The name answers that last question. The "X" stands for "Cross Over": a cross between a family saloon and an off-roader. And its rugged looks make this the most adventurous version of the 500.
How adventurous the 500X actually is, depends on the chosen version. The 500X comes in two flavours: the regular "500X" and the "500X Cross", which is shown here. The latter can be recognised by bigger bumpers, skid plates, a roof rack, special rims and several accents executed in a contrasting colour.
No matter how the 500X is dressed, it can always be recognised as a 500 in a blink of an eye. And that's quite an accomplishment, because Fiat failed miserably when it created the 500L. It needs, to say it mildly, some imagination to recognise the original lines of the 500. However, the 500X is clearly a Fiat 500 derivative.
Thanks to well chosen proportions, the 500X doesn't look as massive as it actually is. And that is its most important asset over the competition. Most rivals look big and bulky next to the 500X, while the Fiat exudes flair and passion.
On the inside, the 500X has a unique charm for a car like this. The cabin is upholstered in brown "eco leather" and dark satin, which gives a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Regrettably, the seats don't sit as good as they look. The headrests are hard, uncomfortable and too low to actually attribute to safety.
The cabin space is average for a car of this size. For most adults the boot lid doesn't open high enough, so they run the risk of hitting their head while loading or unloading luggage.
The 500X is a marvel of modern technology. For a compact SUV, spec levels are very high. For example, the test car has been fitted with dual zone climate control, keyless entry, an extensive trip computer and "Uconnect" (communication, satnav and audio (including DAB tuner)). Do opt for the larger display, because the standard screen is too small.
While innovative, the electronics are also the Achilles heel of the 500X. At the moment an iPhone is connected, an error about a missing Microsoft library appears (on an Apple device?). More than once an error appeared saying the radio wasn't available, while in fact it was playing happily along.
The volume can differ per source, which means that one station might be hardly audible while the next blasts out of the speakers. The most annoying were the false alarms from the various safety systems. Once, the warning "Brake! Brake!" appeared in the display, while there was no danger at all.
Positive exceptions are the audio system (pleasant, sparkling sound) and the automatic headlights (very strong illumination).
Performance and efficiency
While the 500X carries the "500" name, underneath it is not based on any of the other body styles. Only the power trains are shared with other Fiat cars (or rather: Jeep cars, which is now owned by Fiat). The test car is fitted with the familiar 2.0-litre "MultiJet" which develops 140 PS / 350 Nm. This diesel engine is connected to Fiat's pride and joy: a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
The diesel engine is clearly audible and when the automatic shifts gears this is clearly noticeable (at low speeds). Performance is more than adequate, but the "2.0 MultiJet" isn't exactly overpowered and that's why this car doesn't convince as the top of its range. When buying the top of the range model, one expects more.
The first gear is extremely short and therefore only used while off-roading for extra power. In daily traffic, the 500X sets off in second gear. Thanks to a lengthy ninth gear the engine speed on the highway is pleasantly low (130 km/h is 2,000 rpm). This results in more comfort and high efficiency (average fuel consumption 79 mpg, factory figure: 83 mpg).
As standard, the 500X is a front-wheel drive vehicle. When opting for the "Cross" version, the car is equipped with a special traction control system which is also effective off-road ("Traction+"). It sends most torque to the wheel that experiences most resistance, which results in traction when going off-road.
Only the version with the 2.0-litre diesel engine, driven here, can be fitted with a four-wheel drive system. At a push of a button, permanent four-wheel drive can be engaged for going off-road. Just like with "Traction+" the engine sends the power to the wheels that need it the most. As an extra bonus the four-wheel drive version has 2 cm extra ground clearance.
When going off-road the profile of the standard tyres and the overhang in the front (hits the ground when climbing a steep slope) limit the 500X. When keeping these limitations in mind, the 500X manages pretty well in the great outdoors.
In city traffic, the 500X has an annoyingly large turning circle. Even in an average car park "full lock" must be engaged to make it through the average corner. Because of the firm suspension, the 500X is far from comfortable on speed bumps.
It's on the open road that the 500X really shines. Thanks to the firm suspension the SUV doesn't tilt over at all. The high seating position gives excellent visibility over the other cars. At the same time, handling is exceptionally good for a compact SUV, which means that the genes of the original Fiat 500 can also be found in the 500X.
Fiat introduces yet another version of the 500: the 500X. The 500X is a tough looking, adventurous version of Fiat's bestseller. Next to the cute hatchback and convertible, the 500X is a true macho that's not afraid of anything or anyone. As a lifestyle vehicle, the 500X convinces even before taking a test drive.
Regrettably, the test drive does not convince. The advanced electronics aren't as useful and reliable as with other brands. Even when opting for the strongest engine available, combined with an advanced automatic transmission, both performance and fuel economy are just average.
When going off-road the 500X does not disappoint. On the open road handling is even remarkably good for an SUV. That's why this largest Fiat 500 is meant for adventures, preferably in exotic places far far away.