This, year Fiat renews its best-selling model, the 500X compact crossover, complete with a fresh look and a new turbocharged engine to power all models.
Quite frankly, we're surprised the 500X hasn't proven more popular in Canada, considering it brings the cute looks of the 500 hatchback to one of the industry's most lucrative vehicle classes. Perhaps that's what it hopes this year's changes will accomplish: this is not a full redesign, but rather a carried over model with new front and rear styling and a 1.3L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that replaces last years 1.4L turbo and 2.4L four-cylinder motors.
The new motor makes 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, that latter number making the leap to best-in-class among compact crossovers. Despite its small size, the 1.3L looks good next to the 160hp/184 lb-ft and and 180 hp/175 lb-ft of the old 1.4L and 2.4L, respectively.
Fiat also calls out the engine's auto stop/start system, a more efficient turbo system and Fiat's MultiAir valve actuation system, which eliminates a camshaft for the intake valves. Instead, there are direct actuators at each valve which, Fiat says, allows for more precises valve opening and closing times to improve efficiency and performance.
Also new is a standard all-wheel drive system. Fiat's decision to drop the FWD 500X also means the death of yet another manual transmission. Now, all models come standard with a nine-speed automatic carried over from last year's car.
Fiat may have style on its side here, but among its competitors is another perceived premium compact crossover, the Mini Countryman, which offers sharper performance. The 500X occupies an interesting middle ground between the upscale Mini and a raft of maintsream models like the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Chevrolet Trax.
Perhaps the new engine and its promise of torque-rich performance will help, or maybe its refreshed look will do trick to boost sales.
500X trim levels are Pop, Trekking and Trekking Plus. All cars come with LED daytime running lights and taillights and the Uconnect 4 infotainment system, whose 7.0-inch display supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration platforms. Fiat says the system also boasts better graphics and fast start-up than before.
Options include LED headlights that provide 20 per cent more illumination, and active safety features like blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, front park assist and adaptive cruise control.
As of this writing, Fiat hadn't published fuel consumption estimates for the 500X's new motor. Despite their similar displacements, it's hard to compare the new engine with the old 1.4L turbo because that outgoing motor was only offered with FWD and a stickshift. Our guess is the 1.3L and its standard AWD and automatic will come in with ratings of around 10.5 L/100 km in city driving and less than 8.0 L/100 km in highway cruising.