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A-Ha! Hunting high and low is a letdown

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Maurice and Annette Hardy

A-Ha! Hunting high and low is a letdown

Why would the Fiat 500X Cross Plus with the latest dual dry clutch transmission bring on thoughts of a Norwegian pop group?

Because when you drive it up a twisty hill that new gearbox hunts high and low trying to find the right ratio. And, unlike the Norwegian pop group’s hit song on the same theme, it scores nul points for harmonious progress.

It’s a shame because the car has such promise. About 18 months ago we tested the 500X Cross with the 1.4 litre DCT gearbox, as it was called then. The engine has now got smaller, becoming the 1.3 litre T4 FireFly, yet offers more power and torque, with 150 bhp at 5,500 rpm and 270 Nm at 1,850 rpm. The torque is now up by 15 per cent on the previous car and power by 6.6 per cent but it’s the torque that really counts in day-to-day responsiveness.

Maybe it’s just a bit more than the gearbox wants to cope with, because changes could sometimes be jerky. Take-up from a standstill could also suffer from a delay, making manoeuvring more complicated than is comfortable in tight parking spaces and pulling away smartly from a junction a bit uncertain.

The car is an urban crossover, bigger than the fashion-statement 500 on which it is based, with a higher ride height and much more practical body. It also brings an expanded price but not so much that you’ll object to stumping up. Mind you, the competition has got tougher since the last time we drove the 500X as Ford has now introduced a Fiesta with similar characteristics that’s available through a far larger, and therefore more accessible, dealer network.

The 500 is a successor to the Topolino, or Little Mouse, from pre-war days. It’s odd that everyone now raves about it and the car on which it’s based from the late 50s through to the early 70s. Like many classics, cars that were once thought pointless have become cherished must-have items. We can remember reading a car magazine that summed up all available models stating, when considering that generation of 500, “Millions of Italians can be wrong”.

Fast forward to the Noughties and the new car and all that bile is forgotten. The new 500 became a must-have item and the old one rocketed in value! People are strange when it comes to cars!

The 500X shows itself to be more of a Mighty Mouse. It’s big enough to be useful and even with just front wheel drive feels sure-footed.

The snub-nosed bonnet houses a four cylinder petrol engine with a turbo to boost its muscle. Although maximum power arrives at a restrained 5,500 rpm, peak torque comes at a relaxed 1,850 rpm, which is more characteristic of a diesel than petrol engine. The quoted combined consumption is 37.7 mpg under the new WLTP regime, far more realistic than the old “official” 49.6 mpg combined fuel consumption of our last car which actually only 34.5 mpg. This new car got to 40 mpg, partly helped, no doubt, by the lack of 4x4.

CO2 emissions are 145 g/km, up on the last car’s 133 g/km but again the result of a proper testing regime. Driving behind a petrol engine is something we will increasingly grow accustomed to and this Fiat does much to recommend because it’s a willing performer.

There’s a lot to like about this car, and the restrained ivory metallic paint was far better than the eye-jarring bright yellow of our last 500X. The exterior looks tough enough with the protective inserts in its bumpers and arches while inside the seats are supportive, the instrumentation clear, and the technology count will please even the most demanding technophiles.

Heating elements in both front seats will give the car a happy, warm feeling on cold mornings that might be offset by the fascia finished in body colour, reminiscent of the days when a proper heater, never mind elements in the seats, was considered an item for the options list!

One thing we would want to delete is the “Fix&Go” puncture repair kit. You can’t beat having a spare, even if it’s a spacesaver, in the boot and, once used, these gunk systems prevent the tyre being repaired. It’s time to be rid of them!

Car: Fiat 500X Cross Plus 1.3 T4 FireFly 150hp DDCT automatic

 

Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 9.1 secs

Top speed: 124 mph

Bhp: 150 @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 270 Nm @ 1,850 rpm

 

...and your wallet...

Price: £23,500

Combined: 37.7 mpg

CO2 emissions: 145 g/km

 

Best bits: compact and capable

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M4 closures this weekend

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