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Review: Fiat 500X

The Fiat 500 is one of those cars, like the VW Beetle and MINI, that is enjoying its second incarnation. In fact, in strict sales terms it is the most successful of that trio.

Its success is fairly easy to understand. In an era where almost all small cars look pretty much identical, the Fiat 500 manages just to look pretty. Its retro good looks, based on that iconic original, make it stand out from the crowd, and it manages to inject a bit of character and fun into modern motoring. Under the skin, however, the Fiat 500 is really just a Fiat Panda, and it is none the worse for that. The Panda is a very competent little care, and while not as pretty as the 500, it provides as proven and solid base for the 500 to be built on.
 
One of the clever things that BMW has done with the MINI is to develop an entire car range out of a single car. No longer is the MINI just a small city hatchback, and the family now extends to estates, sporty coupés, convertibles, estates and 4x4 SUVs. Clearly, Fiat has been watching, and the Fiat 500X is a result of this research. Fiat, too, wants to extend the appeal of the 500 far beyond a customer base of those who are looking for a small city car. To this end, the Fiat 500X offers all of the style of the base 500 model but adds 4x4 capabilities, space and not a little attitude. This is familiar territory, and Fiat is going up against not just the MINI, but also the successful Nissan Juke in this market niche. 
 
This is an important market segment for the 500 because it takes the car out of a small niche and into the small family car market, meaning that couples who love their 500 can now opt for a Fiat 500X instead of moving to another car brand. 
 
Inside the Fiat 500X you will find a reasonable amount of space but perhaps not quite as much as in those other purpose-built SUVs. The room in the front is good, but adult passengers in the back seats could find themselves a little short of legroom. Storage is good, which is important for a car in this class. The door bins are big and the glove box is also sizeable, and there is a good storage bin between the front seats. In practicality terms, the boot is not at all bad and is large enough to swallow a couple of medium-size suitcases. When the rear seats are folded, you get a usefully flat load space. Look out for a relatively high load bay floor, however, which may require a little bit of heft to get the luggage into. 
 
As far as comfort goes, you get a steering wheel that is reach- and height-adjustable, so finding a good driving position is easy. The seats are a bit of a letdown, though, and they could do with a little more lumbar support. The suspension, too, seems a little jittery and does not lend itself to a smooth and comfortable ride. You do sit quite high in the car, which gives good visibility and a sense of security. The steering is also light enough to make it easy to drive around town, and the pedals and gearshift all operate smoothly. That light steering, however, becomes a little more problematic at motorway speeds, and it lacks the feel that would make the car more fun to drive. The layout of the dash is good, with big, easy-to-operate buttons and a high-quality touchscreen infotainment display. 
 
In terms of fuel economy, the Multi-jet 1.6 litre Fiat 500X is the standout, achieving a whisker under 69mpg on the combined cycle. Spec levels are good, especially if you decide against the basic Pop model and go up the range a little. In short, the Fiat 500X has just about enough to tempt those with expanding families to stay with the range. Fans of the MINI, however, may take a little more convincing.

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