It's Fiat's new Italian job: the 500X
FIAT unveiled their new 500X compact crossover here yesterday amid renewed confidence for the brand locally and globally.
In many ways this is a key car in the drive to boost the marque's fortunes. A new Italian crossover job if you like.
They expect around 600 people to buy a 500X here next year. Prices start from €21,450 for the 1.3 MultiJet II 95bhp diesel and €19,750 for the entry-level 1.6-litre 110hp petrol (here in October). Other engines are due in time for July. And there's a PCP deal that gets you a 500X for around €220 a month.
There are two approaches. There's an 'urban' version with three trims: Pop, Pop Star and Lounge. And a more 'rugged' SUV take in Cross and Cross-plus spec. They have a fair few engines too - six - as well as 2WD, 2WD with special traction, and 4WD drive as well as 5spd, 6spd and 9spd transmissions. With 12 body colours, eight designs and 16/17/18ins alloys there's lots of choice. At 4.25m long 1.80m wide and 1.6m high, it's taller and much roomier than I'd imagined and beats, Fiat say, the MINI Countryman, Renault Captur and Nissan Juke.
We drove the 1.6-litre diesel and 1.4-litre petrol versions; lots of pep and power and we were rightly taken with the exceptional, elevated driving position. Overall it was a fun bit of driving but I thought the steering was a bit woolly.
The practicalities are well looked after, no doubt. There's a skinny spare wheel, fold/tumble rear seats and a front passenger one that can lie flat. And there's 350 litres of boot space.
But who will buy it and why? They expect those moving up from smaller, and down from larger, cars to be interested in the extra room and compactness, respectively, as well as switchers from rivals. I think it is critical too that there is a full five-year factory warranty. Reassuring.
Front-wheel drive petrols have either a 1.6-litre 110hp (5spd) or a 1.4-litre Turbo MultiAir II (140hp - 6spd or 6spd dual-clutch). The all-wheel drive petrol has a 9spd automatic transmission and is driven by a1.4-litre, 170hp engine.
Front-wheel drive diesels - I expect them to be the big sellers - include the 1.3-litre MultiJet II (95bhp, 5spd) and the excellent 1.6-litre 120hp MultiJet II (6spd). The 4WD diesel is powered by a 2-litre (140hp, 6spd manual or 9spd auto).
And then there is the fun part: connectivity and infotainment. Most models have the Uconnect system (5ins, 6.5ins screens) and sat nav. You can download apps to get to your social media and audio channels.
It's all neatly packed in what we felt was a smart cabin. I had plenty of room in the back - and there's a skinny spare wheel (well done). It's well kitted out - a lot of stuff is standard - and fresh. Fiat could always do small cars.
Now comes the real test of getting people into this new generation. With the compact crossover market and wider economy on the up, there hasn't been as good an opportunity for years.