Vulture at the Wheel The 1957 Fiat 500 was a macchinetta small car. It became a macchina car with the launch of the new 500 in 2007, and then with the 500L it became a macchinona; a big car. It has gone from 17hp and under 500kg to 120hp and 1.4 tonnes.
The Fiat 500X: A Goldilocks car aimed at off-roading families. Well, not quite
The 500X slots in between the 500 and 500L as a “not too small, not too big” option: the Goldilocks of cars. To be honest it’s not very 500. While the is a clear design link between the ’57 and ‘07 cars and the 500L takes this and caricatures the effect, with the 500X Fiat tried desperately to conjure up a design link between the 500 and the 500X.
If you look at it dead ahead you can see some of that – but in the main it means having the right chrome highlights. The link is more than a little strained.
Strained: Yes, it's still a Fiat, but it's a bit... well, forced
That’s not to say it doesn’t look good, but it’s not very 500. It’s done because when people think of “Fiat” they think of a sad looking 127 or something with the bonnet up. When they think “500” it conjures images of a Roman Holiday.
The 500 is cool. It might work commercially – the new 500 has sold 1.5m cars as part of Fiat's image overhaul. Even the company name has changed from FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) as a result of a merger with the US carmaker in October. Although Fiat is hoping that some people who are loyal Fiat owners (they are called “Italians”) will look at it as they trade up to larger families.
It’s certainly more successful at being a bigger version of a small car than the 500L or MINI Countryman. Fiat say that it has the ”most comfortable hip point height in category” and just 17.9cm of ground clearance. What you don’t get is the “actually I do own the road” view that you get from a proper ute.
Staring at the ground: OK, this shot was taken going up a muddy hill but you get the idea
So what we have is a medium-sized family car which happens to be called a 500; in this case a 500X, the X meaning “crossover”, as that’s the fashionable thing to do with cars at the moment. Just as the Range Rover Evoque is a cross between a Defender and an F-Type, this is a cross between a small car and a big one. The other current trend is revitalising old car memes: Mini, Beetle and 500. The 500X is the first to try both fashions at the same time.
And because of that I regarded the 500X with suspicion. I came away unconvinced by the 500ness of the car but impressed by what it was regardless of the name.