Fiat will debut a new version of its 500X crossover at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, a critical step for a brand whose very survival has come into question.
The automaker is pulling its most familiar model, the little 500 hatchback, out of the U.S., shifting focus to models like the 500X utility vehicle and 500L people-mover, hoping they will click in the current SUV-focused market. The 2020 Fiat 500X Sport Model adds a number of new features and a more aggressive look in its bid to generate demand.
“Our Italian-designed, fun-to-drive Fiat 500X is the only vehicle in its class to feature standard all-wheel drive and achieve 30 miles per gallon,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT – North America. “With standard turbo power, the Fiat 500X Sport is a fresh, new alternative in one of the fastest growing segments in the industry.”
From a visual standpoint, the 500X Sport gets new front and rear fascia, body-colored side molding and dark-finish exterior accents.
Inside, it adds such touches as dark-finished pillars and headliner, more sporty seats and a “techno-leather” steering wheel with Alcantara inserts.
The 500X Sport is powered by a 1.3-liter turbo-four making 177 horsepower and 210 pound-feet mated to a nine-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels. An automatic rear-axle disconnect reduces frictional losses to improve fuel economy. Final mileage numbers haven’t been released, though the automaker claims the 500X Sport is the only vehicle in its class with standard all-wheel-drive to deliver “up to” 30 mpg.
Other features include an array of security and safety technologies that, for 2020, add Adaptive Cruise Control and Front Park Assist too the list.
The five-door model gets the latest-generation Fiat Chrysler Uconnect 4 infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen. It also features satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 2020 Fiat 500X Sport model starts at $26,895, according to the automaker, before factoring in delivery fees.
Going forward, the 500X line is expected to be the workhorse for the Fiat brand. In September, parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced it would pull the familiar 500 and battery-powered 500e from North America citing slow sales. The company reported a 25% decline for the first half of 2019 compared with already weak numbers the year before.
That has triggered questions about whether the Fiat brand itself would survive in the U.S. after an unexpectedly weak reception since the brand returned to the market earlier in the decade after a long absence.
It has also raised concerns about whether Fiat itself would survive as a brand. That issue has become more pressing since FCA announced plans to merge with France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen. But, at least for now, the Fiat badge remains part of the plan going forward.
“As of today, I don’t see any need to scrap any of the brands if the deal came to pass. They all have their history and their strengths,” Carlos Tavares, the PSA CEO who will remain chief executive of the merged company, said in an interview this week, according to Reuters.