Here’s the situation. You live where I do and either 4-wheel or all-wheel drive is almost imperative for the winter months.

And you looked at all the Jeeps, Subarus, Toyotas, Fords and others, and nothing strikes the fancy of your 5-foot tall, stylish wife.

And then, the delivery folks bring you a Fiat 500X to drive for a week, and suddenly, you realize there is a car payment in your future, because she thinks it’s as cute as a speckled pup, and actually has the wherewithal to handle a western winter.

After all, with Fiat now the senior partner in the Fiat-Chrysler combine, it is also the basis for the chunky and very capable little Jeep Renegade. That’s right, my fellow flag waving, all-American Jeep fans, beneath all the Jeep styling cues, the Renegade is Italian to the core. It’s like ordering marinara sauce on your Oscar Meyer franks.

But in this case, this stylish little Italian can take you most anywhere, short of real intense off-roading.

But to be fair, it takes you there slowly. Almost all of us who drove the stubby little Renegade liked it a lot. Except for the engines. Like the 500X you can order either the 2.4-liter four cylinder mill with 180 overworked horsepower, or the turbocharged, 1.6-liter four banger with 160 hard-working ponies.

The turbo, which is frankly more fun, can only be had with a 6-speed manual gearbox, but it is only in two-wheel-drive. For all-wheel-wheeling, you have to get the 2.4-liter with either manual or a very smooth automatic.

The little 500, like the modern Mini Cooper, is the spiritual descendent of a classic 1960’s compact, but with much better build quality than those early Fiat’s could ever hope for.

After the basic coupe came the higher performance Abarth version.

It has become a minor hit and the basis for the Italian automaker’s return to the US market, a return that now includes a modern version of my old 124 Spider and the stylish Alfa Romeo lineup.

Now you add the rough and off-road capability, and you have a stylish little runabout that can get you through the snow in time for work.

And while they may be soul brothers under the skin, my wife much prefers the melted bar of soap styling of the 500X to the Renegade that looks like the box it came in.

At just under $20,000 to start, with 2-wheel-drive, up to the nearly $24,000 Trekking version, the 500X is priced right. But that price range includes some nice little SUV’s from here, Japan and Korea. It’s a very competitive field.

But the Fiat 500X offers a dose of style and quirkiness the others can’t match. Is that enough to earn it a larger chunk of this crowded field? Only time will tell.



More From K2 Radio