently had the Connect on test, which retails for R449 900.
Apart from the styling, the highlight of the Fiat 500X is its drivetrain. The 1.4-litre turbocharger petrol engine producing 103kW/230Nm is standard across the range. In the case of the Connect, the grunt is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
While manual transmissions are on the decline, we must admit that changing gears ourselves was half the fun of driving the Fiat 500X Connect. From around 2 500rpm, the engine hits a sweet spot which results in rather surprising pulling power.
Once you figure out the optimal time for changing gears, the drive starts matching the look and feel of the Fiat 500X and you feel like dicing everyone that looks at your car in a funny way.
We managed to achieve 9.1 L/100 km over the course of 442 km. It doesn’t sound great seeing that the smaller sibling runs on fumes, but it was worth it taking into consideration our spirited acceleration after figuring out the sweet spot. And one the reasons the 875 cc Fiat 500 runs on fumes is because of the complete lack of spirited acceleration.
We were also impressed with the Fiat 500X Connect’s specification levels. On the outside it features 16-inch alloy wheels, LED day-time running lights inspired by the zero in the distinctive 500-logo, body-colour mirrors, fog lights and privacy glass.
The festival continues on the inside with a Techno-leather multi-function steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat and front arm rest. The seven-inch Uconnect entertainment system features six speakers and is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth compatible.
Additional convenience comes in the form of rain and dusk sensing wipers and lights, along with rear parking sensors, cruise control and electric parking brake.
Like the Fiat 500, its bigger sibling’s safety is also top notch. The Fiat 500X comes standard with ABS, Electronic Stability Control, six airbags and Hill Hold.
Overall we thought the Fiat 500X Connect fits the bill. You can argue that R449 900 can buy you bigger options, but the idea of the 500X was never to be the biggest car in its segment.
It is rather a bigger option for buyers requiring more space than what a Fiat 500 can offer them. And like the Fiat 500, the 500X isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who prefer their tea in their own unique way, the unique Fiat 500X will do just fine.
For more information on the Fiat 500X, click here.