Bicycle Blues From Our Four Seasons 2016 Fiat 500X
The limitations of a subcompact crossover
A couple of weeks after driving our Four Seasons 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus AWD from Los Angeles to Detroit, I signed it up for a vacation to the holiday hotspot of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I know how to live, don't I?
Actually, the vacation, with my brother-in-law, Greg, and his friend, Tom, was an attempt to stave off the ravages of too much driving and road food, and too many press trips. We were there for the 150 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a rails-to-trails bicycle ride between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland. Greg and Tom would continue on along the C&O Canal trail for another 135 miles to Washington, D.C., while I would turn around and head to Pittsburgh, for about 300 miles total.
My bicycle for the GAP roundtrip was a brand-new Jamis Renegade Expert, a carbon-fiber-framed bike with drop handlebars and a sort of "all-terrain" tire that can handle crushed gravel as well as pavement. Surely, it would fit into the cargo hold with the rear seat down. I met up with Greg and Tom in downtown Pittsburgh, where the 500X would be parked until my return. The Fiat contained just me, my bike, and three bike bags.
The 500X's Cargo capacity to the headliner, with the rear seat folded, is 32.1 cubic feet, Fiat PR says. The rear opening height is 26.6 inches, the distance between the wheelbase interior trim in back is 37.8 inches, and the minimum cargo width at the liftgate opening is 37.1 inches.
That turned out to be just enough to get the Renegade in back of the 500X without removing the front wheel, which makes it handy for transporting the bicycle without having to deal with an exterior rack. However, the only way to get the Jamis in the 500X without removing the front wheel was to place it rear-wheel-first into the cargo space, which means that the front wheel had to be turned handlebars-up. But the roof rake cuts into the hatch opening—it's not a square, fully vertical hatch door—and with the bike's front tire on, the door won't close.
Like many of the latest road bikes, my Renegade does not have quick-release rims. Instead, there are more robust through-axles, for more reliable, less-wobbly wheel attachment. Be warned: if you want to throw your new bike in the back of a Fiat 500X (or similarly sized crossover), make sure you have an Allen wrench-bike tool.
Another limitation of the Fiat's size reared its troublesome head on my drive to Pittsburgh, which is about 300 miles by car from my house via the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnkpikes. Before the turnpikes, construction on I-75 South near the Michigan/Ohio border slowed me and rerouted me, adding a few crucial miles to the drive. I'd be lucky to make Pittsburgh by midnight, about an hour later than expected.
Past the outskirts of Cleveland, there should be, I think, three rest stops along I-80 that allow you to refuel without paying tolls to exit the turnpike. Handy, except they were all closed for remodeling.
About 10 miles from paying to leave Ohio and grabbing another ticket to enter Pennsylvania, all of the little digital bars showing how much fuel I had left had disappeared. There was no range listed on the dash and it was well past 11 p.m.
I took an exit at Lordstown, home of the Chevrolet Cruze assembly plant, expecting 24-hour gas stations all over the place. Some five miles after paying the tolls, I found one of those stations with a closed building, but lit-up pumps that let you refuel with a credit or debit card…except it didn't work. Another desperate driver, unable to pump gas, told me she thought there was another station "three stoplights" up the road.
I found a Speed Check station 4.4 miles up the road and managed to refuel before running dry. The attendant working the counter said he had planned to close about 20 minutes earlier. I haven't come that nail-bitingly close to running dry since I coasted into a station just off I-94 in Racine, Wisconsin in my 1987 Honda CRX.
Fiat's press kit doesn't list the tank capacity, but the logbook shows I pumped 11.795 gallons after driving 282 miles on the previous tank, for 23.9 mpg. I can't imagine that a larger compact crossover would burn much more gas without giving me the space to haul my bike with the front wheel on.
Our 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking
|MILES TO DATE||18,237|
|PRICE||$26,230/$27,730 (base/as tested)|
|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|