Fiat 500X and fireflies… whaaat?
If I tell you firefly, you probably think of a cool summer night around the campfire, the song “No woman no cry” played passionately on guitar, your very first summer love, the inimitable smell of roasted marshmallows, the shooting stars you used to count lying on the lawn, perhaps a new drug name, or you just remember these little bright insects that have always amazed you. I’m thinking above all of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and I must admit it’s much less poetic. And yet… It’s the new 500X’s engine.
Fiat 500X Firefly episode 2: creativity for the street
As you may already know, the new Fiat 500X had a hard time convincing me a few months ago. However that was before, before Fiat put in my hands the second new engine, a 1.3L 4-cylinder turbo, designed according to the (un)famous WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure), in order to measure the CO2 emission from vehicle exhaust under conditions close to (almost) normal use.
Probably inspired by the fancy shapes and pop colours of their cars, Fiat chose to immerse us in a world I know well: contemporary art. When I arrived in the Philippe Berry’s studio, father-in-law of Alexis Le Diamantaire, who presented dozens of diamond sculptures in recycled mirrors, I understood. I had a revelation.
As I listened to Alexis talking about his career as a street artist, I realized that I had made a mistake.
After graduating while finding a job and instead of being unemployed, Le Dimantaire offers passers-by the opportunity to admire a strong symbol of luxury and rarity: small mirror diamonds that he hangs at the corner of the city walls. A beautiful contrast between a certain idea of luxury and beauty accessible to everyone.
When I talk about a mistake, it’s not professionally speaking, but about the Fiat 500X. Indeed, it’s not the little adventurer I would have liked to find during my first test in Belgium, not even during my second experience on ice at Alpe-d’Huez, but it’s a small urban crossover, cool, young and above all arty.
So yes, this conception of the automobile is far from mine. Even if I have more and more the profile of a potential customer. It’s in this new state of mind that I go on a painting, sculpture and bodywork day trip.
Let’s get into the monster: not the Fiat 500X Firefly 1.3L Turbo but Tinguely’s Cyclop
To reach this monumental sculpture hidden in the heart of the Milly forest, we take a ride with the new Fiat 500X 1.3L Turbo. Behind the wheel, nothing changes, except that the experience is much better! Indeed, probably because of the weight of the turbocharged 4-cylinder (from 1275 to 1320 kg on this version), I feel a better car on the front axle, slightly more dynamic and more balanced than the 3 cylinder 1.0L turbo.
Does that shock you? For once we are defending the weight! Everything happens (sorry Colin Chapman) …
It may seem like a detail but it changes a lot in driving pleasure and liveliness. With the 1.0L you feel like you’re in a tiny fisherman’s boat in the middle of a North Atlantic storm. While on board the 1.3L you have the impression to be on a small outboard motorboat. It’s certainly not always adapted to the situation but it’s not a problem because after a few rolls you know that everything will be fine on Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to that, the engine obviously has a little more torque thanks to a larger engine. It’s not a V12 but the difference with the 3 cylinders is still appreciable. Don’t open the hood to admire the 4 cylinders we used to love in the 70’s, it’s no use. Plastic covers are everywhere…
Finally, and for once, we discovered a DCT automatic transmission that makes sense. First because the mechanical gearbox of the 1.0L version is similar to a moving truck. It is therefore quite painful when you have to cross the city at rush hour. Imagine if you have wild kids in the back… (and it probably is the case or it won’t be long, if you opted for this car), the journey just becomes hellish. Second, and you’ll be surprised again, because this 9-speed automatic transmission adds a little more weight to the package. For once, it makes it more pleasant and cool to drive, even if the car still has smooth suspensions at high speed and hard ones in town.
Well, I admit, the gearbox isn’t super fast, and doesn’t always understand what I would like, but we don’t really care on a Fiat 500X. In fact, it already does the job very well and in a very comfortable way.
Looking back, I wondered if this new 500 X hadn’t been designed with a 4-cylinder and an automatic transmission (maybe even four wheels drive) and then dismantled to produce models that were less and less balanced.
After a few hundred kilometers, at the edge of the forest we see the beast: a giant head of about twenty meters looks at us. It’s the Cyclop. With his eye spinning and his tongue out, he is both impressive and intriguing. As we walk around we reach the entrance of a living art work imagined by Jean Tinguely, his wife Nikki de Saint Phalle and their artist friends César, Arman, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Jesus Rafael Soto…
Inside the Cyclop all the senses are awakened, we go through a sound piece of art by Jesus Rafael Soto, we admire the metal balls dance that roll on rails and activate gears in an artistic and mechanical performance designed by Tinguely’s genius. I had the impression that I was in a car engine. Intertwined with several oaks, the masterpiece is a fantasy and political parenthesis that requires a moment of reflection and contemplation. Just for that, driving a Fiat 500X 1.3L worth it. Indeed, you can go with your family with a minimum of comfort to discover this unique place that will for sure amaze your children. You can also go with a 1.0L version, but it will be a little less pleasant outside the city.
In the middle of all these artworks, I find the 500X in its proper place. Indeed, it’s a perfect (and stylish) match.
Fiat 500X 1.3L: the iPhone X R of the road
Now you’re wondering why I’m comparing this new 500X engine to the latest Apple phone. First, the 500 family and the iPhone range are imagined for the same target group. They are young people (no longer so young), stylish, urban and working in advertising, communication, art or marketing. They obviously don’t seek performance but a beautiful, original, technological product responding to the constraints of their lifestyle, in line with their values and the vision they have of themselves: BINGO!
As the iPhone X with the iPhone 8, the 2019 500X is a discreet evolution of the very first 500X. However, it makes all the difference, mechanically and technologically.
There are LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, the Uconnect HD Live infotainment system with its 7-inch touch screen. But what to do with this screen? If you don’t have SatNav and especially Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to find your favorite app (Waze, you know why…) on your car screen? In addition to all this, Fiat has decided to bring its 500X into the 21st century with driving assistance such as panel reading, intelligent cruise control, lane change warning or emergency automatic braking. All this is neither hot nor cold for me, but it matters to Apple’s, uh, Fiat’s customers. And that’s magic.
#FunToDrive score: 53/100
Anyway, it’s a good little stylish city ride. As for the next iPhone, don’t expect a revolution. It will never be the fastest, most luxurious but it will always be the coolest crossover. Finally, the 1.3L Turbo seems to be enough (for typical urban young parents and probably not for crazy guys like us).