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Fiat 500X 2019 review: Pop Star

EXPERT RATING
6.8
The Fiat 500X has been around for a while now, but it hasn't really ever seen success in the Australian market. Should it have, though? It's cute, decently priced and offers a bit more character than some of its vanilla competitors. Here's what we thought of the 2019 model after a week behind the wheel.

Fiat's indomitable 500 is one of the great survivors - not even VW's recently deceased New Beetle could keep riding the nostalgia wave, partly because it made itself just that little bit out-of-touch by not being a car anyone can buy. The 500 avoided that, particularly in its home market, and is still going strong.

Fiat added the 500X compact SUV a few years ago and at first I thought it was a daft idea. It's a polarising car, partly because some people complain it's capitalising on the 500's history. Well, duh. It's worked out well for Mini, so why not?

I've driven one every year for the last couple so I was keen to see what's up and whether it's still one of the weirdest cars on the road.

Fiat 500X 2019: Pop Star
Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$29,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?  7/10

Look, I like the 500X, but I know why people don't. It's clearly a 500X in the way a Mini Countryman is a Mini. It looks like a 500, but get closer and you see the difference. It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo. I find this endearing, my wife does not. The looks aren't the only thing she doesn't like.

  • The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500. The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500.
  • "It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo." "It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo."

The cabin is a bit more restrained and I quite like the band of colour stretching across the dash. The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500, so there's a proper dash, more sensible design choices but it still has the big buttons, perfect for the meaty fingers of people who won't be buying this car.

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got. The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down, I think you could reasonably expect to triple that figure, though Fiat doesn't have an official number that I can find. For added Italian feel, you can tip the passenger seat forward to get really long things in, like a Billy bookshelf flat pack from Ikea.

  • At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got. At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got.
  • The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down. The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down.
  • The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four. The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four.
  • Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head. Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head.

Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head. 

The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  7/10

I drove the Pop Star, which is the second of the now-two model "regular" range, the other being the, er, Pop. I drove a Special Edition in 2018 and it's not clear if it is Special as there's also an Amalfi Special edition. Anyway.

The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys, six-speaker Beats-branded stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, leather shifter and steering wheel and a space-saver spare.

  • The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys. The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys.
  • The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has auto headlights and wipers. The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has auto headlights and wipers.
  • The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
  • The Pop Star comes with a space-saver spare. The Pop Star comes with a space-saver spare.

The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The same system is in a Maserati, don't you know. Offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect loses points by shrinking the Apple interface into a lurid red frame. Android Auto properly fills the screen, for some reason which is ironic given Apple owns the Beats brand.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

Fiat's rather excellent 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir does duty under the stubby bonnet, making 103kW and 230Nm. Rather less excellent is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sends power through the front wheels only.

Fiat's 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir makes 103kW and 230Nm.The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sends power through the front wheels only. Fiat's 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir makes 103kW and 230Nm.The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sends power through the front wheels only.

It's rated to tow a 1200kg braked trailer and 600kg unbraked.

How much fuel does it consume?  6/10

Fiat rather optimistically suggest you'll get a combined cycle figure of 5.7L/100km but try as I might, I couldn't do better than 11.2L/100km. What's worse, it demands 98RON fuel, so it's not the cheapest car to run. This figure us consistent with past weeks in the 500X and no, I wasn't thrashing it.

What's it like to drive?  6/10

Again, I shouldn't like the 500X but I really don't mind it. It's flawed, which might be why.

The ride is very choppy below 60km/h. The ride is very choppy below 60km/h.

The dual-clutch transmission is dumber than a box of loose cogs, lurching from start and looking the other way when you expect it to shift. We know the engine is a good one and I think part of the reason it's so thirsty is the confused way the transmission goes about its business. I'd love to drive a manual to see what it's like.

The 500X initially feels worse than its Jeep Renegade sibling-under-the-skin, which is quite an achievement. Part of that is to do with the ride, which is very choppy below 60km/h. The first 500X I drove wallowed about but this one is a bit tauter, which would be good if you weren't punished with this bounciness.

The seats themselves comfortable and the interior is a good place to hang out. It's reasonably quiet, too, which is at odds with the old-school silliness of its conduct. It feels like Labrador let out of after day kept inside.

The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle. The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle.

And that's where the car I shouldn't like is a car I do like - I really like that it feels like you're on Roman cobblestones, the type that make your knees hurt when you walk on them for a day. The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle, but you kind of square up to it and drive the car like your life depends on it. You have to take it by the scruff, correct the shifts with the paddles and show it who's boss.

The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016. The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016.

Obviously, that's not for everyone. If you drive it really gently, it's a very different experience, but that means going slowly everywhere, which is no fun at all and not at all Italian.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 150,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

Out of the box, you get seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, high and low speed AEB, active cruise control, rollover stability, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot sensor and rear cross traffic alert. That's not bad for a $30,000 car full stop, let alone a Fiat.

There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for baby seats. 

The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016.

 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  6/10

Fiat offers a three-year/150,000km warranty, along with roadside assist for the same period. It's not great as more manufacturers shift to five years. 

Service intervals arrive once a year or 15,000km. There is no fixed or capped-price servicing program for the 500X.

Pricing Guides

$28,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$24,990
Highest Price
$32,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
AMLFI EDITION 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $31,490 2019 Fiat 500X 2019 AMLFI EDITION Pricing and Specs
LAUNCH EDITION 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $32,990 2019 Fiat 500X 2019 LAUNCH EDITION Pricing and Specs
Pop 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $24,990 2019 Fiat 500X 2019 Pop Pricing and Specs
Pop Star 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $29,990 2019 Fiat 500X 2019 Pop Star Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving6

“The 500X is a fun-looking alternative to the various options available from everyone else and is - overall - better to drive than its Renegade twin. ”

Would you choose the Fiat 500X over one its better-known competitors? Tell us in the comments section below.

Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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