ROAD Test: Updated 2018-spec @FIAT_UK 500X, aka "Colin"

First things first, we have to confess a Fiat favouritism and mild lack of objectivity here, because we are very happy owners of the quirky, giant-killing, way-more-capable-than-it-has-any-right-to-be-on-and-off-road, Panda 4x4. And we love the little bambino – it's characterful, charming, fun, frugal, cheap to run and insanely good in the snow/wet/mud/sand and indeed any terrain and conditions it comes across. It's as much of an iconic car as the original 1983-2003 Mk1 in our view, only a far, far better car to own and drive than its grandpa. No wonder it's the discerning Tuscan hill farmer's choice, easily taking on slippery, 30-degree wet and muddy farmland.

Created off the back of the rampant global success of the Fiat 500 and no doubt boosted by the high-traction popularity of the latest Panda 4x4 Cross (not to mention an insatiable global desire for compact SUVs and crossovers), Fiat launched the 500X in 2014. And it's been another incredibly popular model for them, justifiably so.

Why? Well, Fiat make it all very simple for you with the 500X – offering everything a family could ask for in a compact, chic, city-come-country car. And what's more, the 500X does it with a mozzafiato, ney rocambolesco Italian style (Google them!), just like its smaller 500 & 500C city slicker sisters, only with the added handy benefit of a load more space, buckets of inclement weather ability, a handful of off-road tricks up its silky sleeves and the oh-so-handy improved visibility for on-road driving, with its jacked-up ride height and 4x2 drive system. (No, it's not a proper 4x4, like the Panda, but uses electronic trickery for added traction).

The now £15,550+ 2018 500X comes loaded with a lot more refinement that our humble range topping Panda 4x4, with levels of top quality Infotainment system that everyone craves, a good air con system, great safety with Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and no less than six airbags, Fiat's Dualdrive Power Steering for easy driving in and out of the town and Cruise Control with speed limiter for motorways. All of this makes the 500X ideal for taking on its rivals, which it more than matches for exterior and interior design and styling kudos, as you would expect, being Italian.

The now upgraded for 2018 Fiat 500X comes loaded up with its best-in-class infotainment technology featuring next-generation UConnect™ 7-inch HD LIVE infotainment system with UConnect Link, which is Apple Car Play ready and compatible with Android Auto. The system offers key features including Bluetooth interface with hands-free system, audio streaming, text message reader and voice recognition and is standard from Pop Star grade up. 

Furthermore, tech savvy customers can stay in touch with Uconnect™ LIVE services. Users who download the free Uconnect™ LIVE app from the App Store or Google Play Store to their smartphone can fully exploit the benefits of Uconnect™ LIVE, including music streaming with Deezer and TuneIn, news from Reuters, connected navigation with TomTom LIVE and can stay in touch with friends via Facebook check-in and Twitter, all on the move, in safety

The simplified 500X range is now available in three trim levels, combined with a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines. The comprehensive standard equipment levels can be boosted with the addition of a number of packs, such as the Cold Weather pack, which comes with a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and heated wiper area, or the City pack to add electrically folding and heated door mirrors and rear parking camera. Marching Green paint is now available exclusively on Cross Plus models.

So, it's clearly a front runner in terms of its good looks, great spec, attractive packages and does a lot of box ticking, on paper. But what about the driving reality, on the road (and off). Does it have that cheeky Fiat character our Panda or the 500 and 500C have by the Chianti-filled bucketload?

Sadly, in a word, no. In entirety as a family ad to everyone we showed the car to, we all found the 500X to be rather like our pal Colin – darned solid, got your back reliable, who'll get you where you need to go and look jolly smart in the process, but more than a little bit dull, ney disappointing. Sorry Colin.

Furthermore, despite the fact the 500X is well designed and very spacious and comfortable (especially with the warming Winter Car we had on test in these freezing conditions of late), the 500X suffers from the same blight of so many modern cars – really great at handling, but heavily compromising ride comfort to do so. And when a car is not being called on to be sporty and hang onto bends like it matters, why bother leaning that hard on the springs? Get the dampers working Fiat engineers, for a nicer, smoother, more pleasant ride quality. 

Also, the Diesel 1.6 MultiJet II 120HP engine is not as economical as you might think or the figures suggest – claiming 68.9 combined, but delivering low 40s on our average, mixed conditions and traffic (and mainly out of town) 500 mile test drive. But, on the flip side, it is extremely well mannered, very quiet, superbly refined & surprisingly quick. Maybe it will bed in and deliver better mpg later in life? Or maybe I just need to back off the throttle a bit?

Fiat sell the 500X as a 'comfortably elegant SUV' and putting its unnecessarily stiff ride issues aside, we'd say that's fair. It is comfy inside. And it's certainly elegant. Furthermore, the 500X is certainly getting a LOT of things right. In fact, had it not been for the ride quality issue and had our test model had a more lively interior, we perhaps would have liked it more.

But the plain truth is this... we'll stick with our far smaller, far less refined, much simpler and a whole heap more fun Panda 4x4 for now. The extra tech, space and refinement aren't enough to make us want to be aspirational and ride up the Fiat range. Sorry. It's definitely not stuggimento. But it's by no means dietrologia either (Google again!).

Still, don't just take our word for it. Pop up your local dealership and check out the all-new Fiat 500X. The 2018-spec 500X is available to order now priced from £15,550 OTR for the 500X Pop 1.6 E-Torq 110hp petrol.

Maybe a spacious, steady, stiff Colin is just what you need in your life...?


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