The Fiat 500 has an enduring aesthetic appeal that was always going to prove a hit when Fiat decided to produce a modern version in 2007.
Trouble is, while everyone loved the retro looks it was still a very small car without the practicality that many expect these days.
In its wisdom, Fiat decided to produce an upscale version, resulting in one of the more unique small SUVs on the market.
Unlike the Mini Clubman, whose proportions don’t quite match the beauty of it’s popular little brother, the Fiat 500X has all the curves in the right places and still looks cute.
If you were looking at it from afar, the only real difference would be the way the wheel arches sit high above the tyres.
Another difference comes with the top-spec all-wheel-drive Cross Plus, which has contrasting bumper bars and mouldings over the wheel arch to give it more rugged look.
Despite the resemblance, this is very different car to the little 500 – it has more in common with the Jeep Renegade, including the same chassis.
The old-school looks continue inside with a painted metal look finish along the dashboard.
Even the 6.5-inch touchscreen manages to look retro – it displays the reverse camera and the entertainment features that come with the very good U-connect system common to Fiat Chrysler Group vehicles. The eight-speaker sound system in the Cross Plus was excellent.
Being a Fiat, the interior was never going to be bland. The 500X Cross Plus I tested had red and black leather trim that was pretty garish but suited the car’s general style.
I also liked the look of the fittings, including the door handles and airconditioning dials.
Outside, there’s a host of paint and stripe options and further personalisation can be had with different coloured door mirrors and wheels. I quite liked the metallic grey with red side mirrors and red go-fast stripes on our test car.
The front seats were comfortable and back seats provided good legroom – something that certainly couldn’t be said about the smaller 500. The rear easily accommodates two adults or three kids.
Boot space is another obvious improvement over the 500, but it’s not that big compared to other small SUVs. This would be a nice car for a driving holiday but you’d want to keep luggage to a minimum.
It could also do with more cabin storage other than the cup holders and locker in the centre console.
The 500X also differs from its little brother in performance. The 1.4-litre petrol turbo engine propels it well and the automatic transmission works with it nicely. There are paddle shifts should you feel like a little more hands-on driving.
It has different driving modes – normal, sport and wet/snow.
PHONE PIC OF THE REVIEW VEHICLE – INSTAGRAM.COM/STAR_WEEKLY
It feels nice and solid on the road but handles nicely and has a comfortable ride. Road noise is quite low despite the chunky 18-inch wheels.
Fuel consumption is excellent. I was averaging about seven litres/100 kilometres, which is just over the combined rate claimed by Fiat.
This car isn’t short on safety equipment with heaps of standard features across the range including the reversing camera and rear cross-path detection, blind-spot monitoring in the side mirrors and forward collision warning.
Even with all the features, pricing is on the hefty side, but a strengthening dollar might help things. Prices start at $29,000 drive away for the base-model, manual Pop.
Subsequent models in the range – the Pop Star, Lounge and Cross Plus – are all automatic and are priced from $36,822, $41,982 and $43,014 respectively.
The 500X is a nice, well-put-together cross-over vehicle that breaks the Fiat mould by not only being stylish and fun but practical, too.