SEAT TIME: The FIAT XL

October 17th, 2016 at 2:06pm

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Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.


Reviewer:
Chip Drake
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About The Vehicles:

2016 FIAT 500x
Base Price: $25,100
Price as Tested: $28,795
Destination Included: $995

2016 FIAT 500L

Base Price: $21,880
Price as Tested: $29,125
Destination Included: $995

Final Impression:

We all know XL means extra large. But when are those individual letters LARGER apart, than they are together? The answer? When they follow the number 500 on two different FIAT vehicles.

The Italian nameplate brought its globally popular Cinquecento minicar to America some 5 years ago and designated it the FIAT 500. But early on, the only FIATs available to buy or lease were variations of this one model: the 500c, the 500e, the 500 Abarth and even a 500 Gucci edition to name a few.

A couple years later the brand brought us the 500L, a larger version of the 500 — 30 inches longer & 6 inches higher — with 68 cubic feet of storage space and still front wheel drive.

But FIAT recognized the Crossover craze wasn’t about to quit so about a year ago they gave us the 500x, similar to the L but built on the Jeep Renegade architecture in Italy with an All-Wheel-Drive system.

I recently had the opportunity to drive them back to back, and the comparison of the two was illuminating.

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The newer X is more prepared for an all-road experience. With its Jeep advantage and a 2.4-Liter I4 MultiAir engine I didn’t exactly go off-roading but when I did veer from the pavement every now and then, the package was solid and performed well. Meanwhile, thanks to the $1,700 Optional Trekking Collection, the CUV came with a 6.5” touchscreen display, a newer Uconnect system with Navigation and a backup camera which made the inside experience contemporary and comfortable. In addition, the X also came equipped with safety features like Rear Park Assist and Blind Spot monitoring.

 

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Meanwhile the Front Wheel Drive L has a smoother overall ride than its cousin. And though its 1.4-Liter MultiAir engine is fine with one or two people in the car, when I added a third, the engine became sluggish, especially going up small hills. And though the L’s standard electronics were older than the those on the X, you can add the updated features, and more, with the $3,300 Urbana Trekking Collection Option.

As for styling, the look both in and outside of the car is fun. In fact my wife compared it to MINI which, knowing her respect for the British brand, is a high compliment. But, the interior with its cloth seats, more mundane IP and harder plastic throughout wasn’t as nice as the more refined X, which struck me as strange since my test L was about $500 more expensive.

On the whole the X was a better package between the two cars I drove. And normally I would say if you’re interested in a FIAT crossover that would be the way to go. However, that was before Pope Francis came to the U.S. If you noticed, as he rode from event to event, he got there in his FIAT 500L. To be honest, I’m not sure what that means, but that’s the closest I’ve seen any car come to receiving a papal blessing. And if that’s case, as they say in Vatican City, what’s good for the Pope…

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