Toward the close of a three-day weekend I was spending with our Four Seasons 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking, I decided to bring some adventure into its boring commuter life—as well as my own—by embarking on the oh-so-Californian mission of seeing snow and surf in a single day. The Fiat had recently received a $76.37 service that included an oil change, inspection, and tire rotation, so some fresh mileage was on order.
My wife, Alli, grabbed two cups of iced coffee as we climbed into the orange Italian small crossover to start the 125-mile drive from our home in Santa Clarita to the San Bernardino Mountains, where the resort town of Big Bear had just received a blanket of fresh powder. Most of that distance is traversed via flat and boring stretches of freeway, and although my phone was able to handle both guidance and music thanks to the Fiat’s Apple CarPlay-equipped Uconnect interface, the middling sound quality of its entry-level six-speaker stereo made us resort to random acts of in-car madness, and soon we were performing famous movie monologues in bizarre voices to keep the tedium at bay.
The pavement got more interesting once we hit the base of the mountains and started up Highway 18, but our ability to enjoy it was limited because much of Southern California had the same idea that we did. The slow, the snaillike procession we found ourselves in on the way up to Big Bear provided ample time—it took us 45 minutes to traverse the final eight miles—to take in the clear blue skies, fragrant pine trees, and freshly fallen snow, the first of which we’d have seen more of if the Fiat had a moonroof.
Big Bear sits at an elevation of around 6,750 feet. The thinner air sapped power from the 500X’s naturally aspirated 2.4-liter I-4, forcing it to work harder than usual to move the 3,292-pound crossover up the mountain. We stopped next to a frozen lake surrounded by a lush pine forest and, as we huddle together on a small stump to enjoy the moment, the Fiat’s cooling fans switch on, interrupting the scene’s serene tranquility. Deprived of some of its 180 horses and 175 lb-ft of torque, the engine had broken a sweat and was in need of fresh air.
Romantic interlude spoiled, we devolved into a quick game of throw-the-pinecone-across-the-frozen-water while the Fiat cooled itself down. We hopped back into the orange crossover and hunkered down for the 130-mile trek to Malibu after loading ourselves with Pringles and the 500X with fuel.
Traffic snarled our descent as well, making me wonder if we’d run out of daylight before reaching the ocean. Mercifully, the road opened up with 90 minutes to go before sunset, giving us enough time to pick up an apple fritter and a sugar doughnut to honor one of our traditions: eating donuts on the beach in winter. It’s a ritual started during our first January in Southern California as a way to tease our Chicago-based parents about the weather.
Forty-five minutes ahead of sunset, we parked the Fiat at Malibu’s Zuma Beach. After briefly dipping our feet in the wind-swept winter ocean, we folded the rear seats flat, grab the doughnuts, and laid down to enjoy the show.
As we found out, though it’s far from fashionable and certainly in need of more power, the 500X is perfectly capable of supporting an active California lifestyle. With the simple addition of a roof rack, this Fiat is more than capable of hitting the snow in the morning and the surf in the afternoon with the necessary toys on top and changes of clothes in the trunk. It may not be the sexiest or most thrilling car, but we would not have seen one of our most memorable sunsets without it.
Our 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking
|MILES TO DATE||8,460|
|FUEL TO DATE||392.5 gallons|
|OBSERVED FUEL ECON||21.6 mpg|
|ENGINE||2.4L SOHC 16-valve I-4/180 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 175 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||21/30 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||168.2 x 75.5 x 63.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.8 sec|