After being so very disappointed by the Fiat 500L when I reviewed it a few years ago, I was totally prepared to hate the 2017 Fiat 500X. But curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I recently found myself behind the wheel of Fiat’s little jellybean-shaped SUV. At the end of a week of testing, what most surprised me was just how much I liked the 500X.
No, the X isn’t the best performer or the highest tech vehicle on the road, though it is roughly on par with much of its competition. However, it performed almost every task asked of it with a flair that just left me grinning all week long. This is a car that’s just bursting at the seams with character and personality that makes this average performing compact SUV one of the better vehicles in Fiat’s lineup.
Three levels of Uconnect technology
The 500X’s dashboard is home to one of three tiers of infotainment hardware; the Uconnect 3.0, 5.0 or 6.5 systems indicate the screen size as well as the level of sophistication offered to the driver.
The base 3-inch system is a bare-bones unit with a four-line monochrome display that only covers the basics of AM/FM radio, USB and iPod connectivity and optional satellite radio. At the top of the lineup is the 6.5-inch color touchscreen system that uses the same great Uconnect infotainment software that we’ve seen and loved elsewhere in the Fiat Chrysler lineup with solid voice commands, Garmin maps for navigation and routing, Bluetooth audio streaming for smartphones and Siri Eyes-Free for iOS devices.
Our example was equipped with the middle-of-the-road Uconnect 5.0 touch system that loses navigation but keeps the more robust Bluetooth functionality intact. At this level, you get Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling, and it can even read inbound text messages aloud to you and you can respond with voice commands. The largest Uconnect system also features integration with Fiat’s Uconnect mobile app that allows control of the Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio and Slacker apps on a paired smartphone from the the dashboard.
The 5-inch system gets the job done, but I you’ll want to either select the 6.5-inch unit when spec’ing your 500X or invest in some sort of smartphone cradle. All three systems lack Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity, so the only way to get navigation without fiddling with your phone is to go with the largest unit.
We also had the upgraded Beats Premium Audio system optioned, bringing an eight-channel 506-watt amplifier and nine speakers (including a subwoofer) along for the ride. This system punches loud and clear with audio quality that seems well suited to modern pop, rock and electronica.
Driver aid features
The dashboard tech is fairly basic, but the 500X fares better when we turn an eye to safety. Our Trekking trim level was equipped with an Advanced Safety Package that adds, well, many advanced safety features.
The $1,295 package gets you automatic high beam control, blind-spot monitoring, Lane Departure Warning Plus (which applies corrective steering when the vehicle drifts out of its lane) and Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus (which can automatically apply the brakes to attempt to prevent a forward collision). When reversing, the 500X also gains rear cross traffic alerts and rear proximity sensors. That’s not a bad suite of upgrades for the price.
The 500X is missing adaptive cruise control and automatic parking assistance, but most of its direct competition is lacking here, so this isn’t a particular knock against the Fiat. Our example also featured and optional rear camera as part of a separate package, which I was disappointed to see missing from the standard features list.