A new compact sports utility model is expected to pave the way to significant fresh fleet market opportunities for Fiat.
Despite being more than five months away from its showroom debut, the crossover 500X already has the makings of being a game changer for the Italian brand in the corporate sector, believes Fiat Auto Group fleet and used car director Francis Bleasdale.
“We have a star in the 500 city car, which is popular with user choosers, affinity schemes, contract hire and Motability customers and achieved more than 12,500 registrations last year to account for 40 per cent of our fleet business.
“But this model will be an important addition to our line-up – it is a competitive, really attractive product that will drive us further into fleet by appealing to many of our clients who need a vehicle with more versatility than the city car and extra space. We think it will soon be a user chooser favourite,” he told Fleet News.
The fourth member of the 500 family and Fiat's first in-house B-segment crossover, the X shares its platform and some running gear with the Jeep Renegade and boasts lighter but more rigid bodywork than the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur, its main rivals.
Best in class aerodynamics help cut wind noise to promote quiet progress in the 1.6-litre mid-range version. The expected best seller appeals by combining a lusty output with a smooth-changing six-speed gearbox that produces 37mph per 1,000 revs in top to make for a particularly relaxed motorway cruising gait.
With steering that's nicely-weighted for an electric system, this tall-body car has much of the handling competence and roadholding finesse of a traditional hatchback and shows good stability in brisk progress over winding roads.
Claimed to be finished to a standard approaching premium levels, the X has a refined feel and an attractive coloured dash panel reminiscent of the city car.
Looking purposeful on 17-inch alloy wheels, the Pop Star has neatly-detailed interior trim and features a handy drive mode selector that offers auto, sport and all-weather settings by changing performance and power steering settings.
Equipment is generous, with cruise control, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, an infotainment system and front fog lights with cornering illumination all included as standard, along with a clever automatic feature to keep the windscreen demisted in humid conditions.
Bluetooth and music streaming is available on the infotainment system, which has the ability to read incoming text messages on compatible mobile phones and can be operated via the five-inch touch screen, steering wheel remote controls and voice commands.
Room for four adults make this practical family and business transport with a 350-litre boot and a fold-down front passenger seat backrest helps make the most of the 1,000-litre load volume that's available when the 60/40 split rear seat backrests are lowered to form a flat platform.
“This is a model that takes us into the core of the corporate market and into one of the fastest expanding segments. It's an exciting product for us and one that offers a real opportunity for growth - it will be a central pillar to our future fleet strategy,” said Bleasdale.