Their best seller for 60 years, the Fiat 500 is boosted by the X Sport, given a beefier 150bhp 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine in the top model tested with a silky automatic transmission & column paddles.
If you’ve had a good breakfast you can zip along and make your own gearchanges, but after a leisurely Italian-style lunch, then the Fiat 500X autobox can do the work for you.
The 1.3 litre engine is a stalwart of the brand and in the 500 packs a stronger punch even if the pain comes in the way of higher road tax when you buy it for business. It’s been with us for a while and is not the greenest of engines either, emitting 156gkm which means a hefty 34% BIK penalty for a business user
In reality I think not many business drivers would choose the Fiat 500X but instead its appeal lies with the retail buyer and families.
They would probably be happy with the fuel economy over 40mpg average and possibly higher with some light footwork on the right pedal and less use of the big brake pedal next to it.
Start-up and it is eager to go, automatic changes come quickly and smoothly and you are rarely left wanting a gear for any overtaking. It’s been given a warm upgrade to the steering ratio and suspension so it responds better to turning and roadholding improves without making the ride too hard.
It produces a lot more road noise with optional 19-inch sports tyres and sometimes the bumps in the road are felt inside, but it never made us feel unsafe and hung on determinedly.
Standard equipment included DAB radio, Apple and Android connectivity, 3D navigation, start/stop, automatic lights and wipers, 3.5 inches colour screen, cruise control and lane assist and tinted rear windows.
Options on the test car included sport and comfort packs with a space saver spare wheel and adaptive cruise control totalling £2,800 on top of the standard price of £25,985.
Coming at the top of the range, the Sport Firefly Turbo is available with 120hp 1.0 engine and manual gearbox or our 150hp 1.3 with automatic transmission.
The secondary controls cover the steering wheel spokes and fill the column along with the paddle shift levers, a few for the climate control are grouped on the central console with a trio on the lower right of the fascia as well.
Infront of the driver, the compact instruments’ pod houses speedometer and tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges with a small colour screen between them for a variety of data displays. The main instruments’ calibration is not great but its fairly clear and the selectable settings seemed very clear.
The simple, clear climate control was easy to use and performed well with powered windows to back it up but no sunroof.
The main display atop the fascia was a bigger screen for entertainment, 3D navigation, phone and other settings and it was touch sensitive and very responsive, as well as being sharp and clear in all light conditions.
Oddments room was good with door bins, trays and cubby box in addition to a good-sized glovebox and some well located USB points.
For occupants, access was simple to front or back but once inside those behind might find legroom was short while the front seat occupants had reasonable but not a lot of adjustment range to play with. Head and shoulder room was adequate. Getting into the bootspace was easy with remote unlocking and a low floor, a straightforward shape and it came with a space saver spare wheel underneath.
Dropping the backs of the rear seats doubled the initial space and access was good from the side doors as a result.
Vision was clear all round with slim roof pillars, deep glass and good automatic wipers front and back, effective automatic headlights and useful sensors together with a reversing camera but that was affected by road dirt thrown onto the lens.
In this driver’s hands the sportier Fiat 500X was safe and surefooted, with good roadholding and handling characteristics biased towards mild understeer on tight turns and quickly came back on line as the throttle eased. The retuned steering calibration and Frequency Selective Damping have improved handling and grip.
Brakes underfoot and the electric parking brake did a good job of slowing and holding the car on a regular test hill.
The lowered, sporting suspension has firmed up the ride a bit but not too much and while some bumps could be felt, the seats did an excellent job of absorbing almost all but the worst potholes and raised obstructions. It is better than the old 500X and measurably improved over the smaller 500 Hatchback.
So, with the Fiat 500X you seem to get the best of both worlds, a city runabout and family shopping car with a distinctive body kit and a livelier personality for when you can go out and just enjoy a drive over a twisting country road or hillside.