Family unity, sustainability and evolution are paramount attributes of any group or tribe whether the subject is people, cultures or cars. If “x marks the spot” is an indication of the continuous expansion and growth model of the Fiat brand in North America then please give a warm welcome to the all-new 2016 500X. In this case the X-factor equates to all-wheel-drive which should increase Fiat’s sales outside of the Sun Belt States like California where the brand shines overwhelmingly bright.
In today’s technologically focused and lifestyle oriented world customers want and need to be appeased from all parameters for customary satisfaction. The modern family requires the typical vehicle staples for a party of four or more and want to do so ergonomically. Without second-guessing why, Fiat held the press intro of their first advanced AWD vehicle in North America at the private and opulent Mr. C Beverly Hills. The accommodations were so fitting for the Italian automaker’s target customer that it seemed a bit too contrived. Fiat customers are physically active for example. But make no mistake, the swanky Italian road bikes in various sizes and variations provided for our 2-day, luxury stay was a poignant gesture. Yes, at Mr. C Beverly Hills guests can complimentary rent performance cycles from the Colnago Lounge. Not only was I able to see the sites, homes and people of this unique town from behind the wheel of a 500X, but also while riding on two wheels after my Fiat test drive. The workout up and down steep neighborhood roads was profound. “Mr C Beverly Hills is the perfect location for launching our Colnago Lounge,” says Ernesto Colnago, legendary founder of the company. “We are sure that the clients of the Hotel will enjoy to ride with our bicycles that represent the state of the art of the Italian cycling technology.” State of the art is also the mantra Fiat strives for.
People are in love with Fiat because the brand has stepped outside of the box. Think of MINI when they hit the American scene. Launched at the 2010 LA Auto Show, the Fiat 500 became an American icon as it impressed consumers with its fascinating micro-body contour, Italian styling and emotional marketing ploys. Entertainers J-Lo and Pit Bull were certainly amused by Chrysler’s next of kin, as was Gucci who joined the fray with their special editions. Take a look around and you’ll see Fiats tooling around in the streets making names for themselves like UK boy bands and country queen pop stars. Launching 12 models in four years including a litany of buzz models such as the Abarth, 2014 was the company’s best year of sales to date.
Arriving mid May, the 500X will certainly attract the attention of my three neighbors who each own Fiat 500s. It’s also the first Fiat configured and designed for global markets and will be launched in 100 countries. To expand upon the company’s miniscule premise, Fiat will present the 500X in five trims including the $20,000 Pop model, $22,300 Easy, $23,100 Trekking, $24,850 Lounge and $27,100 Trekking Plus model. Add an extra $900 for the destination charge. The aforementioned advanced AWD can be had for an additional $1,900 on all models except the Pop. The technology’s disconnecting rear axle allows the 500X to first drive like a FWD vehicle for greater fuel efficiency. The selection of 12 inviting hues such as Arancio (Orange), Rosso Passione (Red Clear Coat) and Blu Venezia (Blue Metallic) sets the initial tone for character diversification as well as the option of 100 Mopar accessories to decipher. Choose between two 4-cylinder MultiAir engines including the 1.4-liter with 160 horsepower and the 2.4-liter Tigershark with 180-horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. Yet, don’t let the name fool you. The 500X vehicles with 2.4-liter engines we drove are not Speed Racer worthy. At best their power is adequate, but shifts are smooth stemming from the exclusive 9-speed automatic transmission. The 1.4-liter receives the 6-speed manual transmission.
Behind the wheel feels like driving in a video game since all you see is the greenhouse and not much of the hood. It’s an amusing impression that leaves you congenial and pleasant. The ride’s high ceiling and dual-pane sunroof creates a bigger cabin and is why this small utility feels larger. I can also say that the 4-wheel disc braking system is extraordinary as we found out when an abrupt halt and turn had to be made. Refuge comes in the form of 70 advanced safety and security features such as Forward Collision Warning-Plus, LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, Innovative Blind-Spot Monitoring, 7 standard airbags and full-length side curtain air bags. Fiat also instilled the 500X with configurable driving styles by way of the 3-mode Dynamic Selector system (Auto, Sport and Traction+). Around the hills of Mulholland I kept my vehicle in Sport since it becomes more aggressive with delayed upshifts. There are no steering wheel paddles but all vehicles do have steering wheel controls.
Step inside the small wonder and become enticed by interior amenities like ambient lighting, a multitude of internet based apps, BeatsAudio and the touchscreen Uconnect 5.0 or 6.5 infotainment system. Uconnect commingles the radio, media, navigations, apps and phone into once central location. The Fiat 500’s seven interior environments can also be paired with various colors and fabrics. My favorite was the Cuoio Anticato (Tobacco) color scheme.
Fiat looked back at its heritage to manifest the 2016 500X, but also gazed into the future and loaded it with advanced technologies and interior features expected on higher tier vehicles. Nostalgic doubled rounded headlights and the iconic whisker are now paired with modern elements like body protection panels and chrome handles. Literally, they are offering customers the best of both worlds.