If you’re looking for a small SUV that’s more about style and character, the 2018 FIAT 500X has to be on your radar. Nothing else in the segment comes close to offering the sort of distinct colors, fashionable interior trappings and overall stylish design as FIAT’s subcompact SUV. Plus, it gains a wealth of welcome features for 2018 without a price bump. A backup camera and Bluetooth are now standard, while not only is a touchscreen now included on every trim level, but it’s now a bit larger at seven inches and gains standard Apple CarPlay and Android.
That only increases the 500X’s value appeal, making it one of those rare instances where your heart and your wallet can be on the same wavelength. We certainly found lots to like about the 500X during our year-long test of one, but we also discovered there are considerable drawbacks to consider.
Chief among these are under the hood. The 2.4-liter engine in virtually all 500X models is slow, unrefined and inefficient, and its automatic transmission is a constant source of frustration. We also had some reliability issues and generally found that many of its competitors were more rounded despite being less fashionable. But then, like many choices made in the name of fashion, there are usually drawbacks, right?
What’s New for 2018?
Every FIAT 500X now comes standard with the previously optional backup camera, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker sound system and a 7-in touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also now standard. A new Blue Sky Edition package adds some unique styling elements to the base Pop trim.
What We Like
Stylish interior; user-friendly tech; ample feature content; can be fun to drive; easily maneuverable size
What We Don’t
Unrefined engine; unresponsive transmission; questionable reliability; disappointing real-world fuel economy
The base-level 500X Pop comes standard with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. It can only be had with a 6-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. It returns 25 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving.
All other 500X models use a slightly more muscular 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, which offers 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. It comes only with a standard 9-speed automatic, but you do have a choice of front– or all-wheel drive. With the latter, it returns 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined. This lowers to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 combined with AWD. In our year-long test of a FIAT 500X AWD, we fell short of that 24 mpg combined figure, consistently finding ourselves closer to 20 mpg.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 500X is available in Pop, Trekking and Lounge trim levels.
The base Pop ($20,000) comes only with front-wheel drive and includes a modest amount of standard equipment, including 16-in steel wheels, keyless entry, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 7-in touchscreen, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system. Upgrading to the 2.4-liter engine and 9-speed automatic brings with it remote ignition and passive entry with push-button start. Adding all-wheel drive to that brings with it 17-in alloy wheels.
You can upgrade the Pop with the Popular Equipment package, which includes its own alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and floor mats. The Blue Sky Edition ($20,000) really just has unique exterior and interior trim.
The Trekking ($23,700) features more rugged styling details and comes standard with the 2.4-liter engine and the Pop’s Popular Equipment package items. Also included are 17-in alloy wheels, adjustable drive modes, rear privacy glass and upgraded upholstery.
The Trekking’s Popular Equipment package adds roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (8-way driver, 4-way passenger) and interior ambient lighting. A Cold Weather package adds a windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The Urbana Edition ($23,700) adds a variety of black exterior trim pieces including 18-in wheels.
The Lounge ($23,700) offer more luxurious styling inside and out. It includes all of the Trekking’s above options plus an 8-speaker sound system, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and integrated navigation (optional on the Lounge).
Finally, there are additional options available on both the Trekking and Lounge. The Premium package includes 18-in wheels, a panoramic sunroof and a Beats Audio system. The Advanced Safety package adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and intervention, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors and automatic high beams. Leather upholstery can also be added separately.
Despite its low pricing, the 2018 FIAT 500X offers an impressive array of high-tech safety features and gadgets. Of course, it has all the standard items you might expect, such as side-curtain airbags and antilock brakes. But we’re especially impressed with its long list of options, which includes forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The government hasn’t crash-tested the 500X, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick due to its top performance in all crash tests and for the Advanced score its frontal crash prevention system received. A Poor headlight rating prevented it from scoring a Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Behind the Wheel
There’s a lot to like about the 500X. We appreciate the interior, for instance, with its user-friendly controls and uniquely fashionable style. The large piece of dash trim color matched to the interior paint is especially cool. We also like the relatively quick steering and well-controlled handling — it certainly can be fun to drive.
Despite the fact that FIAT offers two 500X engine choices, the crossover never really seems like it has enough power. The main reason for this is the unrefined 2.4-liter engine that feels much slower than its ample output specs would suggest. Then there’s its standard 9-speed automatic, which we found to be constantly in the wrong gear and slow to driver inputs. Interestingly, we happen to prefer the peppier 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that you can only get in the Pop, but since it only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, it’s probably a moot point for most shoppers.
As for interior room, we suspect you’ll find it to be generous for the class. The front seat offers a lot of room (though we’re a little disappointed with how flat the seats are), while backseat passengers will appreciate more room than you might expect from a subcompact SUV. In back, cargo room is merely average for the segment, meaning quite small.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Hyundai Kona — The new Kona offers a compelling blend of style, fuel economy, performance and value in a diminutively sized package that should work for many.
2018 Mazda CX-3 — If you’re looking for a little SUV that’s fun to drive, check out the CX-3. Nothing really comes close, but then it’s also the smallest vehicle in the segment and doesn’t offer a particularly elevated view out.
2018 Kia Niro — Like the 500X’s size, but wish it got better fuel economy? Well, the Niro is a hybrid that’ll deliver just that. It’s definitely one to consider among crossovers of this size.
The more colorful the 500X the better, so as such, we’d skip the Trekking trim level simply because it replaces the exterior-matching dash trim with a bland strip of gray. Boring! That may seem silly, but there’s a good chance you’re considering the 500X for its style, and we think the Pop and Lounge are just more stylish. Think twice about specifying 18-in wheels — they ruin the ride. Find a Fiat 500X for sale