The benefits of driving a small foreign car include being able to maneuver easily in and out of city traffic and zooming perfectly into tight spaces in the parking lot. I did that with the 2017 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD. But then it happened as I was driving up winding roads leading into the foothills outside of Denver.
I started asking myself questions. “Am I driving a Jeep? Why am I sitting so high? FCA’s concerted effort to expand in North America in recent years is no secret, particularly into the small crossover segment. Even so, this test drive threw me for a loop. While the mountain views from the driver’s seat were breathtaking, I couldn’t seem to let go of the fact that not 30 minutes earlier I was driving a “small foreign car.”
Eventually it set in that I was driving an Italian-styled SUV. The 500X, the first FIAT vehicle available with all-wheel drive in the U.S., offers a unique experience, almost like having a humid 100-degree Miami day in Colorado on Christmas Day. I just wasn’t expecting it, but I enjoyed it.
Its 2.4-liter, I-4 MultiAir engine is matched with the segment’s first nine-speed automatic transmission, producing 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. While it may be a cousin of the Jeep Renegade, sharing drivetrains and platforms, the style is rooted in the iconic Cinquecento’s DNA.
Of the eleven exterior colors available, my test drive was Rosso Passione Red Hypnotique C/C. It was accented with Satin Silver accents, a unique front and rear fascia design as well as 17-inch wheels. The headlamps include, bi-function halogen project headlamps, automatic headlamps, fog and cornering lamps.
The classy interior features optional leather-trimmed bucket seats with heated front seats, steering wheel, and leather-wrapped shift knob all the way to the easy-to-navigate Uconnect 6.5 system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen. I changed the radio station and fiddled with the air condition buttons a lot simply because the layout kept my attention, and was easy to use.
The crossover’s dynamic control selector makes it easy to drive in snow and mud. No need for that on this test drive. I liked the sport mode and stayed in that zone for most of the drive. It’s loaded with up to 70 advanced safety and security features that you would expect in a new car, including: Forward Collision Warning-Plus, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.
The four-door SUV is reported to fit five adults comfortably. Average height of course. The spacious cargo area can be expanded by folding down the back seats and taking advantage of the extra spaced tucked under the cargo floor.
This SUV is a bold move full of little car-big car moments. Evolutions are cool.
The 2017 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD SUV MSRP: $23,250; Combined City/Highway MPG: 24.