Future Car: 2014 Fiat 500X
A compact SUV and 4-door hatchback are joining Fiat’s smaller 2-door 500 models. Mission: Outsell Mini and other trendy small cars by offering more room, practicality, and variety. The 500X and 500L look like timely sales-boosters, but they’ll need to be very good to succeed.
What It Is
The 2014 Fiat 500X is a compact crossover SUV based on the Italian brand’s new 500L 4-door hatchback. That car is expected to start U.S. sale in early 2013. The 500X will likely launch some six months later. If you’re wondering, “L” denotes “large” and “X” signifies “cross” (as in 4×4, all-wheel drive).
Despite sharing the 500’s name and some under-skin components, both these models are considerably larger than the 2-door hatchback and convertible that went on sale in North America during 2011. In fact, the X and L are to those cars what the Mini Countryman is to the 2-door Mini Cooper hatch and convertible. Both new Fiats will offer seating for 5, though a three-row 7-seat option will be available for 500Ls sold outside the U.S.
Fiat previewed the 500L at the March 2012 Geneva Auto Salon in Switzerland. The company hasn’t yet said much about the 500X except that it will be built in Turin, Italy, whereas the European-market L will be supplied from Fiat’s plant in Kragujevac, Serbia. Sources speculate that L-models for North America will be built alongside 2-door 500s at the Toluca, Mexico facility originally set up by Fiat alliance partner Chrysler. In theory, this factory could also supply 500Xs as a hedge against unfavorable swings in the dollar-Euro exchange rate, but trade weekly Automotive News says all 500Xs will come from Turin.
Perhaps more significant for U.S. buyers, the 2014 Fiat 500X is the basis for a new Jeep SUV that will be smaller and less costly than the American brand’s compact Compass and Patriot. Automotive News quotes Fiat sources as saying this model, codenamed B-SUV, will also be sourced exclusively from Italy, but will be sold in the U.S. as well as globally. In addition, it will be offered in a “Trail Rated” version designed to withstand at least semi-serious off-roading. Likely to be offered only as a fixed-roof 4-door wagon, the new junior Jeep starts production in the second quarter of 2014, according to AN, suggesting a 2015-model U.S. intro. The 500X cranks up in December 2013.
2014 Fiat 500X Design and Engineering
As far as we can tell, the 2014 Fiat 500X will be very similar to the 500L in basic appearance, dimensions, underpinnings, and features, but will stand apart with SUV-flavored cosmetic touches inside and out. It should also include an elevated suspension for increased ground clearance off-road, though we doubt it will be as off-road rugged as the upcoming junior Jeep. The 500L will have standard front-wheel drive and may list all-wheel drive as an option. The X will definitely offer AWD, possibly as standard, but possibly not. However availability pans out, the AWD will be simple add-on system without low-range gears, much like Mini’s “All-4” drive.
Unlike their 2-door linemates, the 2014 Fiat 500X and 500L use a different Fiat-developed platform dubbed SUSW for “small U.S. wide.” It appears to be a scaled-down version of the “compact U.S. wide” (CUSW) architecture that hosts the 2013 Dodge Dart compact car. The latter platform has origins in the compact Alfa Romeo Giulietta at Fiat’s sporting upmarket brand. (That model is being redesigned to spearhead Alfa’s long-postponed return to the U.S. market.) The new 4-door 500s should thus ride a 4-wheel independent suspension with coil springs, front struts, and twin-link rear geometry. Brakes will be 4-wheel ABS discs with integrated traction control. An antiskid system will be available, if not standard. Steering assist should be electro-mechanical, while available wheel diameters will likely run 16-18 inches.
Despite having some visual similarity in the nose, the 2014 Fiat 500X and 500L won’t be mistaken for the smaller 2-door models. Both measure some 2 feet longer, 6 inches wider and, for the L, 5.5 inches taller. The 500X will probably be 1-1.5 inches taller still, by dint of its high-rise suspension. Styling, the work of Fiat’s Centro Stile office in Italy, involves a chunky shape with short overhangs, flared wheel openings, a roofline surprisingly similar to the Mini Countryman’s, and black bumpers within the lower front and rear fascias, a treatment quite like that of Volkswagen’s new Up minicar. Also notable is a tall windshield curving around to fixed triangular quarter-windows that serve to reduce the width of the front roof pillars as an aid to visibility.
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