As a result of the Millennial USA road trip, Fiat invited me to Los Angeles to test drive their new crossover, the 500X. It is best described as the athletic love child of the compact 500 and spacious 500L. You probably remember it from this ED-inspired Super Bowl commercial. Since I was flown down as an authority on long-distance road trips and the Millennial mindset, I wrote my review of the 500X with those two topics in mind.
As a red-blooded American male, I cannot drive an underpowered vehicle. Thankfully, the Italians did their homework and made sure the 500X had some oomph under the hood. Its 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark engine produces 180 hp, 175 lb.-ft of torque, and a noticeable growl. With an average curb weight of 3,100 lbs., a solid stomp on the gas makes the car go in a hurry, but do not expect race car times at the track.
The 500X has three drive settings: Auto, Sport, and Traction+, which you can toggle between using a knob on the center console. Auto optimizes your fuel efficiency and should be used when you’re stuck in traffic or want to punish yourself. Sport should be your default setting, as it brings out the true personality of the 500X and will be responsible for all of your favorite driving memories. Traction+ maximizes low-speed traction by providing additional wheel slip assistance, and was added for those of us not living in the Sun Belt. The 500x is also the first Fiat in the U.S. to have an all-wheel-drive model, which will make off-season road trips less daunting should you need to cross a snowy mountain pass or drive through heavy rainstorms (I’m looking at you, Lubbock, Texas).
My daily driver is a 2012 Honda Civic, and the 500x handles about the same. I could feel the extra weight whipping around turns, but I was otherwise impressed with the car’s tight suspension and responsiveness. Its crossover profile keeps the 500X from feeling top-heavy and provides the low center of gravity needed for spirited maneuvering.
As far as technology goes, the 500X has all the road trip essentials. Its Uconnect GPS navigation system is simple and easy to read, but still requires the traditional plug and chug button punching of older systems. So if you need to make route adjustments on the fly, your phone is still the quickest solution. In the audio department the 500X boasts a BeatsAudio sound system, which accommodates AUX, USB, and Bluetooth connection. Taking advantage of the SiriusXM Radio, I made sure to play some classical music for a proper test of fidelity, and after many minutes of Verdi it gets my stamp of approval. Sadly, I did not see a CD player, so you will have to leave your binder of middle school mixes at home.
The 500X comfortably accommodates two. I am 5’11” and got lost in the passenger side legroom. The back seats are more of an afterthought used only out of necessity, like if it’s your turn to DD or if you need to shuttle around your nieces and nephews. That said, I was able to extend my legs across the entire back seat, so in-car napping is still a definite possibility. Long story short, if your trip lasts over one hour and you are taller than 5′, riding in the back will take mental perseverance.
For those of you who feel the need to be pampered while you drive, you will be happy to know that the 500X has heated front seats and steering wheel in addition to extensive driver and passenger climate controls. There is also a forward power sunroof and stationary rear sunroof, so everyone in the car can enjoy the bounty of Phoebus.
The trunk of the 500X can handle the majority of your daily loads. For additional space, the car has 60/40 rear split seats and a fold forward passenger seat. Should you need to do some light smuggling, the rear cargo floor can be removed to provide clandestine storage space. There is easily enough room for two people to pack a month’s worth of gear and provisions.
One fun, somewhat gimmicky feature is that the top glove compartment is connected to the AC system, so you can keep food and beverages cool while you drive. It is by no means a refrigerator, but it’s better than nothing on a hot California day. I signed an agreement preventing me from purchasing alcohol on the drive, so I don’t know if it will accommodate a PBR tall boy, but I did manage to squeeze in two Dasani water bottles.
Since we are all young and invincible this section doesn’t really matter, but I will include a few words for the parents in the audience.
Visibility is excellent and the car comes with the standard complement of backup monitoring and driver alert systems. If your child does get into a collision, you can take comfort in the fact that he or she will be protected by at least one of the car’s seven standard air bags.
Fiat offers the 500X in five trim models: Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge, and Trekking Plus. Base prices start at $20,000 for the Pop and end with $27,100 for the Trekking Plus. To put that in Millennial math, the Pop costs 54 Coachella passes and the Trekking Plus costs 73.
Fiat’s 26-year absence in the United States means that there is no pre-existing narrative for Fiat owners other than the one Fiat creates. After an inspired ad campaign of supermodels, scorpions, and unabashed sexual innuendo, it is clearly a narrative geared towards our demographic. I mean, what do twenty-somethings like more than appearing stylish and
getting naked partying?
Speaking of style, the 500X has seven interior environments and twelve exterior color options. If you want to take things a step further, Fiat’s Mopar accessories allow you to customize the mirror covers, bodyside molding, rims, and exterior graphics. In other words, the 500X provides ample opportunity to express your personality–something Millennials love to do.
Lastly, it’s a discussion piece. Owning a Fiat now is like owning a Mini Cooper twelve years ago. Its sleek Italian lines stand out on the road and the car becomes part of your identity. As a generation of attention seekers and early adopters, Fiat and the 500X represent the perfect opportunity to showcase our prescience and flair. But like most things, it’s only a matter of time before our parents follow suit in an attempt to stay “hip” and ruin it completely.
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