With international demand for the Fiat 500L best described as weak, and with only 1 unit sold locally last month, Fiat, at least in South Africa will be hoping that the newly introduced 500X be an expected sales success.
The formula for the 500X is simple, and for the diehard original Fiat 500 enthusiast perhaps disappointing, as the history of the 500 is built upon, or eroded, depending on your standpoint.
Like the 500, which when launched, had its sights set firmly on the MINI Cooper hatch, the 500X is again after its retro counterpart albeit in Countryman form this time.
Certainly with regards to price because Fiat SA have priced the 500X firmly in the boutique crossover range with launch pricing starting at R344 900.00 for the l.4-litre automatic. Comparatively, the 1.6-litre MINI Countryman automatic costs R354 248.00. A cheaper version will follow in August this year.
The 500 is a familiar sight on local roads, and the new 500X has clearly borrowed styling cues from its sibling, with the bumper, grille, and three-tier lights arrangement clearly resembling the 500, if larger, wider, and swollen in every aspect. Think of the 500X as a 500 after a marathon botox session.
The 500X is the first product in a new alliance with Chrysler (the former now owns the latter) and beneath the cute exterior it is actually based on the new Jeep Renegade, riding on the exact platform. However, where the Jeep’s new baby in the range will appeal to the hairy chested Marlboro Man Boy types, the 500X is surely set to appeal to the Crossover fashionistas with its clear soft-road bias.
Fiat says “That with a decidedly more off-road look and equipment makes the 500X Cross the ideal solution for lovers of leisure and outdoor activities who donâ€™t want to give up the unique style of the Fiat 500.” I tend to agree.
However big it is in comparison to the 500, at 4 250mm long, 1 800mm wide and 1 610mm tall, the 500X occupies a relatively small space on the road. In comparison, a Nissan Qashqai is only 127mm longer.
Buyers will be able to choose from seven exterior colours and inside will be able to personalise the look and feel of their new 500X by selecting a combination of various types of fabric, leather and interior trim colours.
Two petrol engines will be available, an 81kW naturally aspirated 1.6-litre mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and a 103kW turbocharged 1.4-litre with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Crossover pretensions aside, front-wheel drive is the only option.
All 500X models feature Fiat’s Drive Mood Selector, which acts on engine, brakes, steering and transmission, allowing drivers to alter the cars personality, so to speak, through four preset options: ‘Auto’ (best for comfort, consumption and CO2 emissions), ‘Sport’ (for more spirited performance). ‘All Weather’ maximizes traction on low friction surfaces such as wet roads â€“ available on Pop Star model and ‘Traction’ which promises improved grip on rough and slippery terrain and will be available on Cross and Cross Plus models.
Safety wise and standard across the range are six airbags (front, window bags and side bags), LED daytime running lights for increased visibility, fog lights with cornering function, and sophisticated ESC (Electronic Stability Control).
Optional extras such as Lane Assist (lane departure warning system) and Blind Spot Assist, as well as ParkView rear camera for reversing assistance, will be available on request.
All models come standard with Fiat’s Uconnect system with either a 5-inch or 6.5-inch touchscreen. Both versions feature Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, Aux-in, USB port and voice commands. Satellite navigation is standard on both with the 5-inch variant offering TomTom 2.5D navigation while the 6.5-inch features satellite navigation with 3D maps, and more sophisticated voice commands. Standard multi-function steering wheel enables fingertip controls for the multimedia interface.
The 500X will initially be launched with the 1.4l Cross 6-speed manual and limited numbers of the 1.4l Cross with the 6-speed DDCT (dual-clutch) transmission. Priced at R344 900.00 and R359 900.00 respectively.
The 500X 1.4l Cross Plus will be launched at the end of August and 1.6l Pop Star will be launched at the end of September. Priced at R379 900.00 and R310 900.00 respectively.