Fiat 500X Lounge 1.4

MultiAir 140

Fiat 500X, front
Fiat 500X, front
Fiat 500X, front
Fiat 500X, front
Fiat 500X, side
Fiat 500X, rear
Fiat 500X, interior
Fiat 500X, interior
Fiat 500X, rear
Fiat 500X, detail

IF you're in the business of making profit then, I suppose, it would be pretty negligent not to cash in when you stumble upon a big seller - a principle the motor industry has latched onto with some vigour.

Take the MINI, for instance. Since BMW's resurrection of the British classic proved a massive hit we have seen it appear in many and varied forms as the German car maker seeks to make the most of its unwavering popularity.

Fiat has taken a similar approach since its diminutive 500 enjoyed proved a huge success with the trendy young things when it launched in 2007.

We've subsequently seen a procession of models bearing the 500 moniker but scant other resemblances to the retro-chic city car.

First there was the 500L mini-MPV, which was given a butch makeover for the 500L Trekking and then stretched and fitted with a couple of extra seats to become the 500L MPW.

All these motors have their merits but have about as much in common with the 500 as I have with Bradley Cooper.

And now there is another addition to the 500 ‘family' in the shape of the 500X, which arrived last year to take on some tough competition as Fiat's first foray into the increasingly crowded compact crossover segment.

Quibbles about naming aside, though, the 500X has plenty to commend it.

To start with it is available in two distinctive flavours - Pop, Pop Star and Lounge specifications for the townies and a more rugged off-road version in Cross and Cross plus guise for those who like to get off the beaten track.

Two and four-wheel drive, petrol and diesel power and a host of personalisation options also ensure that there should be a choice for all tastes and pockets.

And although it doesn't have the same cutesy appeal as it's tiny namesake, there are enough style cues to make a visual connection between the two and, although chunkier, the 500X's curvy form gives it a certain charm all of its own.

Fiat has clearly worked hard to keep some of the funky feel that attracted buyers to the original 500 in their droves so the retro face is familiar, as are the circular headrests and colour-coded metal strip across the dashboard.

The elevated suspension and cladding, which varies depending upon whether you've gone for a Cross model, add the prerequisite SUV stylings that a crossover must have and while obviously bigger than the city car, the 500X's dimensions remain compact enough to make it easy to manoeuvre in the city.

The range-topping Lounge model I drove was powered by a 140ps version of Fiat's proven 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol engine paired to a snappy six-speed manual gearbox - which offered a reasonable balance between performance and economy.

Although lacking explosive acceleration, throttle response is smooth and prompt and there is plenty of pep to cope with quick bursts of speed and motorway cruising - all done in an impressively refined manner.

Throw in well-weighted, responsive steering, plenty of grip and only minimal body roll despite its extra height and the 500X displays some pleasantly sharp handling and is surprisingly sporty and enjoyable to drive.

Driver engagement can be further enhanced by switching to ‘sport' set-up with the three-mode drive selector, which also offers ‘auto' and a setting to help in snow and rain even on two-wheel drive versions such as this.

There's room inside for four adults to get comfortable, five at a push, and plenty of personal storage, including two gloveboxes, while the boot compares favourably to most rivals and family hatchbacks.

Generous equipment across the range is also a feature of the 500X with this flagship boasting 18-inch alloys, touchscreen satnav, Bluetooth, climate control, rear parking sensors and stability control.

Various options packs add such luxuries as lane departure and blind spot warning, keyless entry and ignition, rearview camera and enhanced entertainment systems but they will bump up the price.

FAST FACTS

Fiat 500X Lounge 1.4 MultiAir 140

Price:£19,345

Mechanical:140s,1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 9.8 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.1

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions: 139g//km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty:3yrs/100,000 miles

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