Yes, it sort of looks cool. And PLEASE don't think I'm joining the dour chorus of complaints about the updated Fiat 500, a car that routinely dwells at the bottom of customer surveys, but that did help the Italian brand reestablish itself in the US market after departing in the 1990s.
No Fiat. No Alfa Romeo either, by the way.
Granted, FCA products have wildly impressed me in the past. I also rather like Italian brands, and I don't mind Jeeps at all — and one of those undergirds the 500X.
The 500X, is then, singular. Singularly awful. Apart from the somewhat cool styling — which in all honesty, I don't think scales up very well — the vehicle reminded me, in an alarming way, of the PT Cruiser. The worst car I've ever driven in my entire life. The PT Cruiser was worse than the Fiat 500X. A lot worse. But the 500X nonetheless brought up bad memories.
Almost everything about the 500X is flawed. I say "almost" because the infotainment system, essentially FCA's excellent Uconnect setup, works well. The screen is pretty small, but at least it's something to commend.
Otherwise, where do I begin? The steering is a strange combination of flimsy, imprecise, and heavy. The engine — on paper a peppy thing — is noisy and crude when not in Sport mode. However, when in Sport mode, it's reluctant to actually be sporty. The turbo lags like a quartet of swayback hamsters are under the hood, in need of a violent rousing and doses of contraband Four Loko. Even when the theoretical power spools up, it arrives in a woozy lurch.
The 500X is supposed to be fun to drive. It is, in fact, a chore.
The architecture is upright and boxy, reducing the impression of space that the larger platform is meant to create for anyone who's ever squashed themselves into a two-door 500. The seats are uncomfortable. The interior materials are a smorgasbord of mediocre plastic. Put the pedal down and there is no joy. Remain in staid cruising mode and feel your lumbar vertebrae compress in real time as you wriggle to gain some semblance of support. Lay a hand on the gearshift and relish the sad thrum of an undernourished motor. You can't even bass-out on the Beats audio system, given that it's mysteriously, perhaps shockingly, devoid of bottom-end.
The 500X shares a platform with the Jeep Renegade, a vehicle I sampled in 2017 and decided was an Italian-built example of an American nameplated ride that was strenuously not trying to come off as Italian.
"The bottom line is that the Renegade feels absolutely nothing like an Italian car," I wrote. "That dashing spirit of The Boot has been ruthlessly engineered out and replaced with steadfast Jeepy values. And if you think about it, that means the Renegade is something of a work of genius."
Flip the equation — try to re-embrace the overtly Italian marque even though you've committed to the whole Jeep thing — and the pretzel logic becomes palpable. More than once I had to admit that I sort of was OK with the Renegade even though it wasn't a real Jeep because at least it was adequately faking Jeepness; meanwhile, I hated the 500X because it was much too coarse to be wearing Italian livery.
That exercise made my head hurt, so it was ultimately easier to simply dislike the 500X and move on.
For the record, the 500X joins less than a handful of vehicles we here at Business Insider have really, really, really not grooved on. The others were the Volkswagen SportWagen, which actually had an excuse because it was fairly bare-bones (and in any case, VW recently pulled the vehicle from the the US market); and the Lexus CT200h (also now discontinued), a car I actually quite liked but that my then-colleague Ben Zhang detested.
We've had some complaints about the hundreds of other vehicles we've reviewed since 2014. But the Fiat 500X is the first that I would without hesitation tell you not to buy. There are far better options in the FCA family — including the Jeep Renegade!
It causes me pain to rip into a vehicle this way. It doesn't happen very often. But the 500X simply isn't worth anyone's time or money.