2019 Fiat 500X Trekking makes enjoyable subcompact shortlist

2019 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD has a 24 mpg city, 30 highway.

2019 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD has a 24 mpg city, 30 highway.

FCA Media/ Contributed photo

Our reactions to subcompact and compact crossovers has been almost uniformly negative. But a week with the Fiat 500X compelled us to add one more model to our short list of small crossovers and SUVs that we actually liked to drive.

The 500X has weathered Chrysler Fiat's withdrawal of some slow-selling, low-profit Fiat models from the U.S. market. The diminutive 500 and 500e (all-electric) have been discontinued, leaving only the larger 500X, the 500L, and the Mazda-based 124 Spider roadster. Americans love crossovers and SUVs, and there's a place in the U.S. market for even the smallest models - including our favorites in this category, the Buick Encore, Lexus UX250 and Jeep Renegade. The 500X, built on the same platform as the Renegade, also makes the cut.

2019 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD

Price: $32,755

Engine: 1.3-liter turbocharged inline Four, 177 horsepower, 210 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 7.9 in.

Weight: 3,305 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, Chapman struts with coil springs rear

Wheels: 18x7-in. black aluminum with copper accents

Tires: P215/55R18 all-season performance

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 12.2 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 50.8 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 12.7 gal.

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 30 highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

Our test car was a Graphic Gray Metallic 2019 500X Trekking, priced at $32,755. The base 500X Pop starts at $24,740. Among the test car's standard features were remote start, Fiat Chrysler's UConnect infotainment system with 7-inch display, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, autodimming rear-view mirror, power-adjustable driver's seat and navigation system cost extra. Desirable safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, full-speed forward collision warning, and blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic detection, added $1,395 to the car's sticker price.

New for the 2019 model year, and continuing into 2020, was the standard 1.3-liter, 177-horsepower turbocharged engine. Its high torque numbers - 210 pound-feet - make it more responsive at low RPM levels than the previous engine, a 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower Four. The new engine contributed to the 500X's go-cart-like handling and overall performance. We very much liked the car's road manners; it also rode fairly smoothly and quietly.

The drive system has three settings - sport, automatic and traction. The 500X can't run with the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk in the back country, but with 7.9 inches of ground clearance, it's far from helpless in rough terrain.

The 500X is rated at 24 mpg city, 30 highway. However, drivers have to fill the tank with premium unleaded gasoline to achieve these numbers and maximize the car's performance.

Like other Fiats we've driven, the 500X has plenty of leg room for tall drivers, but not quite enough extension on the tilt-telescoping steering column. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and there's enough head room in back for tall passengers. There's also plenty of space for small items in front - including two glove boxes, a small covered compartment between the seats, and a deep tray in front of the shifter.

The luggage compartment is small, at 12.2 cubic feet, and most of the space under the rear deck is taken up by the spare tire. But the cargo compartment expands to 50.8 cubic feet when the rear seatbacks are lowered.

Based on our research on Fiats' reliability (and our experience with an Italian-built 2015 Renegade), we go along with the usual advice: Follow the maintenance schedule religiously. We've done that with our Renegade, and it's been reliable for four years and 36,000 miles.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.