Credit to Flickr profile – Automobile Italia
There was a time, at the tail end of last century, when all new cars tended to look very much alike. Visually, it was a big turn-off. Body designs were sculpted to achieve aerodynamic efficiency, with the result that blob-like silhouettes became increasingly indistinguishable from one another.
Design Transformation Driven by Public Preference
Now, almost 15 years into the new century, there has been a distinct reversal. Car design has been re-energised. It is now unusual to hear anyone complaining, as many did a while back, about cars looking like clones of one another. We, the great British motoring public, have voted with our pedal feet. Our appetite for visual difference in what we drive, as well as for greater roominess and convenience, has fuelled the big growth in popularity of 4x4s and their urban doppelgangers.
It took a while to dawn on the motor industry that the majority of customers for 4x4s were not buying them for their ability to drive across the Sahara, but rather for their lofty practicality in letting kids in the back seats see over roadside hedges, while mum in the driving seat was on a level to look white van man in the eye. Hence the huge trend in ‘crossover’ cars, cleverly combining the height and hunky look of a 4×4 with the family-friendly versatility and running costs of a hatchback.
Nissan Juke, Citroen C4, FIAT 500X Lead the Way
Cars like the Nissan Juke and Citroen C4 Cactus are prime examples. They make strong visual statements and are endearing for their styling quirkiness. They sit taller than a conventional hatchback, and look a bit more interesting. They will shortly acquire a new rival in the ‘crossover’ pack with the arrival of the Fiat 500X.
This is the third member of a growing family of Fiat 500 models. The Italian manufacturer has a lot of catching up to do before it comes anywhere near the variations on a theme that MINI has achieved, with its seven body styles all based on the same brawny little bulldog look of the Oxford-built MINI Hatch.
The Fiat 500 Evolution
Even so, Fiat is clearly set on its own family expansion from the basis of the dinky little 500 – re-born from an iconic mid-20th century original, just like the current MINI is from the old Mini. The new century Fiat 500 was launched in 2007. It was joined in 2012 by the 500L, and is now expanded to a trio of models with the launch of the 500X. An automotive dynasty is on the move.
Visually the Fiat 500X seems to be rather better resolved than the somewhat pumped-up and bloated style of the 500L, which owners seem to like but others deem a bit ugly. This newcomer has more sculpted lines and retains a bit more of the cheeky charm that has made the latterday Fiat 500 so hugely popular.
There is something about the 500X that gives it an endearing quality, and makes it a much more likeable spin-off variation on the expanding Fiat 500 theme. That impression is fortified by a cheery range of colour choices and the chirpy names of the trim options: Pop, Pop Star and Lounge.
Chunky Charm and Ample Comfort
The 500X has its own chunky charm, and is likeable to drive. Its driving dynamics won’t set any benchmarks, but it is pleasant and vice-free, with grippy handling, not much body roll on the bends and reasonable ride comfort. The steering does its job in a bit of a numb sort of way, efficiently but without much communicative feel. But it’s not meant to be a sports car, and it’s a happily well-engineered kind of ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of family motor.
The choice of engines is 1.4 or 1.6 petrol, and 1.6 or 2.0 diesel, and there are both manual and auto gearbox versions. There are 4×4 models as well as the standard front-wheel-drive. Prices start from around £14,595, and the Cross-badged 4×4 models are from £18,595.
If you have driven any of the Fiat 500 series, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.