First Drive: Does Fiat’s 500X Sport give a dynamic boost to the firm’s crossover?
What is it?
The compact crossover segment offers drivers plenty of practical and, sometimes, sporty options to add a bit of excitement to their motoring experience. Fiat has decided to get involved with the latter of those by introducing a more dynamic offering to its 500X line-up.
Called – funnily enough – the Sport, this new trim option for the Italian crossover comes with a minor mechanical upgrade alongside design touches to differentiate it from the standard 500X. But with an already-crowded crossover segment filled with sporting options, can Fiat’s effort stand out as intended?
In a bid to make the 500X a little more engaging behind the wheel, Fiat has lowered the crossover by 13mm while offering 19-inch alloy wheels fitted with lower-profile tyres and tuned suspension – all with the aim of making the model better to drive.
But Fiat has also modified the looks of the car. It’s added a lower and more aggressive front design, side skirts, a sportier rear diffuser and dual chrome exhausts. Interior updates have also been made, including Alcantara upholstery touches and a sports steering wheel. New engines are also fitted, with Fiat employing two of the new ‘FireFly’ petrol units on the Sport model.
What’s under the bonnet?
As mentioned before, the 500X Sport comes with the latest petrol engines from Fiat. Although a 1.0-litre, 119bhp option is available, it’s expected that the majority of sales will be contributed to the 1.3-litre 148bhp offering – and that’s what we’re trying here. Paired to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 500X Sport will sprint from 0-60mph in 8.9 seconds – before topping out at 124mph.
On the NEDC cycle, Fiat claims the 500X Sport can return a respectable 49.5mpg, while the 138g/km CO2 is about par for the course in this segment. The smaller 1.0-litre is better on fuel and emissions, so could be the better option if you don’t mind slightly less punch from the engine.
However, we’d much prefer the manual option that’s only paired to the entry engine, as the automatic feels sluggish when under hard acceleration and struggled when climbing up hills. The 1.3-litre is peppy enough, but the transmission is a real let down and only settles when the car is cruising around – not befitting of a ‘Sport’ model. Even using the paddle shifters fitted to our car can’t hide the lagging gearbox.
What’s it like to drive?
The Sport upgrade for the 500X hasn’t been wholly successful, as the firmer suspension and large 19-inch alloy wheels applied to our test car make the model quite uncomfortable. Behind the wheel, the majority of road imperfections on our Italian test route transferred into the cabin, with only smoother surfaces offering any reprieve.
The electric steering setup of the 500X doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback, but it’s direct and light enough to get around tighter turns. However, when pushed, it does err on the side of understeer and fails to inspire much confidence at higher speeds. Admittedly, narrower streets experienced on our test route make the 500X feel quite wide, but on the open road, you can position the car easily.
How does it look?
The 500X tries to transfer the cutesy and loveable looks of the standard 500 into a larger form and on the whole, it does a decent job.
By adding the sporting touches, the car sits and looks much lower to the road – arguably suiting the 500X more than the standard design. With the 19-inch alloys, the sporty aesthetic is continued and look great alongside the new fascia and new rear-end.
Additional metallic detailing around the front fog lights, chrome exhaust tips and grey mirror caps enhance the looks of the 500X Sport – especially when paired to the trim-exclusive Sport Red paint.
What’s it like inside?
The Sport upgrade continues inside, with Alcantara and leather used throughout to make for a darker interior. There are some harsher plastics used on the dashboard and central console, which do detract from the overall feel of the vehicle. It’s easy to get the right driving position though, as there is plenty of adjustability on the steering column and seats.
The interior space is quite expansive though for a car of this size and it means there’s plenty of room for passengers in the front and rear. The 350-litre boot is also well-sized, with the lip not too high.
What’s the spec like?
Priced from £22,500, Fiat has enhanced the overall 500X package with the Sport trim. Standard kit on the 500X include the seven-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and smartphone connectivity, automatic climate control and cruise control. Safety systems are also included, such as traffic sign recognition and lane assist – with our test model also fitted with the optional Magic Eye that added a host of other assists.
With the Sport upgrade, Fiat adds the additional sporty styling, a sports steering wheel, full LED headlights and daytime running lights, leather and Alcantara upholstery exclusive to the trim level, and aluminium pedals. Our test car also came with a Beats Audio stereo setup and paddle shifters mounted on the back of the steering wheel.
If you’re after a car that looks sporty while offering lots of space for passengers and storage, then the 500X Sport might be the car for you. It’s well-equipped for its price and on the whole, is perfectly easy to live with.
However, the driving element of the Sport is where it’s let down. The car is overly firm on the 19-inch alloys fitted to our test vehicle, while the supposed dynamic driving feel didn’t come to fruition as we would have hoped. We would want this engine paired to a manual transmission to get the most out of it and additional feel from the steering wouldn’t go amiss either. However, in its current form, it just misses the mark.