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Driven: Fiat gets the X-factor with 500X

Marks the spot: The Fiat 500X shares a platform with, and is built at the same Melfi, Italy plant as the Jeep Renegade.

500X crossover takes Fiat in to premium territory with $28,000 starting price


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4 Dec 2015

FIAT is pitching its new 500X crossover against more premium fare than the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, with a starting price of $28,000 plus on-road costs for the chunky high-riding hatch.

The 500X is available in four different specification levels – Pop, Pop Star, Lounge and Cross Plus – all paired with a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo-petrol engine in two states of tune, with the flagship variant topping out at $39,000.

Other mainstream compact crossovers start from a lower price point than the 500X, including the Mazda CX-3 ($19,990-$37,690), the Honda HR-V ($24,990-$33,990) and the Mitsubishi ASX ($24,990-$35,990).

Other less mainstream rivals include the Skoda Yeti ($24,390-$34,390) and another Fiat Chrysler Automobiles product that the 500X shares a platform with, the Jeep Renegade, which kicks off from $29,500 to $41,500.

But according to FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty, the 500X “plays in multiple segments”, and the company is happy with the suggestion that the Mini Countryman could be a key competitor.

“I would say we like that description,” he told GoAuto at the 500X launch in Sydney. “You get a lot of bang for your buck with this car. It says it is European. It is a little different.”

Mr Dougherty said there was little concern about the Renegade and 500X taking sales off each other, adding that the buyer types were different.

“To say is there going to be some crossover, there could be if the consumer chooses. But for the most part, Fiat customers come in on Fiat and Jeep customers come in on a Jeep. I think they are very different buyers.

“You would be hard pressed to say the two came out of the same plant if you didn’t know it.”

In terms of pricing above the mainstream crossovers, FCA Australia director of corporate communications Lucy McLellan said the Italian brand had engaged a number of different pricing strategies in the past, and is not concerned about the positioning of the 500X.

“Remember we have had a couple of different pricing strategies around Fiat,” she told GoAuto. “If you go back as far as 2008 you couldn’t get a Fiat 500 Lounge for under $27,000, so for a $28,000 entry for the engine, the transmission, the styling, the size and the obviously value packaging, it’s a very good proposition.” Mr Dougherty said the 500X could “absolutely” become the top seller in the Fiat range, given the market’s appetite for smaller crossover vehicles.

“I think if you look at the segments, the fastest growth in the country is coming in the SUV segments and crossover segments. We are even seeing a lot of people moving out of hatches into SUVs.

“People want the versatility, the functionality. It is a massive opportunity for us.”

FCA Group chief marketing officer and head of Fiat brand Olivier Francois, who was in Australia to help launch the 500X, detailed the extensive development process for the Italian brand’s latest model.

“We had a simple but clear objective on this one – build the finest Fiat ever,” he told Australian journalists.

“And to achieve this it takes engineering, it takes testing, it takes discipline. This is why we redesigned the Melfi (Italy) plant. This is why we spent 2.5 million hours of engineering, 500,000 hours of lab testing and more than 3,000,000 hours of road testing in the most extreme conditions.”

The range starts with the $28,000 front-wheel drive Pop, which uses a 103kW/230Nm version of the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo-petrol engine paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. Opting for the six-speed dual-clutch transmission ups the price to $30,000.

Up next is the dual-clutch auto-only Pop Star that uses the same engine tune and is priced from $33,000.

In manual guise, the Pop consumes 6.0 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle, while the auto Pop and Pop Star drink 5.7L/100km and emit 133g/km of CO2.

Further up the range is the Lounge from $38,000, which ups the power and torque to 125kW and 250Nm respectively, adds standard all-wheel drive and swaps the dual-clutch for a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission that is found in the top-spec Renegade.

The range-topping Cross Plus from $39,000 is also offered with all-wheel drive and the nine-speed unit. Both Cross Plus and Lounge sip 6.7L/100km and emit 157g/km of CO2.

The 500X uses a MacPherson strut front suspension set-up and an isolated rear cradle. The front axle has a dual-function cross-member, which, according to the company, ensures greater rigidity and impressive acoustic comfort.

FCA Australia has not released performance figures including zero to 100km/h acceleration or top speed ratings.

All 500X variants from Pop Star on come standard with the Fiat Mood Selector which tweaks the brakes, transmission, engine and steering to suit the driver, with modes including Auto, Sport and All Weather, although the latter is replaced by Traction on the Cross Plus variant.

The new SUV weighs between 1295 and 1405kg depending on the variant, and at 4248mm long, 1796mm wide, 1600-1620mm high and with a 2570mm wheelbase is shorter and wider than a CX-3 but has the same wheelbase.

It is also larger in almost all dimensions compared with the Mini Countryman, although the British crossover has a 25mm-longer wheelbase.

Cargo space is listed as 346 litres with the rear seats up, well above the CX-3 (264L) but about on par with the Countryman (350L).

Fiat says more than 60 safety and security features have been packed in to the 500X, including a reversing camera standard across the range, seven airbags, tyre-pressure monitoring, reverse parking sensors, stability control with hill-start assist and ‘electronic roll mitigation’, and brake assist, while some variants are offered with blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic detection, ‘forward collision warning plus’ which applies the brakes if needed and ‘lane departure warning plus’ which keeps the car in lane.

The Pop features a 12V power outlet, a 5.0-inch touchscreen housing the Uconnect multimedia hub that includes Bluetooth and voice command, six-speaker audio, USB port and auxiliary jack, daytime running lights, power windows, a space-saver spare tyre and 16-inch alloy wheels.

It also gets cruise control, a 3.5-inch TFT display leather gear knob on the auto, refrigerated glove compartment, removable cargo cover, paddle shifters and steering wheel controls.

Pop Star adds an auto-dimming mirror, the Fiat Mood Selector, driver’s seat power lumbar adjustment, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front foglights, power folding mirrors, keyless entry and start and a 6.5-inch touchscreen.

On top of that the Lounge gets dual-zone air-conditioning, ambient lighting, ‘premium’ vinyl and fabric trim, aluminium flourishes in the cabin, auto high-beams, 18-inch wheels and a Beats by Dr Dre audio system with eight speakers and a sub-woofer.

Finally the Cross Plus gains a rejigged dashboard, matte chrome 18-inch wheels, Xenon headlights, roof racks and unique styling elements.

2015 Fiat 500X pricing*
Pop (a)$30,000
Pop Star (a)$33,000
Lounge (a)$38,000
Cross Plus (a)$39,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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