Review: 2020 Fiat 500X is better than it looks

When people think of driving in winter weather, carrying the family, or general practicality, they don’t tend to think of Fiat. Yet the 500X has a lot of improvements for the 2020 model year that could change those notions. Snow, ice, and kids came together as we tested the updated 2020 500X for ourselves.

At a Glance

  • Better engine match to the 500X’s size and AWD is now standard
  • Solid all-weather driving capability
  • Advanced safety and driver assistance is an afterthought option
  • More interior room than might be expected, except in the cargo area
  • Still retains the Fiat oddities some might love or hate

Wyoming has snow and ice. So much so that residents consider the Spring Equinox to be a fun time for conjecture on when spring will actually arrive. It usually does, staying just long enough to give hope to the overzealous seed-starting and wardrobe-lightening types … before Second Winter settles in, that is.

After the Redline Winter Drive event in Colorado, we had already learned that the newly-updated 2020 Fiat 500X was good in the worst of nature. Now that was about to be put to the test on an everyday basis, in Wyoming’s equally high-altitude, but often harsher sudden temperature changes.

For the 2020 model year, the Fiat 500X receives a better engine match for its size, upgrading to a turbocharged 1.3-liter. This engine has a fairly lengthy turbo lag when starting from zero, but is otherwise predictable and perfectly powered for the 500X’s dimensions. The 1.3 produces 177 horsepower (132 kW) and 210 pound-feet (285 Nm) of torque. These are sent to a competent 9-speed automatic transmission that is pretty smart about figuring out which gear it should be in. Also new for 2020, and very important, is the addition of all-wheel drive as standard.

In the controlled environment of our snow and ice drive in Colorado, the Fiat 500X did very well for itself. It was stable, predictable, and easy to control once throttle control over the turbochargers was learned. In the real world of Wyoming’s harsh weather changes, the 500X remained a great all-weather driver. It was, if anything, even more controllable given the way most (sane) people drive when the weather gets bad.

The Trekking package for the Fiat 500X adds extra decals – our test model also included winter tires
The Trekking package for the Fiat 500X adds extra decals – our test model also included winter tires

Aaron Turpen / New Atlas

There are four trim levels for the 500X, starting with the base level Pop and moving through to the top end Trekking Plus. Prices start at under US$25,000 for the Pop and top out at about $30,000 for the Plus. The (“Live long and prosper”) Trekking package in the middle of that lineup, as we drove it, seems to give the best value mix, with a better driver information display, better upholstery, and options for dual-zone climate and premium audio with navigation. One downer is that advanced safety technologies and driver assistance upgrades, to include adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation, are not standard on any Fiat 500X package. They’re an add-on for all but the base level trim. That seems like an oversight given today’s market; especially in the compact segments.

For infotainment, the 500X uses the latest Uconnect system from Fiat-Chrysler. Based on a 7-inch screen, which is standard in the 500X and which doesn’t upgrade, the Fiat’s infotainment is branded, but otherwise almost exactly like what’s found in Jeep, Dodge, and other FCA products. This is a good thing, as Uconnect is one of the best infotainment interfaces on the market. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and (with navigation upgrade) some telematics are standard in the 500X. It’s a well-done, fast, and easy-to-use setup that minimizes distraction. Controls for volume and station/track selection are mounted on the back side of the steering wheel, at the base of the paddle shifters, for easy hands-on-wheel access.

The interior of the 2020 500X is much larger than the exterior would suggest, or that fans of the 500 line would expect to see. Unlike the extremely compact 500 or the oddly-square 500L, the 500X is roomy, but not as loudly cavernous. This, alongside the all-weather capability, are inheritances that the 500X gets from its shared mechanics (and design) with Jeep. The 500X is built alongside and was designed in conjunction with the popular little Jeep Renegade model.

The 7-inch infotainment screen in the 2020 Fiat 500X is small, but offers plenty of screen space for the size of the vehicle
The 7-inch infotainment screen in the 2020 Fiat 500X is small, but offers plenty of screen space for the size of the vehicle

Aaron Turpen / New Atlas

That gives the 500X very roomy front seating. Even a large person, like the author at 6-foot, 3 inches (1.9 meters) fits well inside the vehicle. Three children can sit across from one another in the rear seat, and two adults at the outboards are also comfortable in the back. Where the 500X misses is with cargo space. It’s enough for most needs on the daily, including space for a couple or three carry-ons, but has more height than floor and so becomes less usable than the measured 14.1 cubic feet (399 liters) would suggest. The extra rear seat legroom and front seating space came at the price of cargo.

That interior layout isn’t all bad, of course. Few buy in the subcompact segment hoping to have a lot of cargo space. Where the Fiat becomes iffy is in pricing. Most of its competitors are cheaper, though few have AWD as standard and some don’t offer it at all. The Italian feel of the 500X definitely holds some sway, though. With Fiat still being odd and somewhat rare on American roads, the car retains the great visibility and easy parking of its 500 siblings, but has none of their grimace factors. Unique among Fiat models, the 500X may be the most American of the Fiat lineup.

Product Page: 2020 Fiat 500X

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