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Roseville, Calif. – Fiat had a respectable U.S. run in the late 1960s and mid-70s. But the Italian automaker disappeared for more than 30 years. Four years ago, Fiat purchased Chrysler and the 500 model was picked as the vehicle that would reintroduce the U.S. market to the Fiat brand.

The original 500 model and 500L have not drawn major sales, so this year Fiat decided to offer what it hopes is an appealing alternative, debuting the Fiat 500X. The 500X is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle, joining a growing class that includes the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, and Honda HR-V.

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The 2016 Fiat 500X is a more mainstream vehicle and the company is naturally hoping it has broader appeal than other vehicles in the Fiat lineup. The 500X uses the same platform and all-wheel drive system as the Jeep Renegade. The five-passenger crossover SUV has five trim models – Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge and Trekking Plus models,

Although not a fan of subcompact SUVS, many people may be drawn to the sharp features of the 500X. It should be particularly appealing to female car buyers because of its definite “cute” factor. Offering 12 available exterior colors and a variety of wheels gives folks the opportunity to pick out that just-right look.

Fiat 500X

  • Performance: turbocharged, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder, 160 horsepower; turbocharged 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, 180 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate range: 25-34 mpg; 22-31 mpg
  • Price: $20,000 to $29,235
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain 4 years/5+0,000 miles; roadside assistance 4 years/unlimited; corrosion 12 years/unlimited

Standard equipment on the base Pop model, which starts at $20,000, includes 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; full power accessories; heated mirror; 60/40 split-folding rear seat; four-speaker sound system, auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface; driver knee airbag, front side airbags; and traction and stability control.

The 500X has a choice of two engines. The base model is a turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder that generates 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

The other choice is a more robust turbocharged 2.4-liter, four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 175 pounds-feet of torque, and has a nine-speed automatic transmission. The more performance-laden engine was in the test-driven model here and provided sufficient acceleration in mostly around-town driving.

The Fiat 500X can be interesting and fun to drive, thanks to the Dynamic Selector system that offers Auto, Sport and Traction-plus modes. The Sport mode was the favorite here since it quickens the shifts, while Traction is good to have available on rainy days.

Due to its low center of gravity, the 500X offers a nice ride that gives the driver a feeling of confidence in situations where there are tight turns. The steering is responsive and the compact SUV offers a quiet ride regardless of the road imperfections.

The Fiat 500X features a solid interior makeup that includes a center console, nice layout that’s not too techie, a good mix of soft-touch materials, comfortable and roomy front seating (the back seat is cramped), plus 18.5 cubic-feet of cargo space that balloons to 50.8 with the seat folded down.

Fans of the compact crossover SUV should give the new Fiat 500X a look. It’s a cute little SUV that has overall appeal and value for the price.

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