Though it has long been overshadowed by its Jeep Renegade cousin, the 2019 Fiat 500X has received needed updates that might help it crack the North American market.
The small crossover gets a brand-new 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine developed by Fiat Chrysler engineers from around the world. It outputs 177 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, an impressive set of numbers from such a small engine, even with direct injection and turbocharging.
The engine has MultiAir III, which adjusts intake valve lift and timing for each individual cylinder; low-load efficiency is increased through advanced opening of the intake valves, to allow exhaust gas recycling. Under load, the engine can delay valve closure to reduce compression, increasing efficiency and controlling knock. The low-inertia turbocharger has an electronically controlled wastegate actuator. The lightweight cast-aluminum block has Chrysler’s traditional iron liners and an integrated aluminum bedplate; the heads have four valves per cylinder.
The sole transmission is a ZF nine-speed automatic, with over 20 shift maps for specific conditions and manual-shift capacity.
The car itself has engine stop-start and standard all-wheel drive, with Koni frequency selective damping front struts and rear shocks, filtering out high-frequency inputs from poor roads. The system has a disconnecting rear axle to cut parasitic losses while in front wheel drive mode. Drivers can choose sport, higher-traction, and automatic modes, which influence the traction control and steering systems.
New features include LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, with optional LED headlamps. There are three new wheel options, 17 and 18 inches in diameter, and three new colors (a blue, green, and ivory). The standard fourth-generation UConnect system now has a 7-inch screen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Options include adaptive cruise and front parking assistance.
The 500X won’t be cheap, with a starting list price of $25,785 including destination, but it’ll have a high level of standard equipment in the base Pop model. Buyers can also opt for the Trekking or Trekking Plus.
The Trekking starts at $27,290 and has a different fascia, deep-tint glass, automatic headlamps, cornering fog lamps, upgraded interior trim, and a 3.5-inch color trip computer. The $30,490 Plus has different wheels, chrome moldings, LED headlamps, eight-way heated leather seats, upgraded trim and interior illumination, navigation, an upgraded stereo, front and rear park assist, automatic dual-zone temperature control, automatic defroster, and auto-dimming mirror.
The Jeep Renegade is closely related in size and architecture, but is more tuned for off-road driving, with a tougher chassis; but the Fiat may be the better option for many drivers who have no plans to go further off-road than a dirt track.
A version of this article first appeared on AllPar.com