Really wanted to incorporate Best of Awards into the headline for this new Fiat 500X — but just ran out of space. What a stellar machine!
With a drive experience recalling BMW’s and Audi’s, plus a cabin with fantastic Euro feel, the 2016 500X is an absolute gem from its $20k base price.
Over a week of flogging the 500X Trekking in full sport mode glory, we fell hard for the 500X’s charms. To the point that even the design of the nose started to feel familiar and cute!
As cute as Bei Bei the Panda cub at the National Zoo? At least in terms of cuteness and affection felt… they do feel like twinsies!
What are the loving and caring hormones a mama bear feels for her rugrat? That is how you feel after a romp in the 500X. Its raspy 2.4-liter engine zinging up the revcounter through nine auto gears is delightful, its handling comfy but rock-solid and pure at highway speeds and beyond, plus a quality feel all around the large five-seat cabin. All this — and the 500X instantly has us recommending it at the top of the burgeoning compact crossover segment.
How could the 500X impress so much more on the road than even its Jeep Renegade Trailhawk sibling? Check out the HD drive video, 75 new photos and full review sections below to find out!
HD Drive Video – 2016 FIAT 500X Trekking Review
As silly as the comparison to a baby Panda above might seem, that is actually pretty on-target for the 500X’s origins in the Fiat global model line. The five-door Panda hatch is a legend for its plucky anti-style, huge utility and even off-road prowess via the Panda 4×4 models.
What Fiat has created in the all-new 500X is an evolution on the theme: a baby Jeep with boxy lines, and a slinky Fiat 500X with a lower roof, four doors and much sexier curves for its hood and bubble glasshouse.
All these abstract descriptions of the 500X positioning and roots…
Does the 500X look good? Yes, it definitely does!
But does it make a love-at-first-sight impression?
The nose design difference between the 500X vs 500X Trekking is pretty pronounced. The lower bumper is unique with dark silver lower skidplates, extending up into a lower chin feature. Both have a nice mesh behind the bluff jawline. It feels as credibly off-roady as most compact crossovers… So not very.
But the ride is an inch higher and all the fenders wear grey scuff protectors — another SUV-ish nod on both 500X’s. The chunky rear bumper wears an extra bump plate that will be handy for city parking, but is not as chic as the city 500X look, to our eyes. The test truck wears Bronzo Magnetico, by the way, which is a rich and sexy shade. But quite subtle. Some brighter hues are very cool-looking… but the yellow, in particular, is a pricey option.
The overall lighting is busy in bumper placement and a bit downmarket for the halogen fogs and indicators. The main projectors are actually awesome despite the tester’s non-HID bulbs. Both high and low-beam work from the same unit, mounted sharply at the top edge of very rounded fenders and hoodline. The shape of the clear outer headlight is nicely chopped at the top in a chic way.
500X vs 500X Trekking
The relatively long and low hoodline of the 500X is one of its most striking features. It is fully rounded around the Bei Bei nose, yet leads to a uniquely upright windscreen angle.
Overhangs at both ends are respectably short in this view. But the most pleasing is the round cabin glass area. All within four doors and a pert tailgate! The 500X Trekking really feels wide and sleek versus its taller Renegade brother.
Around back, you see a nicely surfaced trunk and beltline, with the metalwork outside and proud of the glass by a few strength-aiding inches. The overall effect is a planted stance, even on this Trekking.
The taillamps are subtle rounded units wrapped in a satin chrome. It looks adorably premium and continental, even without LED optics in back either.
Overall, the style seems perfect. It is charming and inoffensive, with curves and functional stance delivering a sleek look. We personally prefer the standard 500X style with more body-colored trims… but the choice between normal 500X and 500X Trekking is a perfect match for buyer moods.
Sitting down in the Fiat 500X Trekking is unreal — is this really the same platform as the Jeep Renegade? The drive position feels lower, the steering wheel better placed and the overall hip point sportier.
Touchpoints all around are far more plush than the Jeep: the quad-stitched semi-aniline leather wrapping the steering wheel sets the tone for a truly premium cabin experience. True Audi-esque levels of construction and materials inside.
We love the low and slim look/feel of the dashboard. Versus the bluff and high-topped Renegade dashboard, the 500X’s dashboard in multiple flowing horizontal layers is calm and posh.
A major change versus the plucky and fun Fiat 500 two-door is a big sense of width and shoulder room in the 500X. Despite the sleeker lines than the Renegade, the 500X comes across inside as airy and roomy — thanks to the lower seating position, rounded roofline and open views to all sides.
Simple and intuitive controls are welcome versus quirky Euro imports of the past: all the knobs and switches in the 500X make sense right away. They also have a credibly premium metallic/rubberized feel and quality twist feel. Detail things, yes, but ones that strongly reinforce the overall quality impression inside.
Seats with much more lateral support than the Jeep are visible in this interior photoset — which also shows the half-cloth, half-leatherette Nero cabin. Most will think it is leather material on the outer bolsters of those seats — making this a very enticing standard spec.
The test 500X runs the larger 2.4-liter engine option — which comes standard on the Trekking and most non-base 500X’s. This MultiAir2 four-cylinder makes 180-horsepower and 175-pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic. Just front-drive on the tester too, but AWD is available.
This powertrain made its first appearance in the new Dart, but seems to have evolved dramatically since its first applications. Best addition in the 500X? Much more urge and oomph thanks to Sport, Normal and Winter drive modes.
Sport is the one to pick for fast commutes: it kicks down more eagerly, holds ratios more tenaciously, and seems to even firm up the steering and throttle response. With Sport mode on, the 500X Trekking is still not rapid, but is rorty and playful like the Renegade never really is. Nine gear ratios seems like a lot, but the latest transmission programming is highly optimized. The excellent box picks the right ratios to keep the engine on boil versus just lots of shifting.. as occurs on some FCA cars with this drivetrain.
The most striking element of the 500X is its handling, rolling refinement and overall dynamic prowess. The 500X has that magical balance of firm cornering support but a fairly chill suspension firmness. The 500X is happy to rumble over bumps or potholes without much disturbance in the cabin.
Start getting frisky though, and the 500X’s charms really come out. The 500X feels low and planted in corners, with none of the top-heavy feel of the Chevy Trax / Buick Encore. Chuck the Fiat into a corner and it will hold its line dutifully — only giving in to understeer if the high grip limits are overcooked. The vast majority of the time, the 500X is just a trusty and truthful steer.
That heavy and incredibly good steering feel is a huge achievement for the 500X. The rack is electronic but you would never know it from driving. It has the pure feel of the best hydraulic steering pumps.
In Sport mode, the steering has a brilliant balance of quick reactions but firm feel. For people who are keen drivers with lots of twisties, the 500X’s handling programming is Euro-fantastic. Much much more informative through fingertips about the surface. And also much more solid and firm at highway speeds.
The base for this 500X Trekking is $23,100, up to $25,700 including destination. Great, great value for the total package. Options were the Safety Group and Navigation, the useful but slightly small Uconnect5.0
Despite its trim dimensions, it is totally usable with fast button response and impressive new 3D map visuals.
So, the Fiat 500X is a baby panda? Does that really do the Fiat justice? Nope, perhaps this 500X is more like Bao Bao… born at the National Zoo in 2013 and is Bei Bei’s older sister. Yes, this feels more on-target in terms of huggable cuteness, inner strength and overall charm!
The combination of fantastic drive experience, upmarket style and amazing prices make the 500X Trekking an easy choice for the Best of Awards. In the massively growing compact crossover segment, no other entry is better.
Bei Bei Photo Credits: NBCnews.com
Bao Bao Photo Credit: Washington Times
2016 FIAT 500X Trekking Review
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.