Fiat 500X Pop Star: Long-term test review

Final report: With trio of modes, Fiat 500X crossover has been a fine all-rounder

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Our time with the 500X has come to an end, and although it’s had a couple of niggles, overall it has proven to be a solid and dependable all-rounder. It’s one of the smarter-looking crossovers on sale, while the stylish cabin and neat tech on board have worked well.

Mileage: 8,533Real-world MPG: 29.5mpg

After eight months behind the wheel of our Fiat 500X, it’s clear to me that the crossover is a fantastic all-rounder. Some of that ability stems from the car’s Drive Mood Selector. A rotary dial lets you pick between three different modes – Auto, Sport and All Weather – to give the car a selection of distinct characters.

As the name suggests, Auto mode adjusts the car automatically, and is the sensible, everyday choice. Then there’s the Sport setting, which sharpens throttle response and makes the 500X feel as eager as any hot hatch. Finally, All Weather mode is designed for slippery conditions, and softens the car’s responses to reduce the risk of wheelspin.

Surprisingly, I’ve used the All Weather mode most often, as the slower throttle response seems more in tune with the car’s relaxed crossover nature.

I must admit, I’ve hardly ever turned the dial to Sport mode – it’s too snappy for my liking, and makes the car feel like it rears up on its back wheels as you pull away. Still, at least the modes offer noticeable differences to help customise your driving experience.

The standard Fiat 500 finished a disappointing 87th in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, and ranked only 101st for reliability, yet our 500X has been virtually trouble-free. This bodes well for its potential debut in this year’s chart. The touchscreen infotainment system has rebooted on me a few times, resulting in the radio cutting out. DAB stations can also be intermittent on signal. On the plus side, my daughter Natasha appreciates the 500X’s added connectivity, as it allows her to easily sync her phone to the stereo.

We both agree the 500X is a good-looking thing. I’m still undecided on our car’s pink-tinged Art Grey paint – I’ve seen a few red models that look a lot smarter – but the 500X certainly cuts a dash. The similarly coloured seats aren’t as nice, though. When it arrived, we suspected the light tone would show up dirt too easily, which has unfortunately proven to be the case. The cream trim is decidedly grubby now.

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Because the 500X has spent most of its time in town, a relatively poor fuel return of 29.5mpg for the 1.4-litre petrol engine isn’t much of a surprise. That’s a long way short of Fiat’s 47mpg claim, but I guess this is just one of the prices you have to pay for such a stylish crossover.

Fiat 500X: second report

Our panel gives its verdict on trendy crossover

Mileage: 6,833 milesReal-world MPG: 35.5mpg

Hit or miss? That was the question I put to our Auto Express jury recently while cavassing opinion on the 500X I have been running on our fleet.

You say you shouldn’t judge someone on looks alone, but styling is an important part of the 500X’s remit. While I wasn’t sure about the front-end design at first, the more I see the Fiat parked alongside other models, the more I’ve grown to like it, and our panelists agree. The rounded nose is distinctive, and the 500 city car’s styling cues have been integrated well.

Inside, there are more touches inspired by the 500, including the stylish two-tone leather upholstery and the body-coloured panel across the dashboard. One critical point in any car is having enough wheel and seat adjustment to get comfortable. Thankfully, the 500X gets the thumbs-up from our judges in this area with plenty of space behind the wheel and good headroom for even the tallest drivers.

However, our panel was divided about our car’s colour. The £350 Art Grey paint has a pink tinge under bright lights, but at this time of year it just looks like I haven’t bothered to clean it. Still, it’s an intriguing colour option unavailable on any rivals.

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One of the Fiat’s big selling points is the amount of technology on board, but again opinion was divided – this time on how well the infotainment system works. Let’s start with what I consider to be a positive point. Our car is fitted with the £650 Safety Plus Pack, which includes a reversing camera. It’s worked fine every time I’ve used it, although colleagues have complained about the picture quality on the 6.5-inch screen.

We’ve also added the £1,000 Navigation Pack, but while this has been very useful for providing directions, it’s been less effective when re-routing around hold-ups.

The trip to our photoshoot was a case in point. I had to travel along the A3 through Surrey to get there, but the road had been closed all morning – yet the sat-nav gave absolutely no warning of the hold-ups ahead, even when I was stuck in it.

An Info button on the touchscreen should show traffic hold-ups en route, but it came up with no information on the jam I was in. The ensuing hold-up meant I was three hours late for our shoot, which was very frustrating. The journey home was problem-free, though, and the instructions and  graphics were clear and easy to follow.

Linking to my phone is a breeze, too, and the hands-free system works well. So far it’s always gone directly to the right person in the address book, which is something I’ve found other systems don’t do.

One minor glitch is that it doesn’t recognise the phrase ‘go to phone’ – which is odd, because this is one of the standard phrases, yet the system recognises the individual names I say. Town driving and manoeuvring are good, while the All-Weather driving mode suits me best – our other judges prefer Sport or Auto.

And although I’ve rarely ventured on to the motorway, when I have, the 500X’s been quiet and refined and it’s also boosted economy to a reasonable 35.5mpg – enough for the 500X to get my vote at any rate!

Fiat 500X: first report

Mileage: 5,065 milesReal-world MPG: 36.1mpg

Working for a car magazine based in central London presents a variety of challenges, but when it came to collecting our new Fiat 500X, things went in my favour for once. You see, Fiat’s flagship dealer, Motor Village Marylebone, is located just around the corner from Selfridges in Oxford Street, and only a stone’s throw from our office.

Indeed, I pass Motor Village regularly on my daily commute, and I’ve always thought the showroom looked impressive – its stylish interior and location mean it’s the perfect place to show off the 500 city car. However, when we arrived, the floor that’s usually full of 500s had an addition in the shape of our 500X Pop Star model.

I wasn’t immediately won over by the car’s styling, but it quickly grew on me. I think Fiat’s designers have done a good job of retaining the DNA of the retro 500 while giving it the right look to tap into the popular crossover market.

This is reinforced by the X’s rounded headlamps, two-tone front seats and the body-coloured dashboard trim. One of my colleagues has called the Fiat ‘girly’, but I think that’s more a consequence of our car’s Art Grey paint. You see, it’s not really grey, as there’s a hint of pink in some lights and cream in others. One thing’s for sure, hardly anybody thinks it’s grey.

Irrespective of other people’s opinions, I quite like the two-tone seats and body-coloured dash panel. They add a classy feel; I’m just hoping that the cream trim can withstand the rigours of winter without showing up too many dirty marks.

While I was at Motor Village, sales controller Theo Fouche took the opportunity to show me some of the 500X’s highlights. It’s certainly packed with tech, although most of the kit on our car is optional. Even before you get inside, there’s keyless entry (part of the £250 Comfort Pack) and the boot has a space-saver spare wheel and tool kit.

We’ve also added the Nav Pack (£1,000), which includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen, DAB radio with Bluetooth and sat-nav, an SD Card slot and an extra USB port in the front armrest. The latter is there so rear passengers can plug in their devices, too.

Not only is the touchscreen easy to use, but everything can be operated via the steering wheel buttons or voice control – although without Theo pointing this out, it might have taken me a while to spot that the volume control for the stereo is hidden on the underside of the chunky steering wheel.

One piece of kit that comes as standard is the Drive Mood selector. It features Auto, Sport and All Weather modes, and Theo recommended the latter for winter, saying it sharpens the car’s reactions without dulling the performance.

Another extra we specified is the Dynamic Safety Plus Pack, which includes lane departure warning, blind spot detection and a rear-view camera.

The latter works in conjunction with the standard parking sensors, and will definitely be handy around town. Once Theo had finished showing me around, I was good to go. Staff opened the double doors to Motor Village, and off I went into busy London traffic. At least it’s started where it means to go on...

*Insurance quote (below) from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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