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2020 Fiat 500X: Fiat’s Only Silver Lining; Can It Save The Brand?

  • The 2020 Fiat 500X is a strong offering despite Fiat being on the ropes in the USA.
  • Although the news doesn’t seem good for Fiat, the 500X could be their ticket back.
  • We take an in-depth look at the 500X and why it’s a good choice for buyers today.
  • We also examine what Fiat can do, in our opinion, to get on track with consumers.

When Fiat came back to the United States in 2011, they did so on the strength of the 500. The Fiat 500, the original Mini, and other “bubble cars” helped European nations establish their manufacturing bases after World War II. The historical significance of the 500 is unquestionable, but its future always seemed uncertain in an American market where trucks and SUVs reign supreme.

At the time, proponents insisted Fiat’s fashionable looks and Italian styling would override the “Fix It Again, Tony” acronym that haunted the automaker in years past. That seemed true for awhile as sales peaked in 2014 to about 46,000, but even that was under initial forecasts. And every year since, sales have slid in the U.S. for the Italian nameplate.

Fiat & FCA: By The Numbers

Fiat is, for all intents and purposes, in a tight spot today. Car buyers doing a quick Google search will find little promising news as it concerns Fiat. Reviews on their vehicles are often mixed, and studies last year from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power show Fiat lacks in overall quality. Other industry experts have written Fiat off, saying they were never meant to be successful in America; and the Fiat 500 now discontinued for the U.S. market is merely the writing on the wall.

There is some question now as to why FCA keeps Fiat in the U.S., especially since the brand sold only 9,200 vehicles in 2019, a stark contrast to Ram (703,023 units) and Jeep (923,291 units). Even Chrysler, with its slim product line, mustered up around 127,000 units last year, driven mostly by Pacifica sales. In FCA’s official press release detailing their 2019 sales, they said nothing about Fiat whatsoever.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus
2020 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus. Photo: FCA US LLC.

2020 Fiat 500X: A Silver Lining?

Given Fiat’s struggles to maintain traction in the U.S. market, there is a possible silver lining in the 500X. Compared to the rest of Fiat’s portfolio, the 500X is the best choice in terms of a daily driver. It’s not hideous looking like the 500L and it’s more practical than the Abarth models. FCA representatives told Forbes in September their focus was on the 500X going forward, as SUVs and crossovers are a hot commodity. In that same Forbes article, FCA says they want to double down on Fiat being a lifestyle brand (one of the best things they still have going for them).

2020 Fiat 500X Overview

The 500X is certainly a bright spot for Fiat, and a fine representation of the automaker as a lifestyle brand. In terms of design, both inside and out, it looks and feels different than anything else on the market. It’s an affordable, if not underrated, crossover with numerous connectivity and safety features. For 2020, the Fiat 500X is available in four different trim levels (outlined further below) and 13 exterior colors. A black roof is available for all models.

2020 Fiat 500X Safety Features

The Fiat 500X includes seven airbags and over 70 other standard safety features like Blind-spot Monitoring; Rear Cross Path detection; electronic stability control with roll mitigation; backup camera; parking sensors; and adaptive cruise control.

Is The 2020 Fiat 500X All-Wheel Drive?

Yes, and it’s standard for every trim level. Fiat employs a disconnecting rear axle to improve efficiency when all-wheel drive is not needed. Further, a Dynamic Selector knob lets drivers select between different powertrain configurations (Auto, Sport, Traction+).

2020 Fiat 500X under the hood.
2020 Fiat 500X under the hood. Photo: FCA US LLC.

What Engine Does The 2020 Fiat 500X Have?

Under the hood is a 1.3-liter four-cylinder turbo with direct injection, which Fiat introduced in 2019. The engine, connected to a nine-speed automatic, creates 177 horsepower and 210 lb-ft. of torque. The new turbo plant includes the latest version of FCA’s MultiAir valve-actuation technology to increase overall efficiency.

FCA says the disconnecting rear axle, nine-speed automatic, updated MultiAir system, and ultimately the new turbo engine improves fuel economy up to three miles per gallon versus the previous engine.

2020 Fiat 500X Lineup

Pop

The entry-level Pop comes with a remote start, backup camera, LED daytime running lamps, and power heated mirrors with integrated turn signals. Inside, the Pop has a leatherette steering wheel and gear-shift knob, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Pricing starts at $24,590.

Trekking

The Trekking goes for a rugged look with its 17-inch wheels, black grille, unique rear fascia, and other metallic surrounds (door handles, for example). Deep tint glass, LED headlamps, and cornering fog lamps are standard. Inside, the Trekking features quilted cloth seats, leatherette door trim inserts, and a multi-position cargo shelf panel. A year of SiriusXM is complimentary.

Pricing begins at $25,995.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking
2020 Fiat 500X Trekking. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Trekking Plus

Trekking Plus builds on the Trekking by adding heated leather seats with four-way lumbar support; dual-zone automatic climate control; automatic windshield deicer; auto dimming rearview mirror; and front and rear parking sensors. The Uconnect 4 infotainment system includes a seven-inch touchscreen and navigation, along with an eight-speaker audio system. Pricing starts at $29,495.

Sport

New for 2020, the Sport is our favorite 500X! The Sport features a new front and rear fascia, body-color moldings, and a signature Sport badge. Additional dark-finish accents decorate the exterior along with optional LED headlights and fog lamps. 18-inch wheels are standard, although 19-inch wheels with Michelin CrossClimate all-season tires are available.

The Fiat 500X Sport is avaialbe in a number of colors including White, Black, Moda Grey, Italia Blue, and a sleek Rovente Red.

On the inside, drivers are treated to black fabric seats with vinyl inserts; a techno-leather steering wheel with red stitching; Alcantara-covered cluster brow; new instrument cluster graphics; aluminum pedal covers; and premium floormats. With its seven-inch touchscreen, the Uconnect 4 system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation, SiriusXM, and a Beats premium audio system are all optional.

Pricing for the 2020 Fiat 500X Sport starts at $26,895.

2020 Fiat 500X Sport
2020 Fiat 500X Sport. Photo: FCA US LLC.

Is There Anything Fiat Can Do?

Given where Fiat is today versus the current demands of car buyers in the U.S., it’s hard to say what will happen in the future. Some industry experts feel Fiat will pack up and leave, others are (like myself) more optimistic. Fiat would need an overhaul though of their entire line, beyond just special editions and packages (and badge engineering won’t do either).

Keep the 500X as the flagship, but redesign it with a modular architecture so there can be a larger version specifically for the American market. The 500X and the 500XL perhaps? With the 500X, use the “graduation” technique. Granted, it takes brand loyalty to do this, but get younger demographics into the 500X and retain them through the years with solid, reliable vehicles and strong customer service at the dealer level.

Then, as they progress in their careers and have a family, they can move up to the larger 500XL to better accommodate their lifestyle.

The Abarth models are awesome and can stay put. However, the 500L has to go. It’s a total dud with zero redeeming qualities. Replace it, instead, with a midsize sedan that looks and handles like an aerodynamic Italian sports car, yet sips gas like a smaller 500 would. Then come to Detroit to NAIAS and tease us with an Abarth model of that sedan – that will get the press buzzing and fans excited. While Americans crave SUVs and crossovers, evidence shows there are plenty of younger buyers willing to consider a sedan for their next vehicle.

Fiat may have to “Americanize” a little if they want to be successful here. That doesn’t mean sacrificing the brand’s rich history or styling (Volvo and Mazda, for example, retain their heritage just fine), but it does mean getting more in tune with what American buyers, particularity younger ones, are looking for. In the end, I don’t think Fiat needs to leave if they can turn the ship around. The 2020 500X is a good start.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. Carl has worked in experiential marketing roles for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Volvo, and Local Motors over the years. 

Photos & Source: FCA US LLC.

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