Fiat dealers have been understandably frustrated by the company’s abysmal performance in recent years.
In Ireland the 500 has been its’ sole real performer and last year they welcomed the arrival of the 500L and 500L MPV models to the line-up, but this month they will get their biggest shot in the arm in a considerable time with the arrival of the 500X compact SUV.
Although both the L and the L-MPV were undoubtedly practical and family oriented, they were definitely on the ugly side too and perhaps not to the taste of many buyers. By comparison, the stylish and elegant — not to mention practical — 500X, which comes here with a sub-€20k price tag for the entry level model, will certainly be a draw for the buying public.
Launched to the press last week in Kildare, the 500X is, according to Fiat Country Director, Gerry Clarke, the first Fiat product to be rolled out under the firm’s new five year model development plan. It has, he says, three fundamental sales pillars — heritage, design and substance.
The company has developed the 500 range with care and attention and the product line-up has grown over the years. Indeed it is now regarded as ‘cool, sexy and Italian’ by consumers across Europe. The 500X will definitely add to that conclusion. The design of the car shows it to be a part of a growing family in which those design elements are constant, while the substance of the product is underlined by the fact it is offered with a choice of six engines, three transmissions and three traction variants.
The 500X will go in to bat against competitors such as the Renault Captur, the Opel Mokka, the Nissan Juke, the Mini Countryman and the Citroen C4 Cactus and Fiat is very bullish about its prospects in this company.
Clarke says people are moving into this sales segment “from all over the place” and with a five per cent share of the total market, it will account for 6,000 units in a full year. He is confident Fiat can take a decent chunk of that market with the 500X and he reckons that 80% of the car’s buyers will come from conquest sales.
Fiat has assessed the potential buyers as “cool nesters, free thinkers and stylish adventurers” who will be further defined as cool, confident and extrovert.
Two very different looks of the 500X will be available — a city car and an off-road car. The former will appeal to more traditional customers and will be available in 4x2 format only. The latter will obviously appeal to the more outdoor type and will be offered with 4x2, 4x2 with ‘traction plus’ and ‘on demand’ 4x4.
It will be offered with a high level of equipment by comparison with rivals and will also provide a very advanced level of connectivity that Fiat feel “sets us apart.”
There will be a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines and Fiat says while it is one of the longest cars in the segment, it will thus offer greater road presence and comfort levels.
Entry level price will be mid-table at €19,750 which Fiat admits is “not the cheapest” in the segment, but it also maintains it represents great value of money. A total of nine versions will be offered, all under €25k.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved