Fiat 500X on the way

The Fiat 500X is set to rival the MINI Countryman, with a raised ride height and choice of 2WD or 4WD

Fiat is set to jump on the baby SUV bandwagon with the fourth member of its 500 family.

The 500X will take the brand into new territory, as a rival to the MINI Countryman, and our exclusive images show how the production version will be the most rugged-looking 500 yet when it goes on sale next year. It gets chunky wheelarch cladding, increased ground clearance and will be available with front or four-wheel drive.

Fiat has admitted that the 500X is tasked with broadening its customer base by appealing to male buyers; the 500 has a traditional female following, and the 500L is expected to as well.

Despite its tougher looks, the car will still be recognisable as a 500, with the same headlamp and tail-light treatments, plus the familiar chrome badge on the nose. Flatter side windows mean some of the hatch’s cute bubble-car styling has been lost, and that – combined with chunkier bumpers – gives it a bolder, more solid appearance.

As with the 500L, the 500X will ride on a widened version of the Punto hatchback’s platform. This means it’ll be the same size as the MPV, which is just over four metres long, with room inside for five adults and over 400 litres of boot space. However, the load capacity could shrink slightly in four-wheel-drive models.

Fiat is no stranger to rugged, high-riding cars. Its new Panda 4x4, due late this year, will use a simple hydraulic clutch system. This is fitted ahead of its rear differential, and turns the rear wheels only once those at the front lose grip. The 500X could use a similar set-up, which adds 100kg to the kerbweight.

The volume-selling entry-level 500X is expected to be two-wheel drive – as with the base MINI Countryman – offering the same rugged looks in a cheaper and more economical package.

Engines will follow the 500L’s lead, with a 93bhp 1.4-litre TwinAir petrol likely to kick off the range. Flagship models are set to get the 104bhp 1.0-litre two-cylinder (the TwinAir engine has already been engineered for all-wheel drive in the imminent Panda 4x4), while there will be Multijet diesels, too.

A near-production-ready 500X concept is likely to debut at next month’s Paris Motor Show, while the car is set to start at around £14,000 when it goes on sale.

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