Since Fiat took ownership of Chrysler in 2009 and formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in 2014, the automaker has wielded some of the longest-standing and most desirable automotive brands in the market. Though FCA technically oversees more than a dozen entities, the typical consumer only interacts with Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, and Fiat vehicles.
After a recent trip to Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds to sample the full range of 2017 model-year vehicles, I’ve decided to take a stab at condensing FCA’s offerings into more useful categories. And while the average Joe would love to tool about in an Alfa Romeo or Maserati, for our purposes, we’ll leave those nameplates out of this roundup.
Sub-compacts have been around for a while now, but have regained popularity as fuel prices have risen. Though this class of vehicle has steadily increased in size, its smaller footprint means better maneuverability and a cheaper price tag. Here’s FCA’s spread of 2017 subcompacts.
Since the Fiat 500 hit the market in 2012, the pint-sized throwback has been selling quite well for the brand. With VW’s Beetle out of the “cutesy car” picture, the 500 is running unopposed for those who need a fun, cheap city car. There are now several 500-branded models, but only four classic body styles: the original 500, the convertible version (500c), the EV (500e), and the boy racer (500 Abarth). The gas-powered 500 models use inline four-cylinder motors, the Abarth adds turbocharged power, and the EV uses a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery. Prices for the base 2017 Fiat 500 have been lowered to $14,995.
This subcompact crossover doesn’t look as dainty as its 500 and 500L siblings, but offers the same great features. Premium trims add extra styling with larger wheels, leather seats, and high-tech convenience features. The entry-level 500X Pop comes standard with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 160hp. Like the Renegade, the 500X’s only engine is paired with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Other standard features include 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, driver knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 16″ steel wheels, cruise control, ABS and driveline traction control, and electronic stability. Prices for the 2017 Fiat 500X start at $20,000.
Think of the Fiat 500L as a taller, longer 500. It is, in my opinion, the weak link of the Fiat lineup, lacking the visual appeal of the 500X or the maneuverability of the classic 500. Still, if you must have four doors, then the 500L will fit the bill. The 500L shares a 1.4-liter Multiair turbocharged four-cylinder with the 500X that makes 160hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, but, for whatever reason, the 500L costs $995 more than the 500X. At least the 2017 model year comes with a six-speed automatic standard.
Though the Renegade is technically a crossover, its small stature fits better within the subcompact segment. Based on the Fiat 500X platform, the Renegade wraps off-road engineering within an affordable, clever package. Those who enjoy breaking from technology every once in a while will appreciate the Renegade’s sizable cargo volume and generous ride height. There are a few different trims available on the Renegade, but the most rugged of shoppers will want the Trailhawk edition, which includes a one-inch lift, tow hooks, all-terrain tires, and more durable bumpers. For 2017, there are new options like keyless ignition, HID headlamps, automatic high beams, and a 7.0-inch TFT driver display. The Renegade is the perfect introduction to the Jeep brand at $17,995.