A bigger 500 buoy

Love it or hate it, the compact crossover segment remains as popular as ever, both domestically and abroad. Automakers of every stripe are cashing in on consumers’ love for small, jacked-up passenger vehicles, and Fiat Chrysler is certainly no exception. The Italian-American company’s current product lineup already includes the 500X, a sub-compact crossover based on the iconic Fiat 500 city car, but the marque lacks a contender for the slightly larger compact SUV segment. That could change with a new, as-of-yet unconfirmed C-SUV.

While official details are still under wraps, rumors have been swirling that Fiat is prepping the new model (which will possibly adopt the name “500XL”) for a reveal sometime in 2017 or 2018, with production kicking into shortly thereafter. The release will reportedly shadow the upcoming replacement for the Jeep Patriot and Compass, a.k.a. the “Jeep 551,” with the same platform shared between the two models.

Further speculation points to South America as the first market slated to receive the new model, given its construction on the continent. A global release would quickly follow.

We recently received a batch of spy shots that could very well have captured the upcoming Fiat C-SUV out doing some testing, although we’re not yet total certain. Either way, read on for my speculative review.

Continue reading to learn more about the Fiat C-SUV.

Exterior

2018 Fiat C-SUV Exterior Spyshots
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Our spy photographers were a bit baffled by the camouflaged SUV seen in these pictures, but after careful consideration, we think it’s the Fiat C-SUV. Roughly the same size as the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan, the potential Fiat C-SUV would offer a bigger footprint than the 500X, while still keeping within the limits of a compact vehicle.

Speaking broadly, the shape looks like a Fiat, with a rounded body style and the right curves for an Italian-badged C-SUV.

Styling-wise, all the exterior cladding and swirled body pieces make it rather difficult to ascertain what’s hiding underneath, but we do see a little of the Fiat Toro sport utility pickup in the front end, with mid-mounted headlights below thinner DRLs. A shot of the rear reveals simple, rectangular taillights.

Speaking broadly, the shape looks like a Fiat, with a rounded body style and the right curves for an Italian-badged C-SUV. However, it’s also got a more upright stance and a more traditional SUV rear end compared to the smaller 500X. Expect chrome accents, gloss-free lower plastic paneling, and a nice selection of options for styling, plus what appears to be a large sunroof that extends over the rear bench.

Interior

Our spy photographers didn’t manage to capture the interior, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a stab at guessing what might be inside. If it turns out this thing is indeed a new Fiat C-SUV, it’ll get seating for five passengers, plus more rear legroom compared to the 500X.

I’d also expect the cabin look and layout to closely mimic that of the current 500 lineup. That means a large TFT display behind the steering wheel, complemented by a stand-up touchscreen mounted high on the dash. The steering wheel will be a three-spoke unit equipped with a multiplicity of buttons for the various infotainment and drive features. USB and auxiliary inputs will be placed in the central console. The tunnel will get covered in a brushed-metal look material, which will be echoed in the door handle and vent surrounds, and the seats will be electronically adjustable. The “500” logo will be placed on the seat backs, dash, and shift lever. Customization options will be plentiful. In back, around 14 cubic feet of space would make the right amount of practicality.

Drivetrain

2018 Fiat C-SUV Exterior Spyshots
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The new Fiat C-SUV will supposedly be built on the same Small US Wide 4x4 architecture as the 500X and Jeep Renegade. Additionally, the drivetrain should also get carried over.

Included in the range will be a variety of gasoline and diesel powerplants, with availability dependent on the given market.

Included in the range will be a variety of gasoline and diesel powerplants, with availability dependent on the given market. Starting things off will be a turbocharged, gasoline-powered, 1.4-liter MultiAir inline four-cylinder available in two states of tune – 138 horsepower and 170 pound-feet or torque, or 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet or torque. Next is a turbocharged 1.6-liter MultiAir inline four-cylinder oil burner with 118 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, followed by a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder oil burner with 138 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Finally, range-toppers will get the 2.4-liter Chrysler Tigershark MultiAir II gas engine, which produces 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque.

Standard spec will be FWD, while AWD will be available. Transmission options could include a six-speed manual, six-speed dual-clutch automatic, and a nine-speed automatic. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a sportier variant with upgraded suspension and new exterior performance cues.

Prices

Sitting just above the 500X in terms of pricing, the new Fiat C-SUV would carry a price tag of roughly $25,000. While possibly a bit pricier than the competition, the Fiat will bank on its superior exterior aesthetics and a slick interior to justify the extra outlay. All the customization options will add significantly to the bottom line. Hopefully, we’ll get a better idea what Fiat is cooking up with a reveal later this year.

Competition

Nissan Rogue

2014 Nissan Rogue High Resolution Exterior
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Initially debuted in 2007, Nissan’s compact SUV received its second generation in 2013, with updates including a heavily altered interior, plus the possibility for third-row seating. It also got a longer wheelbase, with new exterior styling to match. The drivetrain, however, is limited to a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder good for 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Standard spec sends power to the front axle exclusively, but AWD is offered as an option. Pricing starts at $23,290.

Read the full review here.

Honda CR-V

2015 - 2016 Honda CR-V High Resolution Exterior
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Originally offered in 1995, the CR-V first came stateside in 1997, with a second generation following in 2002, a third generation in 2007, and a fourth generation in 2012. The compact crossover was then refreshed for the 2015 model year, receiving a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder boasting 185 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Rumor has it a fifth-gen vehicle is just over the horizon, with an estimated release sometime in the next two years, which would make it quite the competitor for the Fiat. Pricing currently starts at $23,745.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

2018 Fiat C-SUV Exterior Spyshots
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No matter the market, it seems as though folks can’t get enough compact crossovers. However, I can’t help but feel that this latest entry from Fiat is a bit late to the party. While there’s no indication that segment growth will abate any time soon, the brand is still struggling to move units (although the 500X does appear to be doing ok in Europe).

Which begs the question – will the C-SUV buoy sales for Fiat?

Possibly. If the styling is a hit with buyers, then it might be able to standout in a sea of competition. Hopefully, the adaptable architecture also means consumers will have a nice selection of drivetrain options to choose from.

We’ll have to wait and see what develops.

  • Leave it
    • * A bit late to the party
    • * Might be too pricey
    • * Will it grab the attention of consumers besieged by the competition?
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