2016 Fiat 500X Driving Impressions

We spent a day behind the wheel of a Fiat 500X Trekking Plus. The driver can select Auto, Sport, or Traction mode, which affects the throttle, transmission, steering and electronic stability control. The handling is almost perky and the steering is quick even in Auto mode, although there is a lack of steering feedback. The suspension is composed during cornering.

Its road manners are good, with a firm ride on the strut suspension, this in spite of riding on big 18-inch wheels. The nine-speed automatic can be abrupt, and is slow to downshift in Auto mode. Brake feel is very good.

The all-wheel-drive Trekking Plus is no Renegade, lacking options such as skid plates and higher ground clearance, and steeper approach angles. The $1900 all-wheel drive will help in snow and ice, and, like many, defaults to front-wheel drive on dry pavement, to achieve an EPA-estimated 31 mpg Highway mileage. It detaches the driveshaft and differential from the front wheels altogether, until wheel slip occurs.

Fiat says only 5 percent of buyers will choose the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Despite its 184 foot-pounds of torque and decent 160 horsepower, we found the acceleration lacking, at least we did in the Dodge Dart. We were unable to even test-drive a 500X with that engine. Fiat seems to be hiding it.

On paper, at least, the 2.4-liter engine should only be faster on the freeway, with 20 more horsepower but 9 less foot-pounds of torque than the 1.4 turbo. The 2.4 is an older engine, an evolved version of the four-cylinder that dates back to the Dodge Caliber. In the 500X it’s mostly smooth, if not exactly free-revving, and can move the car’s 3,000-3,150 pounds with ease, but you have to be in Sport mode to get it to respond to a firm foot.

However, the nine-speed automatic transmission lets the engine down, by not shifting out of first and second gears fast enough, and by downshifting slowly in Normal mode. Paddle shifters should be standard, but they’re not even available.

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