Abarth 500X 2016 review

Fiat believes the latest updates to its best-selling 500 city car are significant enough to warrant calling it the ‘New 500’, but that’s stretching things a bit too far. While the upgrades are pleasing – the new infotainment system is badly needed and the facelift freshens up the looks but doesn’t ruin the original charming recipe – the car’s intrinsic faults like flimsy build quality, poor equipment levels and high list prices are still present, which is a shame. Still – especially in 500C convertible guise – there aren’t many cars on sale today that can rival the little Fiat’s impossibly chic character.

The all-new 2016 Fiat 500X, an SUV that combines the unique styling of the Fiat 500 hatchback with a four-door configuration and optional all-wheel drive, will be introduced to car shoppers by "street teams,”.

Yet the Abarth 500X would get far more than just a flash bodykit, as it’s likely to use the Alfa Romeo 4C’s 1.75-litre turbo. That would mean 0-62mph in less than seven seconds with an extremely fruity soundtrack to match.

Abarth is expected to offer its own performance version of the upcoming Fiat 124 Spider that's based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata. But that's not all. According to Alfredo Altavilla, FCA's COO for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the company is closely evaluating a performance version of the 500X (pictured here with Mopar accessories). "Besides the 124 and 500, we are thinking about an all-new addition to the line-up," Altavilla told Auto Express. "The 500X is one of the options being considered."

Fiat, a niche brand with 218 U.S. dealers, will target more than 300 cities to provide one-on-one experiences between car shoppers and the 500X. The teams will be set up at concerts, art shows and other outdoor events. Some venues will offer test-drives.

The cabin will also get the sporty touch. This will come by way of sport seats with larger bolsters for a tighter embrace through the corners, sporty gauges, and the typical Abarth scorpion badges. Also part of the deal may be some exclusive trim and color options.

The 500X starts out at a fairly reasonable $20,000 and its ranges up to $27,100 for the range-topping Trekking Plus trim. The Abarth model will certainly end up a few grand more than the current range topper, so look for a starting price of around $31,000.

All the engines in the 500 range have been tweaked to meet Euro-6 emissions levels as well. The perennial 68bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol remains as do the 84bhp and 104bhp 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir turbo petrols with the 1.3-litre diesel arriving later this year.

We got behind the wheel of the lower powered 0.9-litre TwinAir 500C – the convertible model that comes with a £2,650 premium over the regular 500 hatchback. The electric fabric roll-top roof is the epitome of retro chic and is a good compromise between the Vauxhall Adam’s large rollback sunroof and the fully open-top MINI Convertible, even if the Fiat’s system ruins rear visibility when the roof is down.