New Fiat 500X Sport 2019 review

We get behind the wheel of the new Fiat 500X Sport, which adds a touch of flair to the ageing crossover’s range

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

The Fiat 500X Sport is a welcome addition to the line-up. A largely style-focused upgrade, it hits its brief and offers the kind of cool BMW and Audi buyers have been lapping up for years. We suspect the cheaper 1.0-litre manual might be the pick of the range, however.

The ageing 500X has the highest conquest rate of any model in Fiat’s relatively restrictive model range. Around 70 per cent of buyers are new to the brand, making it an extremely important car for the company.

It’ll therefore come as little surprise that this new ‘Sport’ version ranks among the firm’s most crucial launches for 2019. Expected to account for as much as 40 per cent of the model mix, the 500X Sport is Fiat’s take on the Peugeot 2008 GT-Line and SEAT Arona FR.

• Best small SUVs on sale

The 500X Sport does little to break the mould, adding precious few mechanical changes and focusing largely on racier styling, bigger wheels and new interior trim. It’s arguably more recognisable than its closest rivals, separating itself from the rest of the 500X range via a significant-yet-tasteful bodykit and twin exhausts.

There are whiffs of Abarth about the new 500X Sport’s muscular styling, though bosses insist no such model is in the plan. Instead, Fiat will focus its attentions on the downsized FireFly petrol engines already present in the crossover range. There are two models to choose from; a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo mated to a manual gearbox, and a more powerful four-cylinder 1.3-litre unit – available exclusively with a six-speed DCT auto. 

While the differences between the existing Urban and Cross models focus mainly on aesthetics, Fiat has made a few changes under the skin. The ride height has been lowered by 13mm, for example, with new front and rear springs and unique tuning for the shock absorbers. The engineers have also tweaked the steering – claiming to reduce both understeer and oversteer by as much as 26 per cent. 

We weren’t able to drive it back to back with the standard car, but on the move the 500X Sport felt sharper and more eager to turn in. The steering has a pleasing weight to it; it isn’t all that communicative, but it tucks the car in nicely and points it where you want to go. Body control is adequate, if a little uninspiring, not helped by occasionally patchy on-the-limit grip from the specially selected Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.

The 148bhp 1.3-litre FireFly engine is a known quantity, but that doesn’t stop it being a bit lazy and quite laggy alongside its TSI-engined VW Group rivals. The auto box is reluctant to change down in normal driving, and while you can take control via the miniscule steering-mounted paddles, few buyers are ever likely to do so. But as Fiat continues to make clear, the 500X Sport isn’t supposed to be any kind of semi-skimmed Abarth; we suspect the lower-power manual model might be a better fit. 

We didn’t get to experience the car over any truly rough or ridged roads, but our test model displayed little reason to question the ride quality – even on the optional 19-inch wheels. It’s perhaps not quite as quiet as the most refined cars in this class, however.

Anyone who has spent time in the existing 500X will feel right at home sitting in the driver’s seat of this latest Sport model. Aside from some specific stitching and grey logos, the seats are the same, which means you still sit a bit high and with less support than some drivers might like. The steering wheel gets a flat bottom and some Alcantara trim, but give or take some unique graphics, a darker headlining and specific air vents, that’s your lot.

The seven-inch infotainment screen has been vastly improved and upgraded since the 500X first launched, but it still lags behind the competition when it comes to size and functionality. The menu layout isn’t all that intuitive, and the graphics are showing their age; the new Skoda Kamiq shames the Fiat in this area.

UK specs are yet to be finalised, but it’s likely that every Sport model will get LED lights, cruise control, parking sensors and18-inch wheels, as well as that seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Personalisation will remain key to the 500 family’s appeal, with options likely to include ambient lighting, keyless entry and extra sport-themed trim. The Alcantara steering wheel is expected to be standard on all UK cars. 

Of course, space in the back seats and boot is unchanged, though that dark headlining does make it feel a bit more claustrophobic. It’s not the most practical car in its class, but growing families stepping up from a B-segment supermini shouldn’t be too disappointed.

Price will play a big part in this car’s success, and at around £1,000 more than the equivalent 500X Cross we can see plenty of buyers making the jump. That’s likely to equate to just a few pounds per month on a monthly PCP finance deal. For comparison, a SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 115 FR Sport with a similarly generous kit list, costs around £350 less than the entry-level 500X Sport 1.0 120hp. There’s no comparable Arona 1.5 TSI DSG; that model is manual only.

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police
police speed gun
News

Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police

Lack of road traffic police officers in the UK is making it easy for drivers to break the law, according to a survey of 15,500 British motorists
16 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Dacia unveils new badge design
Dacia badge
Dacia

Dacia unveils new badge design

The new Dacia branding will feature on the company’s cars from 2022, with the Bigster being the first candidate
17 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'
Opinion Genesis Hyundai Ioniq
Opinion

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'

Steve Fowler is impressed by Hyundai's electric cars, its N division and now its luxury Genesis brand
16 Jun 2021
Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025
Mazda electric plan
Mazda

Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025

The electrification push forms part of Mazda’s goal to become a completely carbon neutral company by 2050
17 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New Renault Arkana 2021 review
Renault Arkana - front
Renault Arkana

New Renault Arkana 2021 review

Does an eye-catching coupe-SUV body give the new Renault Arkana the edge over other mid-size SUVs? We find out...
16 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021