It’s one of those gloriously sunny days in October and I’m in Bristol to drive Fiat’s newly refreshed 500X. As of winter 2018, Fiat’s compact crossover SUV gains some neat design updates, an improved interior and set of new generation engines to spice up the action.
So looking good. First off, however, I don’t mind saying I was intrigued by the choice of Bristol as a press launch location. You see, I was born in Bristol and love going back whenever possible. Clifton, Portishead, the Downs, the vibe of the city and so forth. Thus when Fiat’s invite for the 500X came through, no second bidding was necessary.
This latest 500X comes with two bodystyles, Urban look and Cross look. Thereafter we get three trim levels – Urban, City Cross and Cross Plus. The range starts at £16,995.
When I first met up with the 500X in Italy four years ago, the concept behind the 500X was easy to understand. Start with the hit 500 supermini but make it bigger, the 500X also giving Fiat a timely entre into the booming B-SUV market.
The 500X has also sold better than popularly imagined, according to Fiat, and having met up with the 500X both in Turin and at the famed Balocco test track, the 1.6 Multijet diesel, with 120 cv, seemed the best resolved of the cars I drove back then. Refined, torquey, well damped, with a relaxed driving style, it might well have been the pick of the bunch.
Four years on, oil burners are on the way out, replaced with new generation FireFly three and four cylinder turbocharged petrol engines spanning 1.0 and 1.3 litres with the previous 1.6 ‘four’ carrying over.
The 500X is the first in the Fiat range to get this new family of lightweight modular turbo engines, which are Euro6D compliant and fitted with a Gasoline Particle Filter (GPF).
So how do they perform? Let’s find out….
Starting out in Bristol’s uber cool city centre, our driving route then went out across Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge, thereafter heading out to Clevedon on the coast and then along through and up the spectacular Cheddar Gorge.
There was a break at the Cathedral city of Wells where to my surprise, I managed to win Fiat’s surprisingly tricky lunchtime quiz, without Googling anything. Honest.
Out west, I drove two cars. First was a Cross Plus FireFly Turbo 1.3 150hp with 6-speed Dual Clutch automatic. This was a high spec edition, good for 150 hp, 270 Nm and 9.1 secs for 0-62 mph.
However, against the odds perhaps, it was the smaller 999 cc three cylinder edition (120 hp, 190 Nm and 10.9 secs) that proved livelier and the more spirited to drive.
Which came as a surprise because three cylinder engines can often be thrummy, noisy and unsettled yet Fiat’s free-revving triple was engagingly smooth and sweet, subjectively losing little to the 1.3 in the way of performance. Perhaps working in situ with a tidy six-speed manual box had something to do with it. Of the two, the 1.0 would be my choice.
Handling was neat, steering well judged and, another surprise, the 500X ride quality was pleasantly compliant, if a little stiff, despite both cars wearing top end 18 in alloy wheels…(although 16 in and 17 in are also available).
On the outside, the 500X gains subtle new LED lights as part of the refresher. Inside, the 500X has always been one of the more stylish in its class and that continues.
For 2018, there’s a new instrument cluster and steering wheel. Safety kit sees Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Assist and Intelligent Speed Assist standard on all versions.
Connectivity centres around Fiat’s accessible Uconnect 7-inch touch screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility as standard.
All in all, a neat update of an often underrated car. Ship shape and Bristol fashion, you could say.