Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Fiat’s 500X since it debuted two years ago as a 2016 model, and certainly didn’t hold back sharing such positive sentiments in my review of a Trekking Plus AWD…

2017 Fiat 500X Sport

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
Now well into its second year, the 2017 Fiat 500X delivers excellent value, especially in Sport trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Fiat’s 500X since it debuted two years ago as a 2016 model, and certainly didn’t hold back sharing such positive sentiments in my review of a Trekking Plus AWD model, that trim actually discontinued for 2017. We now have a 500X Sport in our garage, and while not as fully featured as the Trekking it’s nevertheless amply appealing. Unfortunately, the 500X hasn’t done as well on North American sales charts as I first expected or Fiat initially hoped.

As with any new model, the buying public has to like its familial design language in order to enjoy success, and to that end the Fiat brand suffers a similar fate to Mini. I’m not saying that the 500X or its siblings are unattractive in any way (ok, the 500L is a bit odd), but like the iconic British carmaker, the equally storied Italian brand has chosen to cling to its past for all North American offerings instead of offering the many more modern designs within other market segments sold globally, and retrospective styling isn’t for everyone.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
The 500X uses fewer retro styling cues than its smaller 500 sibling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I can’t say for sure that styling is central to Canadian’s lack of interest in the 500X or Fiat in general, nor the U.S. market that mostly shuns the Italian carmaker, but the impressive little SUV remains almost as exclusive as a near-exotic Maserati despite doubling its numbers over the first half of 2017.

Last year Fiat found a mere 766 500X buyers, whereas by the close of Q2 2017 it had already purveyed 786. That’s impressive growth, but still not enough to get it out of the subcompact SUV basement. The only competitor selling less is Mini’s Countryman that arguably targets the premium sector due to much higher pricing, the next slowest selling model being the platform-sharing Jeep Renegade with 3,962 sales last year, albeit a much stronger showing over the first six months of 2017 thanks to 2,968 sales. By comparison, Honda’s HR-V found 12,371 buyers last year and a shocking 8,219 over the first half of 2017, with others in the class being Subaru’s Crosstrek with 9,723 and 3,945 deliveries respectively, Mazda’s CX-3 with 9,354 and 4,873, Chevy’s Trax with 9,072 and 3,202, Mitsubishi’s RVR with 6,196 and 3,443, and so on.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
These 17-inch machine-finished alloys are $300 upgrades over the standard Sport model’s 17s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ll tell you why I think these numbers aren’t fair in my upcoming review. For now, suffice to say there’s a lot more to the little Fiat 4×4 that a simple pricing, specs and features overview can attest to. As for pricing, the base front-wheel drive 2017 500X Pop starts at $23,245 before freight and fees, although Fiat is currently offering a $3,000 no-haggle discount, getting the base price down to $20,245. This makes it one of the most affordable in its class, and therefore an even more viable alternative to the aforementioned big sellers than usual.

With the Trekking Plus now gone, Fiat provides four 500X trim levels for 2017. Already noted base Pop trim is immediately followed by the $27,745 Sport (now available for $24,745), plus the non-Plus $28,745 Trekking (now $25,745), and lastly the top-line $31,740 Lounge (now $28,740). I won’t detail out all the features of the two upper trims in this overview, but in short the Trekking gets a sporty off-road theme and the Lounge is downright luxurious, and these models are positioned above a subcompact SUV that starts out fairly well equipped in base trim.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
The 500X interior is bright, colourful, cheery, well made, and full of top-tier features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard Pop goodies include bifunctional halogen projector headlamps, body-colour powered heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, chrome door handles, a body-colour rear rooftop spoiler, a chromed exhaust tip, a capless fuel filler, an engine block heater, remote keyless entry, an electromechanical parking brake, a body-colour instrument panel, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, a 3.5-inch multi-information display, micron-filtered air conditioning, a Uconnect 5.0 multimedia centre with 5.0-inch colour touchscreen, four-speaker AM/FM audio with a USB port and aux input, premium soft-touch interior surfacing, cloth upholstery, powered windows, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and a fold-forward front-passenger seat, tire pressure monitoring with a display, hill start assist, seven airbags, an antitheft engine immobilizer, a security alarm, and more.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
The 500X combines fabulous style with superb functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Safety in mind, top-tier trims earn IIHS Top Safety Pick status when optional front crash protection is added, but this level of active safety isn’t available with our Sport trimmed tester. Instead, Sport trim moves its standard feature set up a significant notch from the base 500X thanks to 17-inch alloys on 215/55 all-seasons in place of 16-inch steel rims on 215/60s, a sportier 3.73 final drive ratio instead of 4.43, Fiat’s Dynamic Selector with three driving modes, auto on/off headlamps, fog lamps with cornering capability, deep tint privacy glass, remote start (with the automatic), proximity-sensing keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, a “Premium wrapped” leatherette steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, six-speaker audio, satellite radio with a one-year subscription, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, a front centre sliding armrest, another USB port, illuminated vanity mirrors, a reversible height-adjustable cargo floor, etcetera.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
Our 500X Sport tester includes almost every option, including a backup camera and navigation for its upgraded 6.5-inch touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The only trim standard with a backup camera is top-line Lounge, but don’t worry because Sport buyers can add Fiat’s ParkView monitor separately for $475 or upgrade to the $1,250 Driver Assist Group that includes the camera as well as Park-Sense rear sensors, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, and a colourized version of the base model’s 3.5-inch multi-information display.

Additional Sport options include a $695 Cold Weather Group with a windshield wiper de-icer, a heatable steering wheel, and heated front seats; a $1,295 Convenience Group with everything from the Cold Weather Group as well as dual-zone auto climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, ambient lighting, and a cargo cover; and a $1,100 Navigation Group that includes navigation with detailed mapping within a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen, plus a compass.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
Dual-zone auto HVAC is a nice comfortable touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Standalone Sport options include a fabulous $1,295 dual-pane panoramic moonroof, a $995 BeatsAudio sound system, a sportier set of $300 machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets, and a $295 compact spare tire. My tester includes nearly everything on the options list, making it especially good for my detailed hands-on review.

Something else I like, Fiat offers the same number of paint choices no matter the trim level, and it’s a massive 11-colour palette allowing buyers a lot more personalization than most competitors. Along with four base colours, which even include trendy Arancio orange and classic Italian Rosso Passione, a colour Fiat clarifies as “Hypnotique Red” as if that should help us picture it, are five $195 metallic hues including stunning new Rame Chiaro, a light copper, and two $995 tri-coat colours, the latter including bright Giallo Tristrato yellow, and Rosso Amore red.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
The supportive front seats live up to its Sport trim designation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The base 500X Pop can only be had with front-wheel drive, but all models above can be outfitted with Fiat’s all-wheel drivetrain, which comes standard with the Lounge. This is nothing unusual, but offering two engines isn’t the class norm. Even base models have a choice of powertrains being that the puny but potent 1.4-litre MultiAir four-cylinder is the designated engine for the six-speed manual, front-wheel drive variant and the larger 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir four is dedicated to the ZF-designed nine-speed automatic that comes standard with all-wheel drive. The smaller turbocharged unit puts out a commendable 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, whereas the bigger naturally aspirated engine makes 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.

Our Sport had the former drivetrain setup that’s good for a claimed 9.5 L/100km in the city and 7.1 on the highway, although thanks to the optional engine’s nine-speed automatic it’s not much thirstier with an estimated rating of 10.7 city and 7.7 highway.

2017 Fiat 500X Sport
Roomy for rear passengers and cargo? Come back for the full review for all the most important details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted earlier, Fiat’s Dynamic Selector configurable drive modes let you choose pre-programmed settings to manage throttle response and engine revs before shifts, which is an unusually welcome feature for an SUV in this class, giving the 500X a sportier character than most of its rivals. What’s more, the little Fiat SUV’s available all-wheel drive system boasts a disconnecting rear axle to minimize fuel consumption when extra traction isn’t required.

I’ll go over all of my 500X Sport tester’s mechanicals and how well they work in my review, and also point out what makes this SUV more and/or less appealing than key rivals. The subcompact SUV segment is now one of the most competitive after all, with a total of 13 entrants, two of which arrived for this 2017 model year. Three more are expected soon, so it won’t get any easier for Fiat and its unorthodox 500X. Stay tuned…

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced that it will be recalling 297,000 2011 and 2012 Dodge Grand Caravans in North America to repair wiring that may cause an inadvertent air bag deployment. “Wiring…

Fiat Chrysler Recall 297,000 Dodge Grand Caravans

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced that it will be recalling 297,000 2011 and 2012 Dodge Grand Caravans in North America to repair wiring that may cause an inadvertent air bag deployment.

“Wiring may chafe against pieces of steering-wheel trim, potentially causing a short-circuit,” Fiat Chrysler said. “This may lead to a second short-circuit that is potentially capable of producing inadvertent deployment of the driver-side front air bag.”

According to a statement by the company on Thursday June 15, the problem had caused eight minor injuries.

A spokesman for FCA, Eric Mayne reiterated that this recall has no connection to the Japanese auto supplier Takata. Air bags produced by Takata are the root of the largest ever vehicle related recall in North America.

The recall is expected to start in late July for 209,000 cars in the United States and 88,000 cars in Canada. According to the FCA, dealers will replace the wiring if needed and add a protective sheath. Consumers will not be charged for repairs.

Anyone old enough to remember the original Fiat 124 Spider will likely love this redesign. They may also remember the suspect reliability of the old car. Take heed, Fiat is an new company that now builds…

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Road Test

My singing teacher had one of these back in 1980. She was a cool old lady living in one of the nicer areas in the city, and driving what most of us at the time considered the poor man's, or in this case woman's, Mercedes SL. She was hardly poor, but merely understood that you can have just as much fun in a less expensive sports car while enjoying a more carefree type of prestige.

I won't go into all the challenges she had with her then new albeit horribly unreliable 124 Spider, because today's Fiat is a completely different company and its cars wholly better made. In fact, the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider shown here is a thoroughly reliable Mazda MX-5 in disguise, or at least the mostly Euro-sourced components that gave such Fiat owners headaches decades are now Japanese made.

Italian engines have always been amongst the most revered. Some of the first and all of the best hemispherical heads came out of Italy going way back to the 1907 Fiat 130 HP Grand Prix racer, while Read Full Story
As if the 500 wasn’t retro enough, Fiat has created a special 1957 Edition to commemorate the car that inspired its design. Available in just 3 colours, it gets classic FIAT badges, extra chrome trim,…

2016 Fiat 500 1957 Edition Road Test Review

Want a good time? That seems like something you'd see etched into a public restroom stall door. The first time I ever saw something like that it was painfully close to the year this particular car references. Ok, I exaggerate, but it was nevertheless the '60s, when the original Fiat Cinquecento was most popular. This modern-day 500 1957 Edition actually pays tribute to the first year of Fiat Nuova sales; that would be the pre-Cinquecento (500-cc) model, even predating the 499-cc 16.5-horsepower Nuova era, when a 13 horsepower 479-cc version of Fiat's air-cooled, two-cylinder engine powered the same basic car.

That mostly-unchanged model sold a staggering 3,893,294 units from '57 through '75, which is reason enough for Europeans to have wrapped their hearts around it in similar fashion to the way most everyone adored the original VW Beetle, Mini, Citroën 2CV, Renault Dauphine and so many other post-war mass-volume cars (the Beetle was pre-war, but it became popular afterward). Read Full Story
Could the 500X be considered a ground floor opportunity? Considering its one of the best in its class yet hardly gained much sales traction so far, there may be a very good opportunity to get a great…

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus AWD Road Test Review

Tired of seeing the exact same car coming around the corner everywhere you go? Of course, there's a lot to be said for buying a highly successful model. It's often a sign of good design, better than average quality and a strong brand image, but bestsellers can often appear a bit generic in their attempt to appeal to the masses and tend to lack unique character from behind the wheel, both in interior styling and driving dynamics. There's no chance of that with the new Fiat 500X.

As a backgrounder, Fiat first became part of the Canadian road-scape in 1910, two years after arriving in the U.S., although due to poor sales the Italian brand left both markets in 1983. That U.S./Canadian connection proved important to the Italian automaker's future, however, starting with a $2 billion USD compensation payment made by General Motors after choosing to terminate a then five-year-old put option that gave Fiat Group (FIA) the right to sell itself to GM for fair market value, which was money Read Full Story