The new Fiat 500X Hybrid follows on from its impossibly cute city car sibling, the Fiat 500 Electric, in getting an injection of battery power as Fiat rolls towards to becoming a fully electric brand by 2030. But the new 500X doesn’t come with a plug; it’s a traditional hybrid.
On the scene since 2014, the 500X taps into the popular and lucrative crossover market and is a logical stepping stone for 500 owners that have outgrown the little city car, with a larger boot, more space inside and five doors, and benefits from extra ground clearance and a more rugged appearance making it usable off-road.
Can it retain that winning recipe in hybrid form? Read on for our full review of the 2022 Fiat 500X Hybrid.
Exterior design and rivals
Beside the obligatory badge on the boot lid to denote its newfound electrification, the 500X Hybrid’s outward appearance is little different to the petrol and diesel versions’. No green accents or blue trim inserts here. It is a design that is ageing well, and its friendly appearance stands up well against the sharper lines of competitors such as the Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka.
The 500X range gets a mild update for 2022 at the same time as the introduction of the hybrid version. Gone is the company logo from the nose; a ‘500’ badge replaces it, echoing its electric city car sibling.
In case you missed that, a 500X logo features in the lower front bumper section, next to the scuff plate, which now is a more subtle dark grey metallic colour as part of the Cross trim level. It adds an extra degree of ruggedness to what is otherwise a cute and cuddly looking crossover by market standards. A Fiat logo in the company’s new typeface sits on the rear.
The particular car we’re driving is the (RED) specification that Fiat offers across its range of vehicles and is part of an association with the global health charity. Adding to the vibrant paintwork are machined 17in alloy wheels, black plastic cladding around the lower door sections and wheel arches and silver roof rails.
As an alternative, the Sport specification adds 19in wheels and wears different bumpers that are body-coloured along, as are the wheel arch surrounds and sills.
Interior and practicality
In a world full of dull grey and black interiors, the 500X adds a splash of colour with a dashboard fascia that Fiat paints to match the car’s exterior.
There’s a simplicity to the cabin that makes it quite intuitive to use, too. There is plenty of room in the front seats, even for taller drivers, though the seats are on the firm side. Your chiropractor will undoubtedly approve, but you might want to try them out on a longer test drive before committing.
Large chunky rotary controls for adjusting the fan and temperature settings are easier and arguably less distracting to use while driving than the latest generation of touchscreen interfaces.
It’s a similar story with the buttons on the steering wheel that are all nicely sized and easy to use — no fiddly haptic feedback touchpads here, proving that the simpler something is, the better (usually).
The 7in touchscreen is on the small side by the standards of the segment but at least it has the required connectivity for Android and Apple smartphones. However, there isn’t a suitable place to put your phone, so it ends up in a cupholder.
The rear passenger space is reasonably good although opting for the retractable roof in the Dolcevita version does steal a precious few millimetres of headroom.
Both of the outer rear seats have Isofix anchor points, with pockets on the backs of the front seats. Compared to another hybrid crossover, the Toyota C-HR, the 500X is much airier and brighter in the rear.
The boot of the 500X holds 350 litres, which is less than many of its competitors’ offering. You’ll get more stuff into the back of a Renault Captur or a Ford Puma, for example. But of course, it’s a significant improvement on the 500 city car.
You can fold the rear seats of the 500X forward to boost cargo capacity to 1,000 litres, which is good but not exactly class leading. At least the additional battery for the hybrid system is placed below the car, so it doesn’t impact on passenger or luggage space.
Technology and safety
An array of driver assistance features is available in the 500X Hybrid, but not all come from the factory as standard equipment.
Lane Assist, cruise control with variable speed limiter and a brake assistance system are standard fit. Attention assist can detect if the driver is showing signs of drowsiness, usually by drifting within the lane, and the car can send an acoustic and visual warning to suggest the driver pull over for an espresso.
In-car tech is where the 500X is beginning to show its age as the infotainment offering is on the basic side in comparison to what is available elsewhere in the segment. Fiat’s native infotainment system does provide some driving data relating to the hybrid powertrain so that you can see how good (or bad) you’re being, but that’s about the height of it.
The lack of screen real estate should be seen as less distracting, but many buyers now want larger, tablet-like displays, and this is where the Fiat lags behind some of its key competitors.
Performance, power output and acceleration
Under the bonnet is the latest version of Fiat’s FireFly petrol engine. Significant revisions see the turbocharged four-cylinder motor increase to 1.5 litres in capacity and, like many other hybrids, it runs on the Miller cycle, which adjusts the combustion cycle to favour fuel economy.
On the electrical side is a small 0.8kWh battery that powers a 15kW electric motor integrated into a new dual-clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox, sending power to the front wheels.
The 500X’s maximum outputs of 128bhp and 177lb ft enable it to accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds. With the hybrid battery weighing only 13.5kg there is no discernible impact on the car’s driving dynamics. Fiat’s engineers told us that the new seven-speed gearbox, which also includes an electric motor, is the same weight as the older six-speed unit.
The small battery can’t propel the 500X for any great distance, unlike a plug-in hybrid. It is most active at lower speeds where it can pull the Fiat along in near-silence and the system keeps enough battery charge to enable parking using only the electric motor.
Ride and handling
Much like its front seats, the suspension in the 500X is firm and even the generously tyred 17in alloy wheels can only do so much to soften the ride. The set-up seems to amplify relatively small cracks and ruts on poorer road surfaces, and driving at slower speeds isn’t helped by an automatic transmission that can be dim-witted at times.
Clunky, jerky downshifts aren’t usually what we expect from a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and the seeming reluctance to switch to using its electric motor when the battery indicates such a transition could be possible compounds frustration.
To derive any enjoyment from driving the 500X involves forgetting everything about its hybrid or electrified properties and driving it as you would any other car.
With speed comes a better serving of composure from the suspension. You’re not going to keep up with a zippy Abarth hot hatch, though, as any kind of spirited driving soon ushers in some safe and predictable understeer to remind you that this isn’t the car for that kind of behaviour.
Pricing and on-sale date
The Fiat 500X Hybrid is available to order now with a starting price of £27,585, which is quite a jump up from the non-hybrid version, costing £23,845 for a similar specification.
There are three grades available in the 500X Hybrid: Cross, (RED) and Sport. The Dolcevita variants add a foldable soft-top roof that is an unusual and appealing option in this segment.
Verdict: Fiat 500X Hybrid review
Adding electrification to the 500X should be a welcome bonus to prospective buyers but the reality is that Fiat hasn’t gone far enough with trying to create a hybrid version of this crossover. With little difference in fuel consumption or emissions reduction, the electrification seems more like a token gesture than anything else.
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