WITH less than a year on the clock since Fiat introduced a totally revamped 500X the mega Italian company has blasted out of the starting blocks with a dynamic new Sport model.
This new top-of-the-range version offers greater performance and agility, thanks to a host of new technical features which also add to the existing high levels of safety and driving pleasure found on the rest of the 500X range.
Designed and built in Italy, the 500X has proved a global success story since its launch in 2014. It tops the medium-sized SUV list in its home country and has hovered within the top 10 throughout important European markets, scoring more than 500,000 sales in the process.
Most importantly, this is the model that has tempted the highest number of buyers away from other car brands and into the Fiat family, a situation that surely must continue with the newcomer's introduction as the first truly pure-bred sporty SUV in its class.
So in perfect sporting style, this new "signing" comes with a host of highly-honed modifications to its driving dynamics, steering tuning and suspension settings to make driving more emotive for those lucky enough to get behind the wheel.
First up, the perfectly-balanced suspension has been further lowered by 13mm. Power has also been beefed up and the range-topping 1.3-litre Firefly Turbo power plant now pumps out a hefty 150hp and delivers 270Nm of torque when mated to its dual-clutch six-speed DCT automatic gearbox.
Along with tweaks to the shock absorbers and to both front and rear suspension, when combined with optional 19-inch wheels shod with special grippy sports tyres, gives the 1.3-litre 500X Sport supreme high-speed road-holding ability.
Obviously, the harder suspension will give a much more purposeful ride than that offered in the current softer e-TorQ, City Cross and Cross Plus models, but throughout my short time with the car I could never say It was ever in any way uncomfortable.
For a small SUV, standing to 62mph can take just 9.1 seconds and its top speed is a more-than-respectable 124mph, however for the more mildly-mannered drivers, a less-potent, one-litre Sport model knitted out with a 118bhp three-cylinder Firefly engine is also be available.
Five choices make up the 500X Sport's colour palette of Cinema Black, Gelato White, Moda Grey, Italian Blue and - of course - Red Seduction, a new tone reserved exclusively for the model. The last four colours can also be combined with a black roof for a more exclusive two-tone effect.
Exterior highlights include body-coloured side skirts and wheel arches, twin chrome exhausts, full LED headlights and fog lamps and diffuser-styled rear bumper.
The sporting credentials are carried into the car's cockpit with aluminium gear knob and techno-leather steering wheel complete with Alcantara inserts which are also used to great effect on the instrument panel.
New black fabric in conjunction with the liberal use of leather are reserved for the seats, while black headlining, sexy Titanium Grey paint on the dash and other exposed metal surfaces and aluminium pedals also add to the sporty ambience.
The new 500X is kitted out with a host of safety and comfort features to make any journey a joy. Driver assistance systems include traffic sign recognition, speed advisor and automatic lane assist, cruise control with speed limiter and automatic climate control.
Finally, to complete the package, also fitted as standard comes Fiat's Uconnect satellite navigation infotainment system with DAB digital radio, controlled via a seven-inch screen and compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Prices for the 500X Sport start at £22,500 for the one-litre three-pot turbocharged entry model and from £24,700 for the more powerful 1.3-litre.
Fuel consumption and emission figures are yet to be released.