So I’m driving along, thinking about life, and contemplating all of the affordable Italian crossovers I’d love to own. I mean, there’s the Lamborghini Urus. Yeah, right, it starts over $200,000. Then, there’s the Maserati Levante and its Ferrari V8. The last one I drove cost $170,380. So, maybe the Alfa Romeo Stelvio? It costs less than a house at $41k, so that’s better. But, the one that most people can actually afford is the vehicle I’m driving: The 2020 Fiat 500X.
Looking at it curbside, the 500X could be nothing but Italian with its friendly exotic looks. Its pugnacious classic “whiskered” nose is pure Fiat from the roundish LED projector beams to its big centered logo. In side profile, the 500X is noticeably larger than its smaller sibling with 19” wheels filling the wells. Sport models are available with an optional black roof, giving it added style. Around back, check the squircle taillamps and canted liftgate. A little flash of chrome exhaust tip and matte finishes further distinguish the Sport.
Chic Italian fashion continues inside. Where many little crossovers feel cheap, the 500X Sport is decidedly upscale. Heated deeply-bolstered sport seats get thick leather, suede tops the instrument pod, and body color swaths dress the dash. Almost every surface is padded and stitched. I especially like the flat-bottom leather and suede steering wheel. Open the dual pane sunroof, crank up the Beats audio system, and set the dual-zone auto climate control to your desired temp.
Beyond all of the obvious luxuries, the Sport is packed with the latest electronics. Proving simple is better, and you don’t need a console joywheel or touchpad to command devices, the 500X uses Chrysler’s simple touchscreen with easy to understand icons. Connect devices with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite its cute Italian origins, the 500X Sport takes safety seriously as it’s equipped with adaptive cruise, forward crash mitigation braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection. Let’s get on the road.
I would call the 500X fast rather than quick. It’s peppy enough to zip onto freeways, but it is happier devouring expanses of asphalt. That’s due to a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 177 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. of torque through a 9-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shift if you please. All-wheel-drive keeps tires planted. Fuel economy rates 24/30-MPG city/highway, partly due to auto stop/start (which can be disengaged with a big classy button on the dashboard). A couple more MPGs would be nice, but that’s not bad for a fully stoked AWD crossover.
Basic architecture and manufacturing space are shared with the Jeep Renegade, but the 500X has a unique personality that keeps with its European heritage. I feared the 500X would get blown around on the open prairie, but instead felt heavy and solid on the open road while retaining the athleticism to mix it up on country two-lanes. Down in the console, there’s a drive mode switch that configures the powertrain for a normal touring mode (maximizes MPGs), Sport (makes the throttle livelier), or for slick weather (emphasizes traction).
There are some fantastic Italian crossovers available, but several will drain a working person’s entire net worth. Not so with the 500X Sport. It’s the right size to fit in tight urban parking, but feels at home on wide open highways. It’s just menacing enough for you to feel special driving it. An affordable $24,590 base price rises to $35,895 as-tested.
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