2016 Fiat 500X
The Fiat brand has gotten off to an uneven and slower than expected restart in the US, despite having some of the most fun to drive cars out there. But, right now, the American market is less about cars and more about SUVs. That’s where this new Fiat 500X now comes to play, with hopes that the brand’s first all-wheel drive utility is the “x” that hits the spot.
Since Fiat returned to our shores with the diminutive 500, they’ve brought a splash of Italian style and a fair amount of substance to the small car ranks. Well, now they’re looking to do the same in the burgeoning subcompact crossover segment with the 2016 500X.
Having Jeep as a corporate cousin is a great way to get a head start in that endeavor. And indeed the 500X shares a chassis with the Jeep Renegade.
Base Pop trim is front-wheel-drive only, and comes with Fiat’s 160-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir I4 turbo, as well as a 6-speed manual transmission. A 2.4-liter Tigershark I4 powers all remaining trims. As in Renegade, horsepower is 180, torque at 175 lb-ft, with a standard 9-speed automatic.
We know most will opt for the 2.4 and its 9-speed, which continues to show improvement, but still drew some complaints of herky-jerkiness. Driving modes include Sport and Traction + for slippery conditions.
Like many systems, the 500X’s optional all-wheel-drive setup leaves the rear wheels fully disconnected until called upon for traction assist.
Ground clearance is a pretty generous 7.9-inches. Still, as is typical for this segment, occasional dirt road and all-weather capabilities are more the priorities than rock-crawling.
From the looks of things, Fiat was able to get all of the style of the funky 500 to carry over into this larger, more pseudo-rugged shape. Wheelbase is 101.2-inches, an inch and a half less than the 500L which also shares this chassis. 16-inch steel wheels are standard; 17s and 18s optional.
Fiat has done a great job on the interior, carrying over enough of the 500’s distinct elements; yet somehow making it appear less gimmicky in order to appeal to more mainstream crossover buyers.
There’s lots of color plus lively seat trim to brighten things up. But, our 500X with its white painted concave dash reflected sunlight directly into the front passenger’s eyes.
The front seats are also quite firm, and some occupants found it difficult to get comfortable. Ditto in the second row, at least for 6-foot adults, where head, leg, and shoulder room are a bit less than the shorter Renegade. For children and teens, however, it’s adequate for short and long hauls.
Standard niceties’ include dual glove boxes, a rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust tips. Lounge trim adds dual-zone climate, power driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, which is nice and thick, and a 6.5-inch UConnect touchscreen for nav and apps.
Cargo volume is notably less than Renegade, perhaps due to the “X’s” stylish shape: 12.2 cubic-ft. of space behind the rear seats; 32.1 cubic-ft. with seats folded.
As for driving substance to go along with its style, at 3,278-pounds, weight is a little less than the Renegade, so the 500X is also a little lighter on its feet around town, though still plenty solid on the freeway.
However, we did find the ride to be a bit more jostling than the Renegade. Loads of advanced safety systems are available; including blind spot monitoring.
As for track numbers, with spirited throttle response and a good launch, expect about the same as the Jeep Renegade 2.4; 0 to 60 in a reasonable 8.5 seconds, and quarter mile in a solid if unspectacular 16.5 seconds at 83 miles per hour.
Dicing up the cones, there’s certainly more weight and size to deal with compared to the 500 Coupe, but the X wears its additional girth quite well. It feels as sporty as a Fiat should!
More important than all of that perhaps, are the Government Fuel Economy Ratings, which are 21-City, 30-Highway, and 24-Combined for an all-wheel-drive 2.4. Our average exceeded expectations at 28.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
500X prices are very reasonable, starting at $20,900 for a front-wheel-drive Pop. This Lounge AWD starts at $27,650.
Admittedly, if we had to choose between the 500X and the Renegade, we’d go for Jeep’s practical ruggedness over Fiat’s form over function.
That said, we think as a first all-wheel-drive effort, the 2016 Fiat 500X has a lot of appeal, and will certainly bring a much needed all-weather option to Fiat studios. So, while this X may not precisely mark our tiny ute hot spot, it still left a very positive impression.
- Engine: 1.4 liter / 2.4 liter
- Horsepower: 160 / 180
- Torque: 184 lb-ft / 175 lb-ft
- 0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 16.5 seconds @ 83 mph
- EPA: 21 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined
2023 Lexus UX 250h
More Fun Than Premium, But That’s Just Fine With Us
Entry-level models are always tough for luxury brands to pull off well. You can’t deliver the full experience, but you have to give buyers enough of a taste so they’ll eventually trade up for more. Well one marque, Lexus, has been very successful at doing just that, and this week we look at their latest starter SUV, the UX.
This Lexus UX arrived for 2019 as the brand’s smallest SUV yet. Priced in the mid-30s, it delivered a heck of a lot of the Lexus experience for a modest amount of money. And with capable handling, easy maneuvering, and thoughtful features, it was an affordable entry-level luxury ute that was easy to love. For 2023, Lexus makes this little premium runabout even better.
For starters, the UX is strictly hybrid now as the previously standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is no more. And while the Hybrid used to be exclusively all-wheel-drive, Lexus has now made a front-drive version available with AWD an option.
Lexus Hybrid Drive pairs 2 electric motors to a 2.0-liter I4 for a total combined output of 181-horsepower. All-wheel-drive versions add an additional motor in back to drive the rear wheels.
Front-wheel-drive versions get an improved Government Fuel Economy Rating of 43-City, 41-Highway, and 42-Combined; all-wheel-drive versions remain 41-City, 38-Highway, and 39-Combined. We averaged 39.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our all-wheel-drive tester.
That’s a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 7.6-barrels of oil consumed yearly with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
If there was any shortfall of the original UX, it was that it was a tad noisier, with perhaps not quite as refined a ride as what we were used to from Lexus. Well, for ’23, they have enhanced the body structure with more welds, and quieted down road noise with new tires. One thing that didn’t need changing is that its small size makes it a real joy to whip in and out of traffic…
…or the cones of our handling course at Mason Dixon Dragway, stopping just short of sport sedan territory with quick steering and excellent feedback.
Overall handling is very neutral, with minimal body roll, and it seems to know where you want to go before you move the steering wheel.
That’s courtesy of the F Sport Handling package which adds an Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, as well as additional bracing for the steering system.
On the acceleration front, there’s a nice little jump off the line, but economy is definitely the priority, with a slow and steady trek to 60 of 8.1-seconds; though that is 2/10ths quicker than the Hybrid we tested in 20-19.
No fake CVT shifting, just consistent high-revving throughout the ¼-mile; though there are paddle shifters on the wheel to select through 10 simulated gears if you choose. Our best time was 16.2-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
A good firm pedal and ample feedback made panic braking above par for a luxury utility. Some nosedive, but stops of 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour were stable and consistent.
Despite being the brand’s entry-level SUV, it doesn’t look much like a traditional utility vehicle, appearing more like a sleek overachieving hatchback, especially with F Sport Design upgrades.
Visibility is somewhat compromised by the minimal greenhouse, but that’s what we have cameras and sensors for these days.
With the F Sport Handling Package’s heavily bolstered sport seats, the front cabin experience is not quite the plush high-end Lexus we’re used to either. Still, we loved it.
Granted, rear seat room is really only adequate for pre-teens; but the total interior experience is well above typical entry-level expectations.
Thankfully, the UX joins the rest of the Lexus lineup in eliminating the frustrating Remote Touch Interface and upgrading to a touchscreen in standard 8 or optional 12.3-inch sizes.
Pricing starts at $36,490 and reaches $43,920 with F Sport Handling. All-wheel drive is now a $1,400 option with all trims.
While it’s an even better gateway into the Lexus SUV family than before, with its considerably handling performance and hatchback vibe, it does seem to be more of a global or urban effort than one designed for wide-open American highways. But that’s okay with us too. The Lexus UX is a fun little utility with great fuel economy, and just enough of the Lexus treatment to make you want to come back…and step up…for more.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I4
- Horsepower: 181
- 1/4 Mile: 16.2-seconds at 87 mph
- EPA: 41 City / 38 Highway / 39 Combined
- Transmission: CVT
- 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 39.9 MPG (Regular)