Fiat 500X 1.3 Cross 5dr DCT
The new three-cylinder is a good example of the kind. It's chattery on start-up but soon settles down. Beyond urban speeds you barely feel or hear it, and it's refined, characterful and relatively willing when you ask. The nicely-oiled gearbox makes it easy to keep in the sweet spot.
The 150bhp engine sounds more boring but has usefully more power at the top end. If you're holding the auto box's gears yourself, turbo lag can be an issue below 3,000rpm. But the transmission is alert to this, and its automatic strategy makes a pretty neat job of being in the right gear with little fuss.
This engine has a clear 0-62mph advantage over the manual 1.0-litre unit – 9.1 versus 10.9sec – but some of this is down to the DCT's instant shifts versus your manual shifts with the small engine. In real life the performance gap isn't that bad, at least not until you get to main-road overtaking speed at which point the triple hits the wall.
Both the new engines – especially the triple – are light, making the 500X far fleeter of foot than the old diesels. It turns willingly and there's even some steering feel. For a crossover, not a bad showing at all.
But the ride is an issue. It jolts vertically and jostles laterally on bumpy back roads, and can't make much sense of urban corrugations, serving up a lot of coarse patter. There's annoying road noise too, especially at motorway speed and on the 18-inch tyres.
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