PDA

View Full Version : 500x Loaner "Critical Flash Review"



aelfwyne
12-29-2015, 02:45 AM
So, I've been driving a Fiat 500X loaner since the 23rd... Dealer had some delays fixing a minor issue on my Abarth. As I live 130 miles from the dealer, I suggested they just give me a loaner and call me when it's fixed. They agreed (Props to the dealer, Northside Fiat in Houston, it is cosmetic issue, they didn't have to give me a loaner). Good thing, there is another delay (should be done wednesday or thursday now).

So that means I've put a few miles and time over the holidays on their loaner. I've tried to keep the miles down, but it IS the holidays and the dealer IS 130 miles away... so I'm around 500 miles on this loaner so far.

WARNING: I am coming from an Abarth to the 500X on this review. I don't like CUVs. This review may seem a bit negative, but only because I'm going into quite some detail on the faults I've found on this vehicle. Plenty of people will tell you the good stuff - and you can see that for yourself. This is mostly focused on what I *don't* like about the 500x.

Model Tested: 2016 Fiat 500X Easy AWD. It has the 2.4 litre NA engine and 9 speed (yes 9!) automatic.

First Impressions:
Feels a lot bigger than my Abarth. This feeling might go away in time. In reality, it's not all that big. But with the leisurely 9 speed automatic, the heavy tigershark 2.4 and AWD, along with the tall ride height and firm suspension, it feels a bit heavy on its feet. You definitely feel like you're in a large vehicle even though it's not very big. Feels much larger than my friend's Versa Note for example, although they're actually remarkably similar in size.

Performance (As this is of course what we're all on about):
A special section below for the transmission. Performance is typical for a family CUV/Sedan, which is to say it's nothing to write home about. It's slower than the Abarth. If you care about performance, I recommend going with the 1.4 turbo, manual trans and front-wheel drive. Despite the loss of power, that's actually the faster combo since it weighs over 400 lbs less in that configuration AND you have a more responsive transmission/engine combo. Plus the possibility of mods. The 2.4 Tigershark lugs below 1700 RPM, and doesn't get all that impressive above 4000. The 9 speeds try to keep it in the ideal rev range, however.

Drive Modes (and Trans):
If you are not accustomed to automatic transmissions, this is going to feel godawful. However, From what I've heard from others who have 8 and 9 speed transmissions, the "always shifting" thing is just something you have to get used to. Once I clocked some road miles and begin to figure out the trans, it began to make a lot more sense what was going on. I'm going to comment on the three modes:

1) ECO Mode. In Eco Mode, downshifts are dangerously slow. That's just the facts. It is constantly fighting you to stay in the highest gear possible. The lag between hitting the throttle and something happening almost got me hit twice. However, I DO use ECO Mode for Highway cruising. Why? Because Sport Mode is designed stupidly as well.

2) SPORT Mode. In Sport Mode, shifts are crisper and firmer - and best yet - quicker. The 500X actually accelerates well in Sport mode. Then why not always use Sport Mode? Because in Sport, it holds lower gears. Not just longer, but period. It avoids that downshift lag of ECO Mode by never actually upshifting. So when you accelerate (happily) to 70mph, and set the cruise control, Sport acts differently than Eco. In ECO, a 70mph cruise will likely result in 8th gear. However, in Sport Mode, it will probably remain in 7th gear. Even in cruise control - when you aren't accelerating. The same "staying in a lower gear" happens throughout the rev range. It almost feels like a "TOW MODE" rather than "SPORT", because the engine is always spinning faster than it has to - even when you're not asking for any acceleration. Basically you waste gas all the time in Sport.

3) AWD/Terrain Mode. To be honest, in AWD mode, it feels like this is how the transmission SHOULD shift normally. It starts in 2nd gear (presumably to reduce tire spin), but the net effect is that avoids the jarring 1-2 upshift that usually is immediately followed anyway by a 2-3 upshift since the ratios are so close. I'm not sure, but I THINK it shifts a little more firmly in AWD, and otherwise AWD acts like ECO mode. It just seems a bit more responsive in AWD, but doesn't hold gears the way Sport does.

Transmission:
As I understand, constant shifting is just something you have to get used to with the newer 7-8-9 speed automatics regardless of manufacturer. Some are smoother than others. Hopefully they will come out with a software update to make this better. How I drive the 500x now is this: I put it in SPORT mode when I'm accelerating, and then as soon as I reach cruising speed I drop it back into ECO mode. Honestly, the computer should be smart enough to detect "cruising" and do an upshift after several moments for economy. But it doesn't - it stubbornly stays in a lower gear so I find that if you want both performance and economy, you have to constantly fiddle with the mode setting.

Oh - and that 9th gear. Pretty useless. Even in Eco, it rarely engages 9th gear except at about 72-78mph... I can manually put it into 9th gear in the upper 60s - sometimes, but not always. And sometimes I'm doing 75 (the speed limit on the freeway here) and it just stubbornly stays in 8th gear, so I have to move the lever over and manually select 9th gear. Also if you want more than 80mph, it's going to drop back from 9th gear. The ratio is SOO tall on 9th gear it literally can only hold it in about a 8-10mph range. And when I say "hold" I do mean that. It cannot accelerate in 9th gear unless you're going downhill in a tailwind. This is a problem because it makes it difficult to cruise in 9th gear. On top of that, you don't even get very good economy at the speeds which the gear is most useful for. I wonder if maybe it would have been better just as an 8 speed transmission!

Speaking of those ultra-tall gears. I live SE Texas which is rather flat. However there are freeways and freeways have these "little hills" called overpasses. The Cruise Control can't even hold a steady speed in ECO mode. The problem lies in, again, the transmission. It is so slow to downshift in ECO that if you have cruise set at 75, you can see your speed drop to 72 or so before it "notices" and shifts to a gear that can regain your lost speed. I consistently saw a variance of several mph loss in ability to hold cruise control speed. At lower speeds this was evidence as well, though not as prevalent. While not a major issue, I think it would make anyone behind you with a more steady cruise control a bit annoyed after a while as you're constantly slowing down and speeding up.

OK, plenty about performance. And there's a lot to say there.

Interior Fit/Finish: Personally I've never been too critical of "hard surfaces". I don't spend my day banging my head against the dashboard - it doesn't need to be soft! That said, I personally like the interior on the 500x. The dashboard top is slightly soft for the types who care. The radio is easy to reach and see - even in sunlight. It is even easy to rest your hand on the lip below the radio to help find the buttons without looking. The steering wheel feels nice, if a little bit "slippery". Seats are OK, however, I could use a little bit more side bolster support for my right leg - a common problem I have that others may not. Controls are pretty easy to use, and not overly complicated. That is, EXCEPT for the driver info panel. That thing's confusing as feck. Menus and submenus galore just for driving info. And the BIGGEST problem is that if you change drive mode, it yanks you away from the digital speedo EVERY TIME. Since the analog speedo is rather small and off to the left, I find myself using the digital speedo. But since I tend to constantly change Drive Mode (see comments about drive modes) I constantly look down and find not the speedo, but a useless drive mode screen.

Issues:
It is frequently telling me that 4WD is unavailable. This tends to happen at low speed when in ECO or SPORT. I actually tried to call the dealer when this happened the first time, but apparently they went home moments after tossing me the keys! I'm sure it will be an issue that will need repaired, so I've minimized the time spent in AWD. Pretty much only used it once when it was raining pretty heavily.

Other comments:
Okay, here's my real thoughts. I think if you're a CUV person - it's a great feeling car. It has a nice ride, smoother than the Abarth yet still firm. It feels bigger than it is. When you are driving casually and just let the transmission do its thing, it's OK to drive. If you want to hoon a bit, that's where it falls down and perhaps the lighter weight 1.4 front wheel drive manual transmission is what you want. I almost feel disgusted with myself for saying this - but if it offered a CVT for the "start-n-go" crowd, it would be a very good vehicle.

Could be better: If they come out with an Abarth version with a proper manual trans, more power, lower ride height - that would be a good vehicle.

datasage
12-29-2015, 02:25 PM
The Abarth version seems to be mostly a rumor right now. It may be something that only ends up in the euro market, like most of the other Abarth models. The only new Abarth version that seems to be confirmed for the US market is the 124 spider.

If you want performance you are probably better off looking at Juke Nismo (if you are ok with the somewhat unusual styling), and Audi is looking at releasing a Q2 in the next year or so. The 500x is ok, but it does trade away some performance for comfort and fuel efficiency.

Xtreme500
12-29-2015, 03:03 PM
I suppose if you wanted more perfomance for the 500X you could also try and you the turbo kit that road race motorsports sell for the Dart 2.4.

ronbo10
12-30-2015, 09:51 AM
Thanks for your insights on the X, Aelfwyne. I sometimes wonder if I wouldn't be happier with just one decent shift program rather than having a mode selector. One that kicks down quickly when you need to accelerate, but is smart enough to go into the highest appropriate gear when you're just cruising. Maybe that's more easily said than done given the pressures automakers face today to get the best possible fuel economy.

Alex on Autos has a very informative video on that ZF 9 speed auto:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7EMGnjEhmE.

This video offers a good explanation why downshifts from certain gears behave differently when compared with downshifts from other gears (i.e. the dog clutches).

It does seem that, based on the limited owners reports out there of the 500X (I've only seen reports on the 9-speeds so far), owners are generally happy with the shift behavior. Maybe that's the program learning their driving habits, maybe owners are just becoming more accustomed to how the transmission behaves. Also, the latest flash is, at least by one account, a noticeable improvement over the previous iteration of the shift logic software with (according the the owner) imperceptibly smooth shifts (I may be paraphrasing a bit here).

You are the first that I've come across that has actually tried the "Traction" mode in conditions that wouldn't necessarily prompt you to use it. Interesting comment. I wonder if using that mode as your default would cause any greater wear on any transmission components (in particular the starting from stop in 2nd gear feature).

Cheers

Fiat500USA
12-30-2015, 12:09 PM
One thing to keep in mind when you drive a loaner car, you have no idea if the car is running the latest software and this can skew the perception of the car. There have been a few revisions, too. Plus there was just a new performance update done a few days ago.

If you drive aggressively the transmission will eventually adapt to your driving style. Drive someone else's car and it may not jibe with your driving style until it adapts. But we do have to keep in mind this is a family car and not a performance car.

jayadam63
12-30-2015, 01:04 PM
I was given a black 500x yesterday as a loaner car when my new 500 Turbo was in for new-car tweaks (Very pleased with Arrigo Fiat in West Palm Beach, FL by the way).

I really enjoyed driving it. It felt VERY substantial and large. I felt safe inside it for sure. Much of the interior was good grade and many of the interior surfaces were soft (armrest in door and center console, etc....). Yet still some of the plastic was so-so. It didn't feel cheap inside. It felt like it was 90% premium which made the few cheap areas show up more.

The performance was good. I felt the accelerator was too sensitive for my taste off the line no matter what the setting was. I did achieve 9th gear regularly on the highway once the car figured out I was going a steady speed.

If I was interested in a crossover, I would consider one. I think it's a nice car and like I said, felt really substantial / tough / solid on the inside. Coming from RAM Trucks I liked that.

-Jay

Terry
12-31-2015, 10:23 AM
So, I've been driving a Fiat 500X loaner since the 23rd... Dealer had some delays fixing a minor issue on my Abarth. As I live 130 miles from the dealer, I suggested they just give me a loaner and call me when it's fixed. They agreed (Props to the dealer, Northside Fiat in Houston, it is cosmetic issue, they didn't have to give me a loaner). Good thing, there is another delay (should be done wednesday or thursday now).

So that means I've put a few miles and time over the holidays on their loaner. I've tried to keep the miles down, but it IS the holidays and the dealer IS 130 miles away... so I'm around 500 miles on this loaner so far.

...So to sum up, your dealer gives you a loaner that they didn't have to provide and you proceed to go on an extensive road test with their loaner and critically evaluate the vehicle. (I wonder what the likelihood of them extending this courtesy to you will be in the future?) -As an owner of an X I must take exception with some of your off the cuff evaluations- I have the 2.4 litre with the 9spd and front wheel drive and with this set-up it is close to 0-60 times of the unmoded Abarth (up on HP and torque, less weight than 4wdX and better CD than Abarth) but as you and others have pointed out, this is apples and oranges...Coming from a 500C, the car seems huge to me but in reality it is not and it seems that FIAT engineers had the American market in mind when they designed the car and it drives more car like than SUV like IMHO

aelfwyne
12-31-2015, 06:39 PM
So, I've been driving a Fiat 500X loaner since the 23rd... Dealer had some delays fixing a minor issue on my Abarth. As I live 130 miles from the dealer, I suggested they just give me a loaner and call me when it's fixed. They agreed (Props to the dealer, Northside Fiat in Houston, it is cosmetic issue, they didn't have to give me a loaner). Good thing, there is another delay (should be done wednesday or thursday now).

So that means I've put a few miles and time over the holidays on their loaner. I've tried to keep the miles down, but it IS the holidays and the dealer IS 130 miles away... so I'm around 500 miles on this loaner so far.

...So to sum up, your dealer gives you a loaner that they didn't have to provide and you proceed to go on an extensive road test with their loaner and critically evaluate the vehicle. (I wonder what the likelihood of them extending this courtesy to you will be in the future?) -As an owner of an X I must take exception with some of your off the cuff evaluations- I have the 2.4 litre with the 9spd and front wheel drive and with this set-up it is close to 0-60 times of the unmoded Abarth (up on HP and torque, less weight than 4wdX and better CD than Abarth) but as you and others have pointed out, this is apples and oranges...Coming from a 500C, the car seems huge to me but in reality it is not and it seems that FIAT engineers had the American market in mind when they designed the car and it drives more car like than SUV like IMHO

I do take exception with your exception.

I did not "go on an extended road test". I did the driving I would normally have done. I have actually avoided several trips I would have made to try to keep the mileage down. My "test" consisted of nothing more than driving it for the trip and errands I had to make regardless - which was the point, again, of the loaner. I did not do "0-60 acceleration tests" nor did I go "off-roading" nor did I do "top-speed" tests. I did not treat it like a press car, nor did I abuse it in any way.

My evaluation of the vehicle also doesn't reflect, IMHO, on the dealer's flexibility in providing it when they didn't have to. They definitely get kudos from me for being willing to provide the loaner so that they could fix my issue on their schedule and avoid my having to drive in another 130 mile trip (each way, round trip 260 miles) and not be sure if they could fix it when I arrived.

Also, as I said, I admit it was a critical review. Overall it is a good vehicle. I just think that it has some transmission issues - but that's my personal evaluation. As far as 0-60 times, the actual numbers (not my test or butt dyno) agree with my assessment - it isn't all that fast. But nobody is going to buy the 500X thinking it's a sports car - Fiat's "viagra" ads notwithstanding.

Also, as others pointed out, it may not have had the latest transmission update.


I was given a black 500x yesterday as a loaner car when my new 500 Turbo was in for new-car tweaks (Very pleased with Arrigo Fiat in West Palm Beach, FL by the way).

I really enjoyed driving it. It felt VERY substantial and large. I felt safe inside it for sure. Much of the interior was good grade and many of the interior surfaces were soft (armrest in door and center console, etc....). Yet still some of the plastic was so-so. It didn't feel cheap inside. It felt like it was 90% premium which made the few cheap areas show up more.

The performance was good. I felt the accelerator was too sensitive for my taste off the line no matter what the setting was. I did achieve 9th gear regularly on the highway once the car figured out I was going a steady speed.

If I was interested in a crossover, I would consider one. I think it's a nice car and like I said, felt really substantial / tough / solid on the inside. Coming from RAM Trucks I liked that.

-Jay

I agree with your assessment. The transmission is a little bit more predictable now that I've driven the vehicle a little more - one wonders if maybe the factory should do a better job of setting default programming? It's still unpredictable, but this may be the nature of the beast with newer transmissions.


One thing to keep in mind when you drive a loaner car, you have no idea if the car is running the latest software and this can skew the perception of the car. There have been a few revisions, too. Plus there was just a new performance update done a few days ago.

If you drive aggressively the transmission will eventually adapt to your driving style. Drive someone else's car and it may not jibe with your driving style until it adapts. But we do have to keep in mind this is a family car and not a performance car.

You are correct - the 500X is not a performance car, and I think that's something Fiat will have to deal with. In their advertising, they set people up for a certain expectation that it *is* a performance car. So people looking for a family car aren't necessarily looking at the 500X first. It most likely hasn't had the updates either.

Simmonz
12-31-2015, 07:02 PM
To be fair Fiats Viagra add isn't an Abarth its just a normal 500, so one could stand to say the X is a bit more sporty than the standard 500pop. But Not all cars are for everyone, Ive had 2 500x loaners and the first one was terrible, but they hadn't done the software update to the trans yet. The second one was much nicer, the software upgrade had been done and while not fast it could be pretty quick in sport mode. I still like my Abarth much better however.

Jake

jayadam63
12-31-2015, 09:56 PM
You are correct - the 500X is not a performance car, and I think that's something Fiat will have to deal with. In their advertising, they set people up for a certain expectation that it *is* a performance car. So people looking for a family car aren't necessarily looking at the 500X first. It most likely hasn't had the updates either.

This is the only part of your perception I think its open to interpretation. I'm not saying you're wrong -- But I never thought the 500X was a performance vehicle and I saw all the marketing information. I just thought it was a sporty SUV geared toward the younger crowd that wanted to move a few people and gear in different situations / terrain. I thought the viagra add was intended to show "larger growth" in that the 500X is BIGGER but not in any way "faster."

Generally -- It never occurred to me to compare it to ANY 500 model -- I more thought of it as it's own new vehicle having nothing to do with the 500 model line.

But maybe I'm in the minority???

-Jay

Fiat500USA
12-31-2015, 11:31 PM
It's always good to hear what folks think, especially the fans. Good feedback for the Fiat team. While the 500X is not an Abarth type performance type of car, it does drive like an Italian family car and that means it excels on windy mountain roads, has great high speed stability and very good braking. It's not the typical wishy washy, bland SUV that you get from America or Asia. As enthusiasts we may want more of a performance bent, so it can be tough to get our heads around a car more geared towards the mainstream crowd which are used to couches on wheels.

It reminds me of when the Fiat 131 came out in the mid 70s. Fiat pushed the safety envelope in that car and among some of enhancements, dialed more understeer into the car compared to the 124 series in an effort to make the car easier to manage at the limit for average drivers. Well, a lot of the enthusiasts were up in arms about the change, but again, most people aren't racers or performance enthusiasts. Of course the 131 Abarth Rally took care of that!

TheGonz
01-01-2016, 04:19 PM
...If you want performance you are probably better off looking at Juke Nismo (if you are ok with the somewhat unusual styling), and Audi is looking at releasing a Q2 in the next year or so. The 500x is ok, but it does trade away some performance for comfort and fuel efficiency.

I considered the Juke for about seven seconds, but I found the visibility out of the car to be poor. In fairness, that was probably because I was demoing it with a brown paper bag over my head with two holes cut out for my eyes so none of my friends would see me driving it.

"Somewhat unusual styling" is pretty charitable. It looks like a Citroen and a faded, past-her-prime Pontiac Aztec were sitting in a bar getting sloppy drunk, and when the bartender made last call, the Citroen thought to itself, "Well, it beats going home alone." Nine months later, that hideous thing was born.