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Fiat 500X spreads cuteness to crossovers

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has developed a two-pronged approach that has the 500X and the Jeep division’s recently released 2015 Renegade sharing platforms and drivetrains. However where the littlest Jeep’s design is decidedly whimsical in nature, the 500X’s lines are far more understated.

For generating thrust, the starting point is turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that can be found in a number of FCA models. It’s rated at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A nonturbo 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet is optional.

So far so good, but here’s the kicker: If you want the turbo engine, you must order the price-leader 500X Pop trim and your sole transmission choice is a six-speed manual. The punchier 2.4 is optional for the Pop, but standard in the Easy, Trekking, Lounge and Trekking Plus models. That engine locks you into a nine-speed automatic transmission, which is likely fine with most shoppers who rarely opt for manual gearboxes these days.

The 2.4 is mandatory when equipping your 500X with all-wheel-drive. The system has a free-wheeling (and fuel-saving) rear-axle-disconnect feature for those times when directing torque to all four wheels isn’t necessary. The all-wheel-drive comes with a “Dynamic Selector” knob adjacent to the floor shifter that allows the driver to pick from Auto (default setting), Sport and Traction+, depending on road and driving conditions.

Although the Pop is the base trim, it comes with most key necessities, including air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, fold-flat passenger seat and four-speaker audio. The Easy adds two more speakers, fancier interior trim, keyless start and 17-inch alloy wheels (instead of 16-inch steelies).

According to Derek Washington, brand ambassador at Findlay Fiat in Henderson, keyless entry allows the driver to open the car by simply standing next to it.

“It’s great because if you have a lot of bags in your hands, you can open it without searching for your keys,” he said. “There’s also a push-button start so you never have to take your keys out.”

Washington added that the Fiat 500X combines the style of the 500L with the fun of the 500 Pop.

“It’s our sexiest car by far,” he said. “I thought that the 500 Pop would be everywhere and while you do see a lot of them, lately there’s been a shift toward the 500X because it’s more utilitarian, the seats go down, it has four doors and you can do more with it.”

The Trekking and Trekking Plus are designed to emulate off-road-capable vehicles and come with their own front and side body trim plus unique 17- and 18-inch wheel designs. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to offer any additional trail-tackling ground clearance.

Both the Trekking Plus and Lounge have standard climate control, ambient interior lighting and power-adjustable front seats. From there you can select a dual-pane power sunroof, 6.5-inch touch-screen with navigation and forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alerts, the latter of which really does put eyes in the back of your head.

— Reporter Ann Friedman contributed to this report.

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