New Fiat 500X 2018 review

The facelifted Fiat 500X looks the part but has a tough challenge in today's crowded crossover segment

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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No amount of new features can change the fact that the 500X remains a car you buy with your heart rather than your head. The driving experience is affected by the firm ride and the lifeless steering, while the compromised cabin can’t hold a candle to more modern tech-filled rivals. Yet regardless, you can’t help but warm to the crossover’s cute character.

The original brief for the now established Fiat 500X was to “take the 500 and make it bigger”. It worked a treat, and in the three years since it first launched, the crossover has quickly accelerated to become the second best-selling model in the Italian maker’s line-up.

Now, the time has come for a fairly extensive mid-life refresh. There’s a new look inside and out, new technology, new engines and more kit; the trim line-up has been restructured to reflect the buying habits of the 500X’s customers, too.

• Best crossovers on sale 2018

We first drove the updated car in September and declared that while the basic formula hadn’t changed, the myriad tweaks gave the quirky SUV new appeal. Fiat’s decision to gift the crossover “even more ‘500ness’ than before” had clearly worked.

The design has been freshened front and rear with similar LED lights to those found on the 500 city car, while new colours – like our car’s Italia Blue – help the 500X stand out. As before, the vibrant hues transfer to the dashboard, while new dials and higher quality materials lift the interior ambience.

But the big news can be found under the 500X’s bonnet. The range kicks off with the same naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine as before, but is complimented by a pair of new turbo units. There is no diesel option ­– and it’s likely to stay that way going forward.

Production of the new range-topping 148bhp four-cylinder 1.3 started a little later, so for now we’re back in the projected big seller: a 118bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo. A quick drive shows you why, as it’s a quiet, sprightly and efficient performer.

It revs cleanly, and as long as you keep the engine spinning above 1,500rpm, there’s little in the way of turbo lag. It even settles down nicely at motorway speeds – thanks in part to the six-speed transmission. 

Unfortunately, that gearbox isn’t very pleasant to use; the throw is long and it doesn’t feel all that precise. It’s your only option, however, unless you opt for the more powerful 1.3 with its dual-clutch auto box. The steering is too light to offer much in the way of feedback, either.

The ride is a mixed bag, too. While body control is good, the suspension is on the firm side and makes the 500X feel quite brittle over rough surfaces. If you spend most of your time around town, this could be a deal breaker; rival SUVs like the Hyundai Kona feel softer and more composed at low speeds. 

Inside, Fiat has taken the opportunity to improve the look and feel of the cabin, with more soft-touch materials than before. There’s a new steering wheel, which the firm says is better contoured than before, while the dials get new graphics and repositioned instrumentation.

The seven-inch touchscreen is standard across the range, and comes complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It feels small and a bit dated compared with the set-up in some rivals, but it’s functional enough – and the chunky climate controls underneath are easy to use.

The revised trim structure plays to the public’s penchant for SUVs, with the top two trims getting chunkier off-roader styling with extra cladding and designer scuff plates. Fiat expects these models to account for 90 per cent of 500X sales, with the remaining 10 per cent going to budget-conscious buyers after something at a lower price point. 

Regardless, even the most basic Urban-trim car features 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning and Fiat’s latest suite of safety kit – including Lane Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and Speed Assist. The fuzzy touchscreen is also included.

Next up is the 500X City Cross (a £2,000 premium) tested here, which adds that rugged styling pack, as well as bigger wheels and front fog lights. Buyers also benefit from a 3.5-inch TFT display in the dials, automatic climate control and rear parking sensors. Cross Plus (another £2,000) gains tinted rear windows, LED headlights, a parking camera and built-in sat-nav.

Early finance examples suggest the updated 500X should be cheap to buy, too. The car tested here is just £179 per month over four years with a 20 per cent deposit. Admittedly, the 6,000-mile cap is low, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to raise this at the time of purchase. For comparison, a Hyundai Kona SE is around £11 more on a like-for-like deal.

Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the our team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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