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2018 FIAT 500X Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 6.5

Power and handling aren't strong suits for the 2018 Fiat 500X. Its upgraded engine, which powers most models, is sluggish and comes with an ill-mannered automatic transmission. Despite this lethargic acceleration, there's no outstanding fuel economy gain. On the road, this small SUV feels planted, but its handling and ride are jarring and unrefined.

  • "We've grown accustomed to the slow acceleration of this new crop of subcompact crossovers. But anyone expecting la dolce vita will wind up yelling made-up Italian curses at the reluctant engine and obstinate transmission. Even if the engine had enough power to deliver acceleration with any gusto, the 500X feels bogged down by its nine-speed automatic, which is neither smooth nor responsive. Shifts are stiff, and there's a reluctance to downshift. Pokiness often translates into a fuel-economy bump, but that's not the case here. The car's overall 23 mpg fuel consumption is more akin to certain larger, more powerful six-cylinder-equipped crossovers." -- Consumer Reports
  • "The fairly lackluster acceleration proves the 500X is no exception, but it is less fuel-efficient than rivals, and its nine-speed transmission's clunky shifting behavior can get annoying at times." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "We had high hopes for the Fiat 500X, thinking it might be a less expensive alternative to the scrappy Mini Countryman. Unfortunately, unlike the Mini …, the 500X isn't very satisfying. It feels nervous and is disappointing compared to the Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3 and its own cousin the Jeep Renegade. It bounces over modest road imperfections, though we do give it credit for absorbing freeway expansion joints. While some of our testers didn't mind the Fiat's electrically assisted steering, others thought it felt unnatural." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The base 500X comes with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. This turbocharged powertrain has a 160-horspower rating – one of the higher ratings for a base engine in the subcompact SUV segment. Fuel economy is typical for the class, at 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Also available is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It loses the turbocharger and swaps the manual gearbox for a nine-speed automatic. Even though it's more powerful than the base engine, with a 180-horsepower rating, it doesn't feel very energetic. It also isn't especially fuel-efficient, at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway. Further adding to its shortcomings is an unrefined automatic transmission.

  • "Most 500Xs come with Chrysler's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a nine-speed automatic. This powertrain doesn't make the 500X particularly sprightly, taking just under 10 seconds to complete the 0-60 mph dash. The transmission is neither smooth nor responsive with shifts that are drawn out and somewhat stiff. When prodding the gas for more power, downshifts come with a delay making the car feel lethargic." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Despite the fact that FIAT offers two 500X engine choices, the crossover never really seems like it has enough power. The main reason for this is the unrefined 2.4-liter engine that feels much slower than its ample output specs would suggest. Then there's its standard 9-speed automatic, which we found to be constantly in the wrong gear and slow to driver inputs. Interestingly, we happen to prefer the peppier 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that you can only get in the Pop." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "Fiat offers two engine and transmission setups for the 2017 500X, but neither is perfect. The 1.4-liter four-cylinder in the Pop model is smoother than the 2.4-liter standard in all other models, and its easy-shifting manual transmission lets you readily tap into its usable power. … The 2.4 has more low-rpm torque, and it comes with an automatic transmission. Unfortunately, it can sound rough at high rpm, and its acceleration is disappointing given its ample power figures. The automatic's occasional clunky gearshifts at low speeds (as in when stuck in heavy traffic), along with slow downshifts for highway passing, are other demerits." -- Edmunds (2017)

Handling and Braking

Every 500X comes with standard front-wheel drive and the option to upgrade to all-wheel drive (this requires upgrading to the 2.4-liter engine). The available Dynamic Selector adjusts drive modes between Auto, Sport, and Traction+ settings. At its core, the 500X feels solid and planted. Not everyone enjoys its ride, though, which can feel jittery and harsh.

  • "Traverse a bumpy surface and the Fiat reveals a dreadful ride that beats you up with stiff shots to your kidneys. Even the highway ride is a tiring, unsettled affair, with a nervous jitter going through your hands and spine. All the while, your ears are assaulted with a cacophony of engine, road, and wind noise. Despite its raised ride height, the 500X is fairly responsive in corners and you don't feel much body lean. At least the Fiat engineers got that part of the suspension tuning correct. Still, the steering gives no touchy-feely feedback to your input, removing any enjoyment from the drive. The grabby brakes, particularly at low speeds, are another source of frustration." -- Consumer Reports
  • "In most other respects, we like how the Fiat 500X drives. Its body structure feels substantial, and the suspension, though firmly tuned, does a good job of absorbing bumps and ruts. Around turns, the 500X remains fairly flat and nimble (especially the front-wheel-drive model that sits about an inch lower), and it's small enough to dart in and out of traffic and park with ease." -- Edmunds
  • "We also like the relatively quick steering and well-controlled handling -- it certainly can be fun to drive." -- Autotrader (2017)
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