Less Runt, More Grunt: the Butchest Fiat Yet.

 Ever had a scrawny, limp-wristed friend go away for the summer and come back totally ripped? I feel like that’s just what happened over at the Fiat store, where the new 500X just hit the showroom floor, and is looking, um, kinda hot.

Seriously, forget everything you thought about the diminutive 500 microcar. Ditto the plump 500L, if you even knew that one exists in the first place. The 500X is more of a crossover than compact car, though technically it’s both, with garage-friendly dimensions but the just-above-the-fray seating position that everybody loves in crossovers. It also comes in some amazing colors, my favorite of which is metallic “Bronzo Magnetico,” which is available in gloss or a slick factory matte finish.

The interior is Fiat’s best, hands-down. It incorporates handy touch-screen controls in an ergonomically correct arrangement, decorated by sassy body color panels here and there. My tester, a loaded Trekking all-wheel-drive model, features cushy brown textured leather chairs that fondly recalls my uncle’s mushy leather recliner, only with proper bolstering and good lumbar support. There’s decent room for four adults and a modicum of luggage, though the sloping rear window reduces cargo space a bit, so bear that in mind when teasing those wigs, girls. My tester also came with the full-length moonroof that I consider a must when you live in the sun-belt. Sun, after all, is much of the reason we all live where we do, right?

Having driven all of the 500X’ competitors (listed in the specs), I have low expectations for the performance. But the 500X Trekking, which comes standard with the more powerful of the two available engines, surprises with spry acceleration, as well as precise steering and snappy handling responses. The steering and powertrain characteristics can be changed via dial between the seats, and I found the sport setting to be the most satisfactory, though it comes at the expense of some fuel efficiency.

The 500X is already on sale, with prices starting around 21 grand, though my tester rang a tally well above $30K, which seems like a lot for a Fiat. Then again, the way I see it, cars with this much character are well worth the cost.

2016 Fiat 500X
Base Price: from $20,900
Power: 1.4–2.4-liter four-cylinder (160-180-hp, 175–184 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg (EPA est): 21­–25/30–34

Or you could buy:

Kia Soul
Jeep Renegade
Nissan Juke