First Drive

2015 Fiat 500X review

The new Fiat 500X is the latest addition to the company's trendy 500 family. We try it on UK roads in left-hand drive form.

Words ByWill Nightingale

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The Fiat 500X is the Italian brand’s belated answer to the likes of the Citroen C4 Cactus, Kia Soul and Nissan Juke. In other words, it’s a stylish and relatively low-priced SUV with a similar footprint to a VW Golf.

On sale now, the 500X is available with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines, both two- and four-wheel drive and manual and automatic gearboxes. However, it’s the front-wheel drive 119bhp 1.6 diesel we’re testing here that Fiat expects to be the biggest seller.

What’s the 2015 Fiat 500X like inside?

As you’d expect, those chunky SUV proportions give the 500X a lofty driving position and a commanding view of the road ahead. Supportive seats with plenty of adjustment make it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, and even tall drivers will fit easily enough thanks to that high roofline.

However, since our test car was an early left-hand drive example, it remains to be seen if Fiat has remedied the cramped pedal area that affects many of its cars when they're converted to right-hand drive.

The dashboard is fairly logical with all versions apart from the entry-level Pop getting an intuitive 5.0in colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and a USB socket. It’s a shame that adding sat-nav means forking out Β£1000 (which also gets you a larger screen), although Fiat will be introducing a cheaper nav option later in the year.

Probably most impressive, though, is just how smart the interior is. As you’d expect from a Fiat, there’s plenty of design flair, but this time there’s also a real sense of quality, with lots of soft, dense-feeling plastics. It’s a real step forward for Fiat and even a match for rivals such as the Kia Soul.

You have to be a bit careful not to bash your head when getting in the back due to the shape of the rear door openings, but once inside you’ll find enough of space for a couple of tall adults. Things are certainly less cramped than in the back of a C4 Cactus, for example, although the Soul is an altogether roomier choice.

All three cars have similar-sized boots (about 350 litres), which is plenty for a big food shop or a pushchair. What’s more, for an extra Β£250, Fiat will fit a height-adjustable boot floor. This add-on is seriously handy because, as well as allowing you to divide the load area into two, it irons out the big lip at the entrance to the boot. It also means there's no annoying step in the floor when you fold down the rear seats to extend the load bay.

What’s the 2015 Fiat 500X like to drive?

The 500X copes well with city life. It’s quick enough from one set of traffic lights to the next, and the light steering – that can be made even lighter by pressing a button on the dash – makes manoeuvring and parking as easy as you could hope for.

Out of town, you quickly notice the steering feels rather remote and disconnected, which doesn’t inspire much confidence through faster corners. There’s plenty of body sway, too, due to the soft suspension, although the 500X never lurches around uncontrollably.

What’s more, that soft suspension helps take the sting out of bigger bumps around town, so you won’t be wincing every time you have to tackle a speedbump or an unavoidable pothole.

Things do get more unsettled as you pick up the pace, though. The Fiat’s body bobs up and down over higher frequency ripples, which is annoying on long motorway jaunts. However, you could level the same criticism at many rivals.

We’ve criticised the refinement of Fiat’s 1.6 Multijet diesel engine in the 500L, but there is a marked improvement here where it’s both smoother and quieter. It's a shame that the gear-shift is a bit vague, though.

Should I buy one?

Assuming your heart is set on a small SUV rather than a conventional hatchback, the new 500X deserves serious consideration; it’s stylish, practical, decent enough to drive and far smarter inside than any of Fiat’s other models.

However, it’s the cheaper versions that make the most sense, because the pricier trims and the more powerful engines push the 500X squarely into Nissan Qashqai territory – a bigger and a better all-rounder.

As long as you keep the price south of Β£20k, then, the 500X should most definitely be on your shortlist alongside the Kia Soul, Citroen C4 Cactus and cheaper versions of the Skoda Yeti.

What Car? says…

Rivals:

Kia Soul

Skoda Yeti

Fiat 500X 1.6 Multijet II 120

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from Β£19,095

Power 119bhp

Torque 236lb ft

0-62mph 10.5 seconds

Top speed 116mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 109g/km