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Fiat 500X

Fiat 500X

Fiat 500X

The demand for chunky vehicles with go- anywhere styling continues unabated, and Fiat is the latest to join the fray.

The arrival of the 500L from the Italian carmaker may have given buyers of the 500 a slightly more practical interior - but time has shown that nothing beats the lure of a compact crossover.

Designed to compete with the likes of the Renault Captur and the Nissan Juke, the new Fiat 500X will come in two versions, one designed to appeal to city dwellers and another more rugged version for those who pursue an active lifestyle.

With rounded lights and chrome detailing that mirror the original 500, the new Fiat is instantly recognisable, albeit with generous wheel arches and increased ground clearance giving a more muscular form. The 500X is compact on the outside at just 4.25m long ,which means it's still a useful city car.

Inside, the retro feel continues and there are loads of handy storage spaces. The seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment and the touchscreen U-Connect system is available in both 5" and a 6.5" with integrated navigation.

The boot will store up to 350 litres, with the rear seats folding to increase it to 1,000 litres and there is plenty of leg room, even in the backseat.

The 500X will be available with five- and six-speed manual gearboxes as well as an advanced six-speed twin-clutch automatic and a nine-speed automatic, a first for Fiat, which will allow you to switch to manual sequential mode when required.

Depending on requirements, it will be available in Traction Plus front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with rear axle disconnection system that switches between two- and four-wheel drive automatically to suit conditions and save on fuel.

On the road, the 500X is very steady and feels like a much sportier car.

The 1.4 Multi-air six-speed manual we drove had plenty of power for overtaking and handled exceptionally well - partly due to the use of stiffened suspension bushes and new geometry on the rear McPherson struts.

The engine was also very quiet while cruising, although it had a lovely tone when accelerating and averaged 4.9l/100km on our drive from Turin to Balocco. At the Balocco off-roading track the 500X proved capable of tackling steep slopes, muddy ruts and water effortlessly.

The Pop, Popstar and Lounge versions have a more metropolitan look and feel, while the Cross and Cross Plus versions are 2cm longer and boast a more rugged and off-road look, suited to the adventurous type, with roof bars and plastic trims on the bumpers.

Due here in April, Irish pricing for the 500X is yet to be confirmed but based on UK pricing it is likely to be a little over €20,000.

Imbued with a sufficient dash of iconic 500 charm but designed with a family and an adventurous lifestyle in mind, the Fiat 500X makes for an ideal compact family car.

And for those who want something with a bit more Italian passion, let's hope there's an Abarth version in the pipeline.

Sunday Independent