The 500X is Fiat's latest entry into the market, slotting just ahead of the 500L and the tiny little 500. A truly global vehicle, the 500X holds a lot of Italian sexiness and retains the singular style that has come to define Fiat's 500 line. This also becomes the company's first foray into the crossover market with a more utility-oriented offering.

The 2016 Fiat 500X was introduced in 2014 as the newest in the Fiat Chrysler Auto line and as a competitor in the fast-growing compact crossover market. It's built using the same platform as the new Jeep Renegade and the two are assembled side-by-side in Melfi, Italy. Aimed toward a global audience, the 500X hits home with a lot of buyers. With added utilitarian aspects and a more upscale fit than any other Fiat we've seen, the 500X may be the booster that finally pushes the Fiat brand back into the North American space.

The 500X certainly has a lot going for it. On the outside, the bug-eyed, dimple-mouthed front fascia and short, fast-paced hood are very 500. The roofline, though longer to accommodate four doors and a hatchback, has a distinct cabriolet-ish aspect to its shape and style. A higher and wider stance and more contemporary crossover side view, though, gives the clear impression that this isn't just a little Italian funbox. It's got something else going on. The hilarious "blue pill" commercials introducing this drive during the 2015 Super Bowl brought that home.

Inside, the quality of materials and overall design is much more sophisticated than we've seen in previous 500 models. The 500 and 500L both have plain, entry-level interior designs by comparison. The excellent seating, lifted European dashboard, and attention to detail puts the 500X squarely on a par with any other crossover in this segment. In our experience, outside of the new Mazda CX-3, there isn't an interior as refined at this price point.

The Fiat 500X's interior features a lot of soft-touch materials and very well-mannered seating. Like most in this compact segment, the rear seats are suitable only for children and pets. The cargo area is small, but useful in its shape and contours. If the spare tire is not opted for (it is not standard equipment), the rear floor can be lowered to give a bit more room or the floor panel can be raised to create a short shelf for protecting items underneath. A unique and useful feature. The rear seats fold down, though not completely flat, to more than double cargo space to 32.1 cubic feet (909 liters).

There are five trim levels for the 2016 500X, each of which builds on the last with interior and technology upgrades. All but the base level Pop trim offer both front-wheel and all-wheel drive options. The Pop model has a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that will be familiar to Fiat 500 fans. We have not driven this option, but imagine that if it was just enough for the smaller 500L, it's probably not quite enough for the 500X. Luckily, every other model of the 2016 500X utilizes a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that will be familiar to Chrysler and Jeep fans. This engine produces 180 horsepower (134 kW) and 175 lb.ft of torque (237 Nm), which is more than enough motivation for the 500X.

The newly-emerging compact crossover segment seems to diverge into two approaches. Some aim for sport driving and fun while others aim for fuel economy and utility. The 500X seems to be running up the middle, achieving an EPA rating of 25 mpg combined, with 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway (9.4, 10.7, 7.6 l/100km) with its FWD configuration and 24 mpg combined, 21 city and 30 highway (9.8, 11.2, 7.8 l/100km), in its AWD option. During our week and more than 530 miles in the 500X with AWD, we saw better numbers than those at 29 mpg all told.

Out on the road, the 2016 Fiat 500X is an engaging drive. A tight chassis and fast-paced feel give the 500X a ground level fun factor that most in this segment can also claim. What sets the 500X apart is its bigger-than-it-is confident feeling on the road and nimble cornering. Around town, getting in and around traffic and finding a parking space is also easy in this Fiat. The beefier suspension and ride height of the AWD model means more utility in inclement weather and when going off the pavement along that dirt road.

The Fiat 500X is an enjoyable little crossover. It's competing in a segment that's seeing a lot of new entries for 2016, however, so it remains to be seen if its Italian appeal is enough to keep it relevant. Our bet is that this is definitely a hot little number to keep an eye on.

Product Page: Fiat 500X

View gallery - 16 images