Crossover & Midsize

The Most Expensive Subcompact SUV of 2021 Is Also the Worst

Subcompact crossovers are usually cheaper than other SUVs, so the Fiat 500X is a bit of an outlier. Some would argue you’re paying extra for the 500X’s quirky styling, a trait that made Fiat famous. The 500X also introduced a new sport model for 2020, complete with chrome exhaust tips and a new front end.

However, Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Fiat 500X the lowest overall rating in its class. Here’s what makes the Fiat 500X one of the worst crossover SUVs.

The Fiat 500X’s powertrain is unrefined

Many critics have praised the 2021 Fiat 500X for its peppy, 1.3-liter turbo-four that produces 177 hp. It’s a powerful daily driver and comes with standard all-wheel drive to handle hazardous weather conditions. The new turbocharged engine is a full second faster than the discontinued 2.4-liter four-cylinder.

The 500X’s engine is also more efficient overall, getting 26 mpg combined compared with 23 mpg on the 2019 model. However, taking around nine seconds to reach 60 mph, it’s still not particularly speedy. To make matters worse, the nine-speed automatic transmission produces jarring shifts with long pauses throughout.

Consumer Reports cautions that the 500X has a very stiff suspension, which is readily apparent when going over bumps. Drivers also might not feel confident using the mushy brake pedal. If you want a little extra security, you can add automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and forward-collision warning.

CR testers reported the Fiat 500X actually handles corners well, but its unresponsive steering wheel offsets the positive. CR also appreciated the car’s compact dimensions, which make it easier to park. Despite the braking problems, CR said the 500X performed well on the avoidance maneuver test.

The Fiat 500X makes lots of noise

RELATED: Consumer Reports Warns Not to Get Fooled by the 2020 Fiat 500X

Because smaller cars are closer to the ground, you’ll generally hear more exterior noise than you would traveling in a larger vehicle. But CR said the road noise inside the Fiat 500X seems exceptionally amplified. There’s some wind noise too, but CR said it’s barely audible between the road and engine clamor.

Engine buzz always seems to be present in the 500x, even when you’re just cruising along city roads. CR also reported a persistent hum and jittering when idling.

The 500X’s seats are uncomfortable

Like the exterior, the Fiat 500X’s interior has a unique appearance. But it’s an unpleasant place to be for too long. There’s not enough legroom for taller drivers, and shorter drivers found the steering wheel hard to reach. Because of the lofty dashboard and large roof pillars, it’s also hard to see out of either end.

The seats themselves are hard and provide little support. Upgrading to power-adjustable and heated front seats is almost essential. The same goes for the rear seat, which can also be too snug to seat three adults.

Which subcompact SUVs offer better value?

Like the Fiat 500X, the Mazda CX-3 is easy to maneuver, but it also suffers from exterior noise. However, it boasts better handling and several standard safety features. It also has a perfect reliability rating and costs $4,000 less than the 500X.

Another great subcompact SUV is the Hyundai Kona. It’s slower than the Fiat 500X, but it offers a more comfortable driver’s position and better brakes. The skinny roof pillars also provide better visibility.

The Subaru Crosstrek stands at the top of Consumer Reports’ subcompact SUV ratings. It gets great gas mileage, rides comfortably, and comes with a special off-roading transmission in select models. Although the Crosstrek is slightly more expensive than many rivals, it’s still a greater overall value than the Fiat 500X.