First look: 2016 Fiat 500X

The infatuation began in 2011 with the U.S. arrival of the tiny Italian Fiat 500. It continued through successive models: the 500c convertible, high-performance 500 Abarth and Abarth convertible, electric 500e, and five-passenger 500L. But Fiat has introduced a 500 with all-wheel drive and it might have Pacific Northwest drivers singing “that’s amoré!”

While the original 500 is a spry little car perfectly suited to single urban dwellers, the all-new 2016 Fiat 500X inhabits compact crossover territory. It’s bigger, tougher, and has room for five people plus a decent-sized cargo area with a height-adjustable floor. A forward-folding front passenger seat provides additional cargo-carrying versatility.

Though the 500X is similar in size to the 500L, there’s a structural difference: the 500X shares its architecture with Jeep’s new Renegade crossover.

There are five different versions of the 500X, the first three with funny names well known to those familiar with the other 500 models: Pop, Easy, and Lounge. The remaining two are Trekking and Trekking plus, styled for a more rugged appearance.

A 160-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission are standard on the Pop model, whose base pricing with a $900 destination charge is $20,900. An automatic transmission is not available on this model.

The other four versions come equipped with a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter Tigershark engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. Their base prices with destination charge, listed in the same order as shown above, range from $23,200 to $28,000. These prices are for front-wheel-drive configuration. For all-wheel drive, add $1,900.

Official fuel economy ratings have not been announced yet, but to put you in the ballpark: The 2015 500L with a 1.4-liter engine is rated 25 mpg around town and 33 mpg on the open road. Make a mental note that unleaded regular fuel is acceptable for the Pop’s 1.4-liter engine, but premium is recommended. On the other hand, regular unleaded is the recommended fuel for the 2.4-liter Tigershark of the Easy, Lounge, Trekking and Trekking Plus models.

Fiat’s AWD system boosts fuel efficiency by operating the car in two-wheel mode during smooth sailing and kicking into all-wheel operation only when the going gets sketchy.

Almost anything your head or heart desires in the way of safety, convenience, comfort, telematics, connectivity and just plain coolness is available on the Fiat 500X in one way or another. If it isn’t standard, it’s available through one or more of the many optional packages provided.

The 2016 Fiat 500X is built in Melfi, Italy. Cars have already arrived on U.S. shores and will be available in dealerships within the next few weeks.

This is a preview of the 2016 Fiat 500X based on an introductory event held by the manufacturer. Although the vehicle was driven during the event, automotive reviews that include driving impressions and other opinions appear only after a vehicle has been given the standard weeklong test-drive.

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