Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Hot to trot

It might not be an Italian stallion in the true sense of the word, but as LIANA REINERS discovers, the Fiat 500X has more than enough charisma to bowl a lady over.

How cute is this car? Honestly it was love at first sight when the Fiat 500X was dropped off for our test period, which saw me driving it to Middelburg after Easter Weekend, but mostly consisted of intown driving to and from the local shopping mall and the odd visit to the rest of the family. It’s a pity I didn’t get to flaunt it somewhere exciting, because the Fiat 500X is a car that deserves to be admired.

The ‘regular’ Fiat 500 is an iconic vehicle in itself, but the 500X takes things to a whole new level in terms of design, comfort, technology and safety. It kept everything that is cool about the 500 and mixed in a few key features to cater for the ever-growing trend towards crossover vehicles and the adventures they make possible.

There are three models in the line-up and we got to sample the 500X Cross. The top-of-the-range model is the Fiat 500X Sport EST, which stands for extended soft top. I can just imagine how cool you must feel driving this specific model – sun on your face and wind in your hair – but the 500X Cross was plenty cool enough for me, thank you very much!

Oh so handsome

‘Cute’ is perhaps not the best word to describe the 500X. It reminds me of a cockerel, loudly and proudly strutting its stuff among larger and more imposing ‘animals’. There is already a Fiat 500 in our immediate family circle, and she is affectionately named Francesca. The name suits her because she is all Italian style, poise, and good looks… cute. The 500X is no Francesca, though – it‘s more of a Giovanni: confident, stocky and oh so handsome.

Fiat describes it as free-spirited and built for both stylish outdoor and urban adventures. I have to agree. You might not think that a Fiat 500 can be an adventure vehicle, but roof rails and skid plates – standard on the 500X Cross – tell a different story. Black mirror caps, 18-inch wheels and LED headlamps and LED fog lights also play a part in its cheeky good looks.

A runt with grunt

The Fiat 500X is powered by a 1.4-litre direct injection petrol engine, available across the range in a fully automatic six-speed DDCT transmission. With 103kW at 5 000rpm and 230Nm at 1 750rpm on tap, it’s a nippy little performer. It’s economical, too. Official company literature claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.6 litres/100km in a combined cycle. I was rather impressed to get very close to that during the two weeks I drove it.

Although this is no speed machine it’s no slouch either. Pulling off feels somewhat delayed and it takes a while to get up to speed, but once it hits the sweet spot the little car can effortlessly maintain a comfortable canter.

Bells and whistles

It almost feels unnecessary to talk about technology because most current-day vehicles are virtually on par when it comes to technology. In the case of the Fiat 500X there is the usual list, including an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen. It offers a wide range of functions such as hands-free control, Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition. And yes, it has Apple CarPlay integration and Android Auto compatibility too. In fact, the system has a user-friendly interface that allows occupants to manage maps, music, contacts, and more.

I always gauge the user-friendliness of an infotainment system by whether I can figure it out by myself or if I need a teenager to sort it out for me. In the case of the 500X I can proudly state that no assistance was required.

Safety spec is also pretty much in the same ballpark as everyone else. Active crash protection includes front airbags for driver and passenger, along with curtain airbags and side bags. Daytime running lights create added visibility on the road… and they also look super cool!

Of course, ABS is standard across the range, as is Electronic Stability Control. For added convenience, the hill-holder will make you look like a pro on every uphill pull-off and take away one’s traffic stress.

The verdict

I have always found the regular Fiat 500 to be very cute and all, but a bit too small for my liking. The 500X, in my book, is just right. It’s quite a looker, and it can also hold its own in terms of performance, comfort, and spec.

In addition, it’s loads of fun to drive, making it a great overall package. And, did I mention it is handsome…?

Model line-up and pricing

• Fiat 500X Cross: R509 900

• Fiat 500X Sport: R560 900

• Fiat 500X Sport EST: R580 900

*All models come standard with a 5-year/100 000km, a 3-year/60 000km service plan and 5-year/100 000km roadside assistance.

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