Test Drive Notes Library
- Packaging. This is a cute little car. And you can go a long way on cute. My brother got into several marriages just by being cute. And, no doubt, there will be people who will buy the 500X just because it’s so damn cute. But as my brother's ex-wives will all tell you, cute wears off. Sometimes quickly.
- Interior. Our 500X Trekking model with the optional dark brown leather seats looks stylish inside, with some nice design touches.
- Useful. It’s small, but it has four doors, seats four people, has a hatchback-accessible cargo compartment and fold down rear seats. While our test car was a front wheel drive model, it can be had with all wheel drive for an extra two grand, and has a higher seating position than many cars. That puts it into the category we call “compact crossover,” which is the hottest category of car sales these days.
- Comfort. The ride is tuned for comfort. The car, itself, is not, unfortunately. It’s a small car with a short wheelbase, and the suspension is mostly jittery and stiff at highway speeds, But Fiat engineers dialed in as much softness as they could into the seats and springs to ameliorate it.
- Simple controls. Three large knobs control the heating and air conditioning, two knobs control the radio. Plus, like most other vehicles in the Chrysler diaspora, it has a steering wheel volume rocker switch on the back of the steering wheel, right where your fingers naturally fall. The software for the touchscreen is pretty intuitive, too.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Quality. Some cars just exude quality. The 500X is not one of them. One of the first things we noticed was the turn signal stalk, which feels cheap. It may work fine for decades, but it has the feel of a part that they had left over in a bin from the 1990s. And, whether true or not, it gives the impression that corners were cut. Other parts of the interior did receive some thought. The armrests on the driver and passenger doors are soft. The steering wheel feels substantial. But when you feel a hard, plastic “clunk” whenever you signal a turn, that impression stays with you. And the independent consumer reliability surveys confirm that it’s no Toyota.
- Transmission. This is a nine-speed automatic that has been the source of complaints in other Chrysler products. We found it improved in the 500X — smoother than when we disliked it in the Chrysler 200 — but not entirely smooth. So many transmissions these days are so good and almost undetectable. This one reminded you it was there once in a while with a hard shift, and more often with a slow downshift.
- Wheezy. Power felt entirely adequate in stop and go city driving, but on highway drives, especially with even the slightest of hills, the engine felt like it was working extra hard to get the 500X up to speed. Slow downshifts when you try to accelerate make it feel even wheezier. Switching the engine management to “sport” mode solved the problem, and made the 500X a lot more enjoyable to drive on the highway. But around town, “sport" mode exacerbated the transmission’s lack of polish and the noise… speaking of which.
- Noise. If you like it quiet, give the 500X a pass. Road and engine noise are omnipresent.
- Competition. As it happens, we had recently driven a 2018 Subaru CrossTrek when we drove the 500X. While they are comparably priced (both around $30K loaded, although the CrossTrek at that price includes all wheel drive), the Crosstrek seemed to be in a higher class. It was smoother, roomier, peppier, and more comfortable. It’d be hard for us to recommend the Fiat over the Crosstrek…unless you’re one of those people who find the Fiat just too cute to pass up.
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