Review and road test of the Fiat 500X Dolcevita
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE?
Fiat's 500X is arguably at its most desirable in this soft top Dolcevita form. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review of the Fiat 500X Dolcevita
The Fiat 500X Dolcevita offers something different in the small SUV segment: open-topped motoring. If that appeals, then there's nothing else quite like one of these.
Fiat's 500X small SUV needed a unique selling point. Well, this Dolcevita open-topped version has it. There simply isn't another open-topped model in the small Crossover segment. This isn't a proper convertible; instead, as with the Fiat 500 C city car, what you get is what amounts to a huge fabric sunroof, though a very big one, extending the entire surface of the roof.
Though the 500X is based around Jeep Renegade underpinnings, quite a lot has changed with this car from an engineering perspective in recent times. The Dolcevita range, like that of the fixed-top hatch, is based around a four cylinder 1.5 mild Hybrid engine, which only comes as a DCT auto. This unit puts out 130hp and 240Nm of torque (rest to 62mph in 9.4s) and is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. The propulsion system includes a built-in 48 volt 15kW (20hp) electric motor delivering 55Nm of torque, which can propel the wheels even when the internal combustion engine is turned off.
Once underway, you'll find that this 500X Dolcevita does of course go down the road just like the fixed-top version. Which means that the ride's still slightly on the firm side, but that means well managed standard of body roll through the bends, which in turn ought to give you the confidence to explore the decent reserves of traction and agility on offer. Inevitably, anything other than very light off road antics are beyond this 500X model's remit, despite its adventurous styling. 4WD is no longer offered as an option and there's just 162mm of ground clearance. But of course, none of this will bother likely buyers. For them, it'll matter only that this is a faithful interpretation of 500 model line values to a larger family-class car.
Design and Build
The 500X Dolcevita's canvas soft top opens at the touch of a button in 15 seconds, even while driving at up to 62mph, and has been engineered to have an unchanged load capacity compared to the hard top 500X. It also ensures good visibility and an open-air experience, even for passengers in the back. The canvas is available in black, grey and red, to match the ten body colours available.
Designed in the Centro Stile FIAT, the 500X measures 4.25m in length, 1.80m in width and 1.60m in height. You get a spacious 350-litre luggage compartment which can be extended using the Fold&Tumble rear seats and the fold-flat front passenger seat. The cabin features wraparound bolstering and arm rests placed in the centre console and on the door trims to aid relaxed cruising. The cabin has a 7-inch central UConnect infotainment screen and top variants get a 3.5-inch screen in the instrument cluster too.
Market and Model
Prices start from around £30,000 - which is quite a step up from the cost of an equivalent base-trim fixed-top 500X, around £27,000. As in the fixed top range, there are two trim levels - 'Cross' and 'Sport', both offered only with the 1.5-litre Hybrid petrol engine and DCT auto transmission.
All trim levels include a 7-inch Uconnect infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other features include a techno-leather steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus blacked-out windows, fog lights and LED DRLs. In its 'Cross' spec level, the 500X offers smarter seats with a camouflage-patterned centre panel, vinyl inserts, 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning and parking sensors. The top of the range 'Sport' trim level gets burnished black 18-inch alloy wheels, side skirts, a rear spoiler, black fabric sports seats with red piping, automatic air conditioning, a matte titanium dashboard and a 3.5-inch colour TFT screen in the instrument cluster.
Cost of Ownership
The market for boutique small Crossovers such as the 500X Dolcevita isn't anything like as price sensitive as those of other small cars and cost of ownership figures consequently come a bit further down the priorities scale. Nevertheless, the 500X utilises engines from other Fiat Group models where buyers are putting the budget under a bit more scrutiny. The 1.5-litre Hybrid unit manages up to 49.5mpg on the combined cycle with emissions of up to 129g/km. This is the first Fiat Hybrid that uses the electric motor by completely disconnecting the petrol engine, which can remain idle for up to 47 per cent of the time according to the total WLTP cycle. In the urban cycle alone, the percentage rises to 62 per cent.
Every model in the range is covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty and there's 36 months of breakdown cover included as well. Should you have a problem on a journey, you can use the 'Uconnect' infotainment system to contact roadside assistance and the same set-up can also be used to book routine services.
The 500X hasn't sold as well as it should have for Fiat, but there's still time for the Italian brand to turn that around. Recent updates and this Dolcevita open-topped version should help. The slow-selling diesel and 4WD models have been dropped from the range and under the bonnet, buyers are now at last treated to a properly efficient petrol unit.
We're a little disappointed that the price increment for Dolcevita motoring is so high, but what you're getting is so rare in the compact SUV segment that some buyers might not care. And you're now getting a far more class-competitive product that has more than a dash of Italian flair. Indeed, we continue to think that this car sets a template for how a retro-style citycar shape can be expanded into something more family-sized. In short, this car deserves a place on your small SUV shortlist.
Fiat 500X Dolcevita review by Jonathan Crouch