PUMPED UP FIAT FOR ALL ENVIRONMENTS
For many people their only experience of the old Fiat 500 was on the Costa Lotsasun where it summed up the Italian motor cars of the time. Noisy, Spartan and fix it again tomorrow.
Fast forward to the reborn Fiat 500 and the story is completely different. The style-driven city car has been a runaway success with 44,000 sold in Britain last year and by the end of 2015 Fiat hopes to have retailed 250,000 of them.
What is more, it is the gift that keeps on giving. There have been plenty of variants like the 500 Long and Trekking. Now comes the 500X compact crossover.
Ah but we’ve all seen one of those haven’t we? Yes but not quite like this. Ranged against cars like the Nissan Juke, Citroen Cactus and Renault Captur, the 500X aims to express all that is Italian. And if the Juke is like driving a small robot while the two Frenchies are a night out with the cubist movement then Fiat has a tough task.
It is being marketed using words like sexy and stylish. Cheeky was another term and the launch TV ad features a horny old goat with a much younger wife who drops his Viagra out of the bedroom window. Yes all the stereotypes you could wish for. Expect pinched bottoms all round.
What makes the 500X different is that it comes with two distinct personalities. If your life revolves around smart shoes and café society there is a city version but for those farming a small olive grove just outside Wolverhampton the Cross Plus all-wheel drive model has pumped up styling and stronger underwear. Less of an off-road image comes with the Pop, Pop Star and Lounge trims.
As with all small crossover ranges things get a bit complicated if there is a 4×4 option thrown in with 4×2 models. For instance, there is a 500X Cross which shares the same rugged looks as the Cross Plus but is only available in front-wheel drive.
To start with there will be two petrol and two diesel engines, 1.6, 110bhp petrol, 140bhp multi-air 1.4 and 1.6 and two litre diesels. To emphasise that this is a car for generation now much is made of connectivity and apps which can be downloaded for your delight and delectation.
Inside the 500X style flourishes but in a mature way. This isn’t the car for your little sister and probably not your mum and dad. Oh look, it’s for you, young family man or the woman about town.
There is a quality to the finish and sensible instruments with no nods towards sea creatures or one-eyed mythological beasts. Neat sums up the layout and the cabin has a lot of typically 500 character.
On the practical front there is plenty of room and it’s a comfortable car to sit in.
Hardly Moltanbano’s Trapani but we drove three versions in and out of Wales around Wrexham, a mixture of A roads, lanes and the slowest tractors on the planet. Oh, and an off road course.
Let’s start with the one least likely to stand on our drive, the petrol 1.4 Pop Star. This is a slick hatchback which will be popular with assertive young things. It is quick enough at 9.8 seconds to 62mph and comes trimmed up like the most cutting edge of fashion outlets. Very much a fun car for £18,600.
The 1.6 diesel is likely to prove the most popular engine, it’s frugal at 69mpg while still offering lithe performance at 10.5 seconds to 62mph and looks good in Cross trim but no 4×4. For a family crossover this is the one. Expect to pay £20k which makes it good value.
Up there in the Gods is the 4×4 two-litre diesel. This is not the most refined multijet but it has lots of grunt and was hardly sick on its shoes off road. Mine was the nine-speed auto but you can have a six-speed manual. Performance matches the 1.4 petrol while consumption could be around 51mpg for the sin-free.
So does the 500X succeed as an Italian, if not stallion, then pony? Yes, it has style, it has verve and it is fun to drive. .
Credit: Southport Visitor