2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD review: The Italian un-crossover is a winner

2015 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD

2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, but we were impressed by the overall quality feel of our test 2016 Fiat 500X Lounge. Admittedly the Lounge is the more luxury-inspired trim level of the 500X, but still, there was a noticeable…quality…feel to it we didn’t expect.

The Fiat 500X is Fiat’s compact crossover model, going head to head with others of the segment, including the Buick Encore, Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax, and also the Jeep Renegade. The last is sort of the odd man out, what with its trail ready Trailhawk edition, but Renegade shares the basic platform with the 500X, and is made in the same factory in Italy.

The 500X is designed for modest off-roading, at least as much as other compact crossover, thanks to its all-wheel drive system. The 500L, on the other hand, is a four-door version of the two-door Fiat 500, and is available only with front-wheel drive. Think of the 500L as a Fiat 500 long. The 500X is for x-road.

2015 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD interior

The body-color dash panel brings the outside in to the 2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD interior. (click to enlarge)

The base 500X Pop isn’t really, however. It’s available only with a 1.4-liter turbo four, six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive only. Priced at $20,000, the Pop is limited to a palette of five colors—punishment in the multi-color world of Fiat—but it’s not a total stripper, including for example heated side mirror with integrated turn signals. On the other hand, the usual suspect trim pieces are more subdued than the other models, and Fiat limits the number of options available.

The step up from the Pop is the 500X Easy, better equipped and with the more powerful Fiat Chrysler 2.4-liter Multiair four that’s found in FCA products from the Dodge Dart to the Ram ProMaster City. It can also be equipped all-wheel drive. The Easy carries a $22,300 price tag before extras are tacked on.

The Fiat 500X Trekking is done up for a more off-roadsy look with a front valence in matte grey and more rugged styling. (Grey rocker panels and “wheel arch accents” on the 500X regardless of which).

2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD back seat

Red panels on front seatback sides of the 2015 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD are a stylish touch. (click to enlarge)

The front valence looks like it might give the 500X Trekking an improved approach angle than non-Trekking models but Fiat makes no claims. Adding all-wheel drive to the Trekking makes it look readier for the dirt road, with ground clearance goes from 7.0 inches to 7.9 inches. That’s not due to the Trekking trim. However, because the measure are front-wheel versus all-wheel drive, regardless of trim, including our test 500X Lounge, as would a 500X Easy with all-wheel drive.

Trekking doesn’t mean much for the suspension. All 500X models get “touring” suspension. Want something the same size 500X from FCA but with more rugged suspension? See the Jeep Renegade, but we told you that already.   The Fiat 500X Trekking sells for $23,100 sans options.

2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD cargo compartment

The rear seatbacks 2016 Fiat 500X fold for more cargo capacity,but don’t make a flat cargo floor. (click to enlarge)

There’s also a Fiat 500X Trekking Plus. It includes just about everything, with only a couple of packages including one with a panoramic sunroof and Beats audio, and another package with the sunroof plus automatic high-beam headlamps, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and rain-sensing wipers. With front-wheel drive and no options, the 500X Trekking Plus comes in at $28,100.

Finally there’s our test model, the Fiat 500X Lounge. Its front fascia looks more like the Easy’s, except it has foglights. Added gear brings the Lounge closer to the Trekking Plus, but it has cloth seats standard instead of the Trekking Plus’s leather, 17-inch wheels instead of the Trekking Plus’s 18-inchers, and with blind spot/rear cross traffic/rear parking warning optional rather than standard. Base price comes in at $24,850.

Delivery adds $900 to the bottom line, but Snowbelt buyers beware, to add all-wheel drive takes a deep dive into your pocket, at $1,900. Add that to our test 2016 Fiat 500X Lounge, with the rear park assist and rear cross traffic warning, and leather seats, added $1,552, and with the $900 destination fee, the bottom line comes to $29,202.

2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD

2016 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD (click to enlarge)

So what does one get for that? It’s an un-crossover. Where all other crossovers spiritually start from an SUV, the Fiat 500X is more like a car with a touch of SUV. I bears an unmistakable and deliberate resemblance to the 500 and 500L, but has a sleeker roofline and rear hatch. One might say it has definite Italian style, not so much as anything Maserati, but more like a cheery “Ciao!”

The 500X Lounge is lined with soft touch surfaces, and while the cushy leather seating is comfortable, it doesn’t have much in the way of bolstering. Like the Fiat 500, all but the 500X Pop have a massive swath of exterior color across the dash. A cool styling touch is patch of color on the sides of the front seatbacks, something we haven’t seen before.