Our long-term 2016 Fiat 500X is a fine little crossover that’s nearly undone by a underwhelming and often frustrating powertrain. The 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder/nine-speed automatic combo can be found in a number of FCA products. In every single application I’ve used this engine, the takeaway has been the same: It’s a boat anchor.
I like our 500X, I really do. I haven’t spent as much time behind the wheel as I would like, but I’ve put thousands of miles on its platform twin, the Jeep Renegade, and two vehicles are essentially the same underneath. The Tigershark 2.4-liter makes 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, good numbers on paper, but in practice the engine is buzzy and slow to rev. The engine feels dated.
In contrast, the base 1.4-liter turbocharged engine feels much more lively despite being down 20 horsepower. The low-end grunt is owed to the 9 additional pound-feet of torque the engine makes over the 2.4-liter. It may not match it on the top end, but not many people are running a 500X to redline. The issue I have is that the 2.4-liter is the only available option on the higher-spec models like our Trekking Plus, so if you want some options you’re stuck with this engine.
The 2.4-liter is exclusively paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission that’s built by ZF. As great as some of ZF’s other gearboxes are, this 9-speed is varying degrees of bad in every application that I’ve used it, including the Honda Pilot, Acura TLX, and Jeep Cherokee and Renegade. Shifts can be abrupt, and the manic transmission is constantly hunting in an effort to find the most fuel-efficient gear. More than once I’ve been left waiting for a kick down in order to move with some gusto.
Don’t let my harping about the powertrain warp your vision of the 500X. It’s a fun little vehicle and arguably Fiat’s best product (the 124 Spider is mostly Mazda), but it’s frustrating when a pleasant little crossover is brought down by such a lackluster powertrain, made worse by knowing the 1.4-liter is so much better. There’s an easy fix, Fiat: Offer the 1.4-liter in all engine trims.