You know that feeling when you really like a car, but you can’t quite put your finger on why? Well, that’s the case with the Fiat 500X Sport.
It isn’t the fastest, nor the best-handling car I’ve ever driven. Still, for some reason I’ve completely fallen for it during my time with it, in the same way, you fall in love with a slightly crazy spaniel – super energetic and clever at times, but not the fastest, strongest or smartest dog breed on the planet.
Yet in reality, none of this matters – the 500x Sport is the same; it’s selling points are its unique personality, the ‘beefed up’ styling, and – in this case – the bright Sport Red paintwork.
The ‘Sport’ builds upon the standard Fiat 500X platform, sharing the same engines and transmissions, in the form of the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre ‘Firefly’ engines, mated to a manual or DCT automatic gearbox respectively. On test was the 1.5-litre with DCT transmission, which felt a perfect fit for the 500X Sport indeed.
As you may have guessed, outright power isn’t the goal here for Fiat, with only 150hp available at 5500RPM. However, the chassis has received plenty of attention, enhancing the on-road characteristics of the 500X Sport significantly.
For example, the steering has been tweaked by engineers to help control over-and-understeer, while the ride height has been dropped by 13mm, along with the shock absorbers being specifically tuned for this model.
The result is the 500X Sport handles sharply, and is surprisingly fun to drive on a twisting B or engaging A road.
The steering is also impressively weighted, inspiring confidence when pushing hard despite a slightly vague amount of feedback. My only minor gripe when it comes to the chassis of the 500X Sport is that there seems to be a habit of the car slipping/twitching on full lock, likely a result of the Dunlop Sport Maxx tires fitted to the car.
Back to that Firefly engine / DCT gearbox combination. While I feel the manual ‘box fitted to the 1.0-litre engine would be a better fit for the ‘Sport’ characteristics of the car, I can’t help but think the car feels like it just about has enough power as it sits, and I wouldn’t want to downsize the power unit to the 1.0-litre engine. In the test car, 0-60mph takes just over 9 seconds, which is nothing to shout about but is perfectly acceptable for a non-Abarth offering, which – despite plenty of rumours – Fiat has confirmed will not be appearing, which I think is a great shame considering the styling of the 500X Sport.
Speaking of which, I’d be so bold as to say the styling on the 500X Sport means that it is perhaps the best-looking variant of the 500, inclusive of the Abarth 595/695 versions. It strikes a fine line between adding aggressive and sporting lines to the ‘inflated’ 500X frame, without being over-the-top or gaudy. The wheels too look fantastic, with the 19” polished faces setting off against the solid red paintwork nicely, without being too distracting or ‘blingy’ as some say. Despite their larger size, they don’t appear to impact the ride quality too much, though some noise is noticeable on roughly-surfaced A-roads or Motorways.
So far, so good then. A decent drive, good handling, and excellent styling. How about the interior? Well, that seems to be where Fiat has stepped back a little, as there is very little in the way of changes compared to the standard car, other than a few aesthetic touches.
You can immediately notice the two most significant changes inside the 500X Sport: The subtle D-cut steering wheel, and the fact the interior is much darker than the standard car, thanks to the black headliner. The steering wheel sits well within the hand and looks fantastic, though the Alcantara finish on the 9 and 3 o’clock positions feel a little too chunky in collaboration with the rest of the steering wheel, and are a little awkward to hold. The paddles on the back of the steering wheel are also far too small, and it’s easy to hit the music controls mounted on the back of the wheel instead of the paddles when shifting through the gears.
The seats are the same as those found within the standard 500X with some additional detailing and contrast stitching, meaning the unusual seating position, unfortunately, translates over. I find that the position is too high up, and I kept smacking my leg on the centre console when my foot was resting on the dead pedal. In the back, it’s the same story, though since the ‘bubble’ in the roof at the front that gives plenty of headroom doesn’t carry across to the rear, those of a taller disposition may find their heads in very close proximity to the slightly sloping roofline. However, legroom is more than adequate, and the charging point in the rear is a nice touch – especially since this will generally be the domain of small children or teenagers who seem to be charging all manner of electronic devices constantly.
The test car was fitted with the upgraded ‘HIFI by Beats’ package, which certainly seems like a decent upgrade over the speakers in the standard offering. With plenty of high and low-end punch, it certainly seems like a worthwhile upgrade for those who like to enjoy their music on-the-go, even though I did detect a slight hissing present at higher volumes.
Usually, I’m the first to complain about a small infotainment screen, but in this instance I prefer it. Throughout the 500X Sport interior, there’s a sense of simplicity – no over-the-top use of screens or buttons here, and everything feels very well laid-out indeed. With so many cars now fighting each other for bragging rights over the biggest screens or most in-depth virtual cockpits, the small 7” infotainment screen and analogue dials (with the exception of the central information screen in the cluster) were a welcoming, even refreshing sight.
And, with that point about simplicity, I think I’ve discovered why I’ve fallen for the 500X Sport. There’s just no ‘faffing about’ with it. Get in, turn the key in the ignition, put it in ‘D’ and go. No messing about with lane assistance, infuriating infotainment systems or cycling through driving modes and cockpit displays; Everything just works (and works very well at that) – indeed that’s what driving should be all about?
Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.
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