We take the Fiat 500X on a journey through town, country and motorway…
Can a car really be practical, fun and chic? Jumping into the Fiat 500X 1.6 Cross I’d been loaned by CDG Cars, I was hoping this seemingly impossible motoring Utopia could somehow become reality. With a brief to collect three children from various childminders, deposit them home, battle my way through torrential rain and rush-hour traffic into central London before returning home to Sussex in the early hours – I was ‘really’ hoping it could
Taking my seat in Fiat’s SUV treatment of its highly popular city car – the regular 500 – it was immediately striking how spacious the X is. Despite looking trim and true to the 500 design concept from the outside, the fact it’s 70cm longer, 17cm wider and 12cm taller immediately put my mind at rest as I set about fitting child seats and booster cushions. As it turned out, the kids immediately gave the car their seal of approval and the spacious rear-seat kept the warring factions suitably segregated to ensure the first stage of my trip was a battle-free success.
With the children delivered and ensconced in front of CBEEBIES, it was time to head out into far more treacherous territory – the evening rush-hour. The prospect of rain-sodden, jam-clogged roads would normally have been enough to force a homeward-bound u-turn before I’d made it past the end of my street, yet the stylish interior and soft-touch dash sections soon calmed my anxieties. The gridlocked roads soon became a mere distraction as I got to grips with the 500X’s touch-screen Uconnect infotainment system that includes Bluetooth, music streaming and connectivity to apps such as Facebook. With my iPhone swiftly paired and ready to stream, it seemed no time at all before I’d negotiated the South London suburbs and turned the corner in Peckham to see the imposing Shard rising before me and spearing the angry dusk skies
With an endless river of red lights stretching before me, the frustration was eased by the X’s highly refined diesel engine. In fact, it was so quiet and smooth, only the large ‘Diesel’ sign pasted over the inside of the fuel filler flap saved me from having to make a highly embarrassing phone call telling CDG I’d broken their car. The seamless engine stop-start system was also a welcome experience compared with some of the clunky versions I’ve contended with in the past. At least it helped me do my small bit for the environment as I covered the last two miles of exhaust-choked roads in just under an hour.
Casting my eye around the interior as I sat on my congested road to nowhere, it was only then the stylish interior really came to life. The retro flourishes such as metal-look door handles and soft-touch sections high on the dash combine perfectly with the elegant switchgear and dials. The cabin really succeeds in harnessing the charm, chic and ambience of the fun-loving 500 city car.
Reaching my destination, I was already yearning for my return to pick up the 500X from its space in the drab Central London car park and setting it free on the capital’s empty streets and beyond to twisty country roads before stretching its legs on the motorway. As the clock struck 3am, I was heading across Tower Bridge on virtually empty streets and feeling strangely invigorated despite the hour.
Just because you’ve got a growing family, the 500X proves you don’t have to have a completely grown-up car to go with it. Heading East out of London, the nimble handling prompted me to turn up the volume and realise there is life after buying an SUV. I’m sure the retro-styled 500X even got a few sideward glances of appreciation from late-night ‘hipsters’ wandering home to their East London bachelor pads… or maybe I just imagined that.
Another nice touch I particularly appreciated at this point, was the ability to drop the driver’s seat to provide a sportier, lower driving position when you want to forget you’re piloting an SUV. The responsive steering and firm-but-fair ride was a joy around city streets and a positive barrel of japery as I hit the twisty country roads traversing the North Downs. It’s controlled through bends and avoids understeer and roll to provide a ride that’s fun and sporty when you want it to be. The X clearly benefits from the new platform it shares with its Jeep Renegade cousin.
Leaving the back-road tomfoolery behind, it was time to hit the motorway for the final leg of my homeward journey. Accelerating smoothly to the national limit, the Fiat remained composed and quiet with only the minimum of wind noise. From its go-kart-like exploits on the country roads, its seamless conversion to motorway cruiser eating up the miles was nothing short of amazing.
Shutting down the engine and stepping from the driver’s seat, I felt as fresh as I’d been all day – despite the clock’s 4.15am reading suggesting otherwise. Maybe it was the double espresso I’d necked before heading home, but I’m pretty sure it was more to do with the 500X’s ability to inject a large dose of fun into world of faceless SUVs that are seemingly designed to bring on a premature mid-life crisis. Thanks for the ride CDG – X really did mark the spot for me!