The Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X may share a common platform, but the target customer for both of these compact crossovers is different. While the Renegade can be seen in press photos taking on dirt trails and wading through water, Fiat touts the 500X as a more of a softroader, able to take on poor road conditions with ease but not exactly at home on a trail.
This is good, because the 500X’s style-centric appearance probably wouldn’t look at home when off-road, either. Before we climbed behind the wheel of the Bronzo Magnetico Opaco model available to us, we tried to imagine what type of car shopper would be interested in the 500X. We envisioned a style-centric, city-dwelling consumer that may never consider buying a Jeep, but would be more than happy to scoop up an affordable Italian crossover with a bit of unmistakably European flare.
Upon entering the 500X, our hip urban car shopper would be greeted with a nicely designed and surprisingly well-built cabin. Our car was equipped with the Lounge trim, which is one rung below the more rugged-looking Trekking Plus model. The 6.5-inch Uconnect screen is intuitive and quick to respond and is complimented by easy-to-use controls on the steering wheel. The wheel itself is fat and chunky like in other 500 models, which may be uncomfortable for some consumers with smaller hands – though we had no trouble using it.
Fiat’s essentially taken the 500’s styling and added an extra door in moving to the 500X. It looks good, and it wears the automaker’s styling cues much better than the 500L. The matte bronze paint on our car was nice, but it’s a $1,000 option, so if you’re on a budget we’d stay away. Other reviewers have also advised against the optional 18-inch wheels as they can make the already somewhat stiff ride notably worse. The 17-inch wheels pictured here look good and should do just fine.
The combination of the 180 horsepower 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic transmission provides ample acceleration and is reasonably civilized at low speeds. Our biggest complaint is that the 2.4-liter motor sounds a little buzzy in the high RPM range. The nine-speed is also a bit indecisive, however putting the Dynamic Control Selector into ‘Sport’ mode will force it to hang onto gears for a little longer (at the expense of fuel economy, of course).
Our car didn’t come equipped with the $1,900 part-time AWD system, though we firmly believe FWD will provide more than enough grip in the urban environments the 500X will spend most of its time. After all, if you want to go off-road, the Renegade is available with a true 4×4 system with a 20:1 crawl ratio and Hill Decent Control.
The 500X is entering a competitive segment where consumers have no shortage of choice. If you place big emphasis on good looks, the 500X is your best bet, as we believe it’s more classy and civilized-looking than the well-regarded Mazda CX-3 as well as the Renegade, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax. Our car was a bit pricey at $27,100, but if you can stop yourself from going crazy with the options list, you’ll end up with an affordable, stylish crossover that will liven up your city block with a little taste of Turin.