Published On: 10 Jul 2023Categories: Auto & Vehicles

But is it cake?

Or is it really a 500?

It is R580k. Ouchies.

Generally I like Fiats. And I quite like the smallness of the popular 500, and I love the idea of the original classic 500 – if you can a) find one and b) afford one these days. They were one of the original city cars for Italians by Italians for Italian roads. And they were a tiny no nonsense no frills Italian version of the French Citroen 2CV. Only smaller. And cuter.

Let me get this off my chest then. I didn’t like this 500X. And I struggled to come to terms with my views on it – my job is to tell you what is good about cars as well as the bad – and in this day and age of sensationalism the temptation to accrue notoriety through click bait driven controversy generation by, in my case, slating a car, is pretty high and quite easy to do.

I possess few filters and I do tend to speak truth to power to my own personal cost sometimes. But in the course of attempting to give you some balanced views on the Fiat 500X I cannot avoid my own personal discolourations that will creep into my writings.

And that’s OK. Just remember that and don’t let them ‘influence’ you into not considering the car just because it rubbed me up the wrong way. If anything, history has shown that this should see the car become a best seller…

Let’s start with the name. It’s not a 500, just like the Mini isn’t a Mini. It’s too big to do the lineage justice and they should have come up with another name, just as Land Rover should have done with the Defender and BMW with the new Mini. Heritage is one thing – fat, bloat and size increase is another.

I realise that I am farting against thunder here. But I just wish a 4 door B approaching Very Fat segment car like the 500 wouldn’t try and be something it just isn’t.

It’s not very economical either. Which the original 500 was. And that was the point! Economy from the size, the simpleness, the lack of weight – this one weighs in at 1320kg. The original was just under 500kg to give you an idea of the quantum of outrage and righteous indignation I have.

I will concede that the 1.4l turbo octane powered 103kW 230Nm engine that has been mated to a 6 speed auto dual clutch box is considerably more powerful but you pay for that at the pump. In the city my best guess is that you’re going to be around 10l/100 – I got it down to 8.1 on highway driving being most unleadfooty about it.

That said it does feel more powerful than the figures suggest – I had it in my mind at around 130kW. The 500X punches off the line with enthusiasm and it’s claimed 0-100 in 9.8s doesn’t feel right. It feels better than that by some margin.

Handling is really good – and it will come as no suprise that the 500X comes with 225/40/19s Dunlop Sport Maxx. 40s? Really? The looks of the car belie it’s nature – I had it pegged as a crossover SUV type niche hatch but it’s not really that if you pop tyres on that will suffer catastrophic heart failure at the sight of a pothole.

But if its supposed to be sporty, the 500X really needs flappy paddles to take advantage of its sheer chuckabilty and grin inducing levels of confidence it inspires when you’re hustling along with some enthusiasm. There is of course a manual override on the box, pushing the gear lever left engages it and it works relatively well. Still, this is one of those cars that suffers from a lack of flappy paddles, as opposed to one in which they should have been left off. Go figure.

The rims the tyres are shod onto are pure Italian flair distilled – one of the car’s best features I think. Stunning. I want a set for my race car. They are sublime.

Before you get the wrong impression I wasn’t spending too much time booting it around because we don’t do that here. I did quite a bit of city trundling and the 500X doesn’t become tiresome other than from the most uncomfortable seats I have experienced in a long time.

And a struggle to find the optimum driving position – I like to sit high up and peer down, which is stark contrast to the demands placed on my racing driver talents I possess in extraordinary abundance (where these are best executed lying almost on one’s back and or stomach at the same time). I concluded that if I chopped off a foot of my height that the 500 and I would then fit each other more amicably.

A big feature of this range topper is the soft top panoramic roof. I’d like to meet whoever thought that this was a good idea. From the inside it is a thing of sumptuous symphonic sophistication that you can see a lot of work has gone into to make it open and fold ‘just so’. But cabin insulation suffers as a consequence – which proves that sometimes you do need to suffer for your beauty. I caught myself more than once thinking that I was driving with a window ajar somewhere.

Inside the car the build quality is excellent. Everything has its place and whilst the Italian way of doing things is 180 degrees opposed to the way I do things I learned to get to grips with the tech reasonably quickly and I have to complement Fiat on their menu system and infotainment setup. It is easy, well thought out and a child could operate it as easily as a teenager as easily as grandma.

There are a lot of toys at this spec level, as there should be given the price. The lack of USB Cs is not an issue for me to be honest, but maybe wireless charging would have been a nice to have. But dual zone climate control, auto everything and decent adjustable headlights along with a suitably just the right amount of digital in the dash means that the cockpit of the 500 is a great way to view the world from as you go.

Cabin space is also excellent – and there is a fair amount of it. Headroom is helped by the panoramic roof thing I thought, and you do get a sense of the space around you and your passengers that is generous. The same cannot be said of the boot space however and this harks back to the original 500 in which it must be said that space wasn’t really something high up on the considerations of the designers of the car back in the day. You might struggle a little with the boot space for the family holiday at 245l but if you get creative you’ll manage to get by I suspect, and for a city runaround there is more than enough room for the shopping and the kid’s paraphernalia and grandma when she gets annoying about how her 500 was just so much better.

The looks of the car are not bad. In black, as you can see, it carries itself and manages to look smaller than it is with a family resemblance in passing to it’s smaller 500 siblings. The one thing you can say about the 500X and its looks is that it certainly has its own identity and it won’t be lost in the parking lot of generic modern consumables.

So. Would I buy one? No. I am afraid I would not. That doesn’t make it a bad car. It just makes it a car I didn’t enjoy because it and I didn’t sync. And as I have said, that’s OK. It will gel and fit with other people just fine. And you should go and see if you’re one of them.

My scorecard

or add your own if you agree/disagree

Rate this car yourself!


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