Words: Robert Nichols
Photography: Robert Nichols
Published: October 12, 2016
I have never really understood the attraction of those cutesy niche cars that serve no real purpose beyond acting as an accessory. I believe vehicles should serve a useful purpose be it hauling lumber, children, or my personal favourite, providing countless hours of driving excitement, the kind of driving that leaves you with a rather silly grin for days.
When I was offered the chance to drive a Fiat 500X my initial feelings were not flattering. You see, the Fiat 500 is one of those cutesy cars, perfect for your teenage daughter but far too small for me to fit in. It offers so little space that it is in no way useful to me as a daily driver.
The one exception would be the 500 Abarth that our Managing Editor recently got his hands on. It sort reminds me of the angry bunny from the movie, The Secret Life Of Pets. The boundless rage bottled up inside that cute fluffy bunny is startling and hilarious. The Abarth is much the same.
The morning came when I was supposed to pick up the 500X, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found waiting for me. The 500X is not the sort of car I had envisioned. Yes it still resembles the 500 but in the same way a dog resembles a puppy. The 500X is a Fiat 500 that has grown into adulthood. It has room for the type of things grown-ups need to lug around like groceries and luggage.
Four adults could conceivably get into it and its looks have matured. Fiat has classified the X as a CUV. Sure it is a CUV in the same way the Volkswagen Beetle Dune is, but I am not here to nit-pick classifications.
My tester was a front wheel drive Sport model powered by a 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir engine. I know what a Tigershark is but MultiAir? Apparently Fiat has used this term to distinguish its variable timing system from other brands. The system operates in a much different way than most others and has some advantages.
In many VVT systems the valves are actuated by direct contact with the camshaft. To provide variable timing the camshaft is advanced or retarded by one form of mechanical alteration or another. Fiat has done things a bit differently and to good effect.
Rather than relying on a camshaft, the MultiAir system uses high pressure oil to control the valves. In Fiat’s engine, the camshaft lobes press on plungers that pressurize oil in a chamber; that high pressure oil is then controlled by an electronic solenoid and used to accurately control how much and how long the intake valves open.
By using hydraulic pressure it offers this control for each cylinder individually. Because the system has such finite control over the amount of air entering the cylinder it was deemed MultiAir. The engineers have claimed a 10% reduction in fuel consumption over a conventional cam actuated engine.
To a driver all of this technical jargon can be a tad confusing. What you will notice is that the engine is responsive throughout the rev range because it is able to vary the fuel and air mixture that enters the cylinder with more than common precision. These engines can afford to have less displacement (to be smaller) and still be able to produce adequate power.
The 500X feels peppy around town and can overtake without causing you to second guess your decision. Power is transmitted to a 9-speed automatic that exhibits some harsh shifts whenever I accelerate hard to 50 km/h and then let off. It felt as if the transmission was not expecting me to decelerate just yet and hesitated before grabbing the next gear out of frustration at my lack of commitment. But beyond that one quirk, the system does a good job at keeping the engine at lower revs.
The steering is tight and immediate adding to a fun to drive demeanour that is sorely lacking in the CUV category. It feels like driving a jacked up go-kart. The suspension is firm enough without punishing you and cornering is enjoyable. The body has a touch of roll but that just means it is built for a real road and not a track. Hit a pothole in this and you will not have to make an appointment with your chiropractor.
Interior-wise the 500X is pure Fiat. The fantastic thick, almost flat-bottomed steering wheel feels great in your hands. The overall design theme seems to be simple and clean. There is nothing extraneous yet nothing is lacking. The test unit had heated seats, satellite radio, and Bluetooth, all easy to operate thanks to real knobs and buttons.
Navigation is optional but was not present – no nothing more than the essentials and I like that. No distractions just driving. The infotainment screen is mounted high up on the dash making it easy and safe to glance at. It is not very large, but as it was not required to act as a map it was adequate. The system responds quickly to your inputs and the layout is easy to understand.
The seats are large, and have a nice and high mounting that keeps your knees bent nicely, almost like sitting in your favourite lounge chair. As this is not a sporty car, the bolstering is minimal which means the seats do not grip you tightly. Instead they feel roomy. Back seat legroom is not great but it will do for a short trip, just don’t let the tallest guy drive or you will be effectively losing one of the rear spots. Cargo space is good given the shape of the vehicle, enhanced by easy to fold seats, a wide tailgate, and a low lift height.
A word on fuel economy; I scored better than advertised after my week of testing. I managed 8.7 L/100 km of spirited motoring. The official number is 9.3 L/100 km combined. It would appear the engineers were correct and the MultiAir technology does deliver improved fuel consumption.
The Fiat 500X has more machismo than the 500 and will therefore appeal to a new group of potential buyers without alienating those who like the cuteness of the smaller sibling. There is a definite fun to drive feeling with this vehicle that will put a smile on your face despite less than exciting performance figures.
But what can figures really tell us? Fun is a feeling, not a statistic. If you love the Italian flair of the 500 hatchback but need a bit more room, you might want to check out the 500X. If you need a smaller crossover but want something that stands out in a crowd, take a 500X for a test drive, you may be happily surprised.
型号 Model: 2016 Fiat 500X Sport
顏色 Paint Type: Bronze Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $27,495
試車售價 Price as Tested: $33,445
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,273 / 1,796 / 1,602
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,404
引擎 Engine: 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir I4
最大馬力 Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 175 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 9-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.6 / 7.6 / 9.3
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.7
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 215/55R17 Nexen Class Premiere