Shaving ice with a 2020 Fiat 500X
The 2020 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD I tested was part of the Rocky Mountain Redline Winter Driving Encounter. An event where several AWD vehicles are fitted with snow tires, placed on a variety of snow-covered courses and turned loose. The best part, the media gets to spend quality time behind the wheel.
With this in mind, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away with the 2020 Fiat 500X Trekking. I’ve driven the older model on snow and it was perfectly adequate, but little more. That one had a naturally aspirated engine and shared components with the Jeep Renegade. I figured this Fiat would feel the same in snow – I was wrong.
Steering and body control are good when pushed. Sure, there isn’t much steering feedback, but it’s quick to turn and easy to maneuver. At full boil, the little engine snarls and tries to be entertaining. The transmission is smoother and less finicky than the previous generation’s nine-speed.
This new power-plant was surprising. The 177 horsepower 1.3-liter three-cylinder engine makes 210 lbs-feet of torque. It is the “MultiAir” powerplant and it is the only engine available. The 500X only comes with a (revised) nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (AWD). The combination of light weight and power makes for a slightly more entertaining vehicle than the one it replaces.
It also means that this vehicle is more efficient than the old 500X. The 2020 Fiat 500X is rated at 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined – that’s not too shabby. All this with a power gain surprised me.
While driving the vehicle from Winter Park to southern Denver, a 70-mile trip, I noted its fairly comfortable ride and good passing power. It was fairly quiet for an economy car, and the seats were comfortable. I love the interior design, which is unique and fresh compered to the competition.
Prepare for turbo lag – on snow.
The one drawback to this new turbo powerplant is its long lag. Shove your foot down and you have enough time to actually think, “Where’s the power?” before the turbo spools up. On snow, it takes some getting used to. To the novice in the dry, suddenly having power a few moments after asking for it is bothersome. On snow, it is more so.
Fortunately, the AWD system and traction control work very well. Even when the power finally comes through, the 500X stays manageable and is easy to maneuver. If you want to have fun, you need to keep the revs high and the traction control off.
The AWD system sends power to the rear only when needed. Otherwise, it’s completely disconnected for efficiency. When you play in the snow and want that rear to kick in, you need to drive like a fool. When you do, it’s a blast.
It’s a pricey meatball
The 2020 Fiat 500X starts at $25,995 and with a MSRP of $32,805, my Trekking model is on the higher side of many of its competitors. What bugged me is the Advanced drivers group which cost $1,395. It adds adaptive speed control, collision warning, lane departure warning and other safety aids. This should be standard.
Competitors like the Hyundai Kona, Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport and Kia Seltos are just a few examples of a crowded segment. The Fiat’s brother, the Jeep Renegade is a serious competitor too. The main benefit I see in the Fiat is its unique Italian personality. Otherwise, it’s only mildly competitive.
The Fiat 500X offers a real nice interior, good driving dynamics and fun personality – but it’s not for everyone.
In this video, I get to play in the snow and sample the AWD system in very challenging conditions.