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Review: 2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on April 14, 2017 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of the review of the Fiat 500X. First let me wrap up a few loose ends. At the end of my week with it I registered 10.6 L/100KM in mixed city and highway driving, a lot of which was in rush hour traffic. And there was some liberal use of sport mode too. That isn’t bad fuel economy from this sub compact crossover.

So what is the Fiat 500X Lounge AWD going to cost you? As equipped it was $40,785 with destination. But the Renegade starts at $23,245 with lots of options in between that and what I drove. So you can find likely one that fits your budget. If I were to cross shop it against similar vehicles, I’d pick the Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke and Chevy Trax, Buick Encore, and the Mazda CX-3 that I reviewed not too long ago along with the Jeep Renegade. Seeing as the 500X has some unique looks to it, you might want to toss in the Mini Countryman as well for that reason. The reason why you’d chose the 500X over all of these competitors is that the cute and cheery look of the Fiat that is distinctive as well. It also brings a lot of utility to the table in a small package, including the ability to carry four humans in it, or a healthy amount of cargo. That’s not a minor point if you need a vehicle of this size that is capable of doing absolutely everything you need it to. If you’re looking for a sub compact sport utility vehicle that actually delivers on the utility part while looking different from everything else out there, then the Fiat 500X Lounge AWD has to be on your shopping list.

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Review: 2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on April 13, 2017 by itnerd

The technology in the Fiat 500x Lounge AWD is an interesting mix. Let’s start with the safety technology:

  • You get 7 airbags
  • There’s a rear back up camera with backup sensors. The camera has great viewing angles and clarity. You also get backup sensors tossed in as well so that you don’t hit anything when backing up.
  • Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist. In short, if you drift out of your lane, you’ll get a notification on the dash. If you don’t do anything, the car will gently put you back to where you should be. One thing that I noted is that if you don’t have both hands on the steering wheel if you drift out of your lane, the car will get very upset at you by making a very loud and shrill beep and telling you via the TFT screen in the dash to put both hands on the wheel.
  • While not a piece of technology as such, the fact that when you use a turn signal or turn the wheel while the headlights are on, the corresponding foglamp will turn on to give you additional visibility is an excellent safety feature.
  • Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking.
  • The usual traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring systems.

The next thing is the key. It’s a proximity key that allows you to walk up, open the door, press the start button, and drive away. You can also remote start the 500X, and unlock the doors. Like other FCA vehicles I’ve reviewed, there’s also a real key on the inside of the fob. When you want to lock the car, simply press a button on the door handle when you get out of the car. Net result: You never have to take the proximity key out of your pocket.

Now on to the UConnect infotainment system. It’s now into its fifth iteration and it’s still very good. Navigation is still provided by Garmin which is a good thing. And as usual, it took me seconds to pair my iPhone via Bluetooth and make everything work the way I expected. Plugging in my iPhone via either of the USB ports allowed me access to all the music and playlists on it. The voice recognition was good, though I had trouble with street names. The system is powered by a 6.5″ touchscreen which while smaller than I am used to, it is clear and easy to read in all lighting conditions. There are redundant controls that are well designed and easy to reach. When it comes to the design part, I’ll use the controls on the steering wheel as an example. Individual buttons have their own feel so that once you know what the functions are, you can use them purely based on feel. A key feature is the fact that it comes with Siri Eyes Free for those of you who have iPhones. What’s cool about this is that when you pair your iPhone to the system, it gives you a tutorial on how to use Siri Eyes Free. That’s something that I’ve never seen before and I am sure will help iPhone users who drive this vehicle.

No matter where I was sitting, the audio was fantastic thanks to it being powered by Beats Audio. It has crisp highs and well defined bass with zero distortion. I was very impressed by that. Kudos to FCA for providing a top notch stereo.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it on Friday.

Review: 2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on April 12, 2017 by itnerd

The interior of the Fiat 500X Lounge AWD is an interesting mix of looks and materials. Let IMG_0098.JPG

The door for example, has a mix of leather, metal, plastic, and soft touch surfaces. It alos has two things that I’d like to point out…

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If you look at the top right of the speaker, you’ll see a Beats Audio logo as Beats powers the audio in the vehicle. I’ll go into more depth on the audio in part 4 tomorrow.

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You also get a bottle holder built into the door. This made my wife happy as this is a requirement for any car as far as she is concerned.

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The driver’s seat is 12 way power adjustable (the passenger seat is a 4 way manual adjustable seat). Finding the right position is easy enough. But if I could offer up a suggestion, they really need more bolstering. Both seats are heated.

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Here you can see the gauge cluster. The speedometer is on the left and on the right is the tachometer. The middle is a sharp looking TFT screen which you can customize to fit your needs. And it was easily visible in all lighting conditions.

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You get a leather wrapped “D” shaped steering wheel with controls for everything from your phone to UConnect. The wheel feels great in your hands and is heated.

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To the left of the steering wheel are the controls for the headlights, foglights and interior controls. Top tip: Leave the lights in the “Auto” setting so that you never forget to turn them on and be “that person” who forgets to turn them on at night.

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The Start/Stop button is on the right side of the steering column.

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Here you can see the 6.5″ UConnect screen, and below it the buttons to disable stability control, turn on the hazard lights, and disable ParkAssist. Below that are the HVAC controls. One thing that I should point out is that the dash is a mix of soft touch materials at the top of the dash, plastic that is the same color as the body of the car in the middle of the dash, and black plastic below that. It all makes the interior 500X look interesting.

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Here’s a look at the HVAC controls (which are dual zone the set and forget type) and below that is the AUX port and the USB port along with controls for the heated seats and steering wheel.

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From the “this is cool” department comes this dual glovebox. I should note that only the lower half has a light in it. But that’s cool with me.

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The center console looks really top shelf. Not only do you get two cupholders and an electronic parking brake, but you also get a dial that allows you to go from normal to sport and Traction+ modes. The shifter has lots of leather on it and is easy to reach. In front of the shifter is a cubby. I tried putting my iPhone 7 Plus there and it didn’t fit. Consider that space for change and other small items.

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The cupholders are deep enough to hold a Venti sized drink from Starbucks. You’ll also note that the dial for the different drive modes and the cupholders have lighting accents to make them look cool.

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There’s a storage area behind the cupholders with a second USB port. I was able to fit my iPhone 7 Plus here.

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You get a dual pane powered sunroof above you to let in additional light.

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The back seats will fit three kids or two adults. I was able to “sit behind myself” and have enough headroom, but legroom was tight. As I am six feet tall and I set up the driving position for someone of that size, that’s to be expected. The bottom line is that as long as someone in the front seats isn’t over six feet tall, back seat passengers should have room to be comfortable.

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The cargo area actually has a healthy amount of room, and you can leverage the 60/40 seats to get more room. On top of that, you can change the height of the floor to give the storage area more depth should it be required.

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As you can see, there’s plenty of room in the back as evidenced by the results of a shopping trip this week.

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You can fold down the rear seats to get additional space. I should note that they fold almost completely flat.

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If you need even more space, the front passenger seat can be folded down as well.

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The rear hatch has a handle to make sure your hands stay clean when you close the hatch.

Headroom was JUST adequate for my six foot frame and visibility was excellent from all angles. Everything on the fit and finish front was good as well. I have to say that this is a pretty good interior that I think that buyers will like.

In part four, I’ll look at the technology inside the 500X. Stay tuned!

 

 

Review: 2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on April 11, 2017 by itnerd

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This is the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir I-4 engine that powers the Fiat 500X Lounge. It puts out 180 horsepower and 175 pound feet of torque. It’s mated to a class exclusive 9 speed automatic transmission which can be shifted manually, and the power gets to the road via all four wheels. If any of that sound vaguely familiar, it might be because these are similar to the specs of the Jeep Renegade which is made in the same plant as the 500X in Italy.

This is a competent engine transmission combo. But if you’re looking for neck snapping performance, this isn’t what this vehicle is all about. It’s got torque, but any acceleration that you want take a bit to come online. That’s likely due to the fact that sometimes it takes a bit for the transmission to get into the right gear to leverage the horsepower and torque that the engine has. The transmission swaps cogs smoothly for the most part, but I do note that it can hunt for gears from time to time. Now there is a dial that’s just below the gear shifter that changes the 500X’s personality to help with this. Leave it in its default setting and you get a vehicle that balances power with fuel economy. Turn it to the left and you get sport mode which makes the 500X a more engaging drive that fully leverages the transmission’s capabilities. At the increase of engine noise and the expense of fuel economy of course. Turn it to right and you get Traction+ mode which maximizes low-speed grip on traction-limited surfaces. That helps you to leverage the AWD which for the most part, I could not tell when AWD was on or off which is good thing as the operation of an AWD system should be transparent to the driver. The suspension is firm. Almost too much so actually. Fiat may want to consider dialing the firmness back just a touch. Steering is heavy which I liked, but I wished for a bit more road feel as I felt that I was somewhat disconnected from what the 500X was doing underneath me. While I wouldn’t call it sporty, it does handle pretty decently. It does well getting in and out of tight spots in the city, not to mention that it is easy to park as well. It is also good highway car as it is able to maneuver at highway speeds pretty well.

Fuel economy at the moment is 11 L/100 KM which isn’t great. But it’s all on me as I’ve been making use of sport mode when driving on the highway. I’m going to cut back on that to see if I can do much better as I know from experience that FCA’s 9 speed transmissions deliver good fuel economy.

Some other observations:

  • The engine can be heard under acceleration. But once up to speed, it’s quiet for the most part. However in sport mode, engine noise is omni-present.
  • Tire noise can be heard in the cabin, usually at highway speeds. I attribute that to the winter tires on the 500X. If this had all seasons, it would likely be on the quiet side. There’s also some wind noise at highway speed as well. None of this is objectionable.

In part three, I will be taking a look at the interior which is a mix of funky and fun with a touch of color. Stay tuned!

Review: 2017 Fiat 500X Lounge AWD – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on April 10, 2017 by itnerd

The sub-compact crossover market is highly competitive. More so than the insanely competitive compact crossover market because of the fact that it’s a new market where every manufacturer is trying to get into. Fiat is no different as they’ve got a cute and cheery entry into this market in the form of the 500X:

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If you like the look of the Fiat 500, then the look of the 500X in the form of the Lounge trim level which I am driving this week will appeal to you. It clearly looks like a Fiat as it uses exactly the same design language as the 500. The proportions seem to work and it while it does look cute, it also has the look of a proper crossover as the suspension is raised to give it ground clearance. From the looks department, Fiat has this one nailed.

My review of the Fiat 500X Lounge is made up of five parts:

  • Exterior
  • Engine, transmission, handling, fuel economy, and driving comfort
  • Interior
  • Technology in the vehicle
  • Wrap up

The next part of this review will cover the engine, transmission and driving comfort. Stay tuned for that as it will be a very interesting discussion.

 

Review: Belkin Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch & iPhone

Posted in Products with tags on March 30, 2017 by itnerd

Now that I have an Apple Watch, I needed a way to keep it charged. Yes it does come with a charge cable, but it’s one more cable that I really don’t want to have. So I relegated it to my travel bag. Instead, I picked up this from the Apple Store:

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Meet the Belkin Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch & iPhone which allows you to charge both your iPhone and Apple Watch at the same time. One of the reasons why I went for this is that besides the fact that this is an all-in-one solution, it has this going for it:

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This dial at the back allows you to lower or raise the Lightning connector. Which means that if you use a case on your iPhone, it will still be able to plug in. This solves the number one complaint that I have with most docks which is that I cannot use most of them with my case on the phone. This is a brilliant idea by Belkin. The phone simply plugs into the Lightning port to charge, though I will note that likely because of the case I am using, plugging in requires some degree of precision. The Apple Watch connects via a magnetic charger. While the magnet is strong enough to hold the Apple Watch in place, I recommend that you use the optional watch band support to make sure that it doesn’t fall off.

From a quality standpoint, this dock feels solid and it’s heavy as well. It also feels like a premium product regardless of where you touch it. There is no question in my mind that this will last over the long term. It comes in silver, rose gold, and black for those who want to match the dock to their phone. Gripes? None. Zip. Zero. Nada. As far as I am concerned, Belkin has hit a home run with this product.

The Belkin Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch & iPhone goes for $144.95 CDN which isn’t cheap. But given the quality and the utility that’s on display here, it’s worth every penny as far as I am concerned. Take a look at it if you want an all-in-one charging solution for your iPhone and Apple Watch.

Review: Apple Watch Series 2

Posted in Products with tags on March 27, 2017 by itnerd

I’ve been skeptical about wearables for some time as I figured that they were some sort of fad. But seeing as everything from fitness trackers to more sophisticated devices are popping up on people’s wrists, it made me start to take a closer look at them in general. I soon zeroed in on the Apple Watch as I have an iPhone 7 Plus and the two are made to work together. So, a trip to the Apple Store and 45 minutes of consultation led to this:

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This is the Apple Watch Series 2 in space grey and with the sport band. You get two choices in size so that it fits your wrist perfectly. Mine is the 42mm model, but you can also get a smaller 38mm case as well. You can customize the color and the bands to get the look that you want. In my case, I wanted something plain and ordinary as I wanted it to fly under the radar a bit. It doesn’t feel heavy and I barely notice it on my wrist. It also looks classy regardless of whether I am in a suit or something more casual. One thing to note is the screen does NOT attract fingerprints which helps with the classy look, and is very bright and visible in all lighting conditions. It also has haptic feedback which is very well done. For example, when an alarm goes off it feels like an old school ringing alarm clock. Or if you are using maps and you’re going to make a turn, it mimics the clicking of a turn signal in a car. I found that very useful in the car as it was an extra cue to ensure that I stayed on course. The watch faces have some degree of customization and you can load some apps from your iPhone for use on your Apple Watch. More on that in a second.

Now if you do get an Apple Watch, the Series 2 is the one to get as it has these features that the original Apple Watch doesn’t have:

  • A water-resistant design that includes a “wet mode” which locks the display and disables touch functionality when activated. It also has functionality that uses sound to ensure that the watch is water free after a swim.
  • A GPS chip
  • A swim tracker
  • A much faster processor

All of this means that it should be able to be used without your iPhone to a limited degree. For example, if you want to go on a run and track your route. I should note that the watch does have WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) built in, but it is limited to WiFi networks that the iPhone knows about and aren’t highly secure such as ones that require certificate authentication. That adds to the limited independence that the Apple Watch Series 2 has. I say that, because most apps on the Apple Watch still need a connection to your iPhone to work.

The fitness aspects are one thing that really caught my attention. For example I now use the Activity app to ensure that I move around to burn calories, exercise for at least 30 minutes, and stand and move for at least 1 minute an hour over a 12 hour period. Realistically though, I only accomplish the first and third goals most of the time. The Breathe app is something else that I use daily. In short, it makes you spend a minute to focus on relaxing by guiding you through meditative breathing exercises using visual and haptic cues. It also tracks your heart rate while doing it as well. It’s a great way to give yourself permission to take a minute for yourself. Both of these features I have to admit are making me marginally more active. At least for now as I wonder if the novelty will wear off after a while. I’ve extended the fitness functions of the Apple Watch by using Runtastic Pro and Strava. When I tested the former when nordic skiing, I found the functionality to be flaky as I was able to start recording my ski on the watch, but the app on the watch either stopped or crashed. But the entire 8km route was recorded on my phone. The downside was that I lost heart rate information about 4km in when it presumably crashed. The results were better with Strava as I was able to start a bike ride record it with hear rate info on the watch, and then upload it to my iPhone with no issues. That was very impressive.

Apps on the Apple Watch are kind of hit and miss. The Starbucks app for example allows you to see your star balance and pay for coffee using your Apple Watch. The Domino’s pizza app doesn’t really do much other than allow you to track a pizza that you’ve ordered to see when it will be delivered. Skype does allow you to respond to instant messages and answer a call from your Apple Watch. The built in Messages app uses a combo of pre-canned responses along with the ability to allow you to scribble a response letter by letter, which for anything above two words is too much work in my humble opinion. Finally, the CBC News app for Apple Watch allows you to see top stories. But to read the details, you need to go to your iPhone. Ditto for the CNN and BBC News Apple Watch Apps. As you can see, the app situation largely depends on the apps that you use. However, The Apple Watch Series 2 also comes with Apple Pay which means that you don’t have to whip out your iPhone to pay for something. Though, I will warn you that every time you use your Apple Watch to pay for something, you’ll get a thousand questions as it will floor people that you can actually pay for stuff on your watch. Ditto for using something in Apple Wallet. There is Siri support on the Apple Watch, though you don’t get to hear her voice and you need to be in range of your iPhone to make it work. Oh yeah, answering the phone with the Apple Watch and using it to talk to people is going to make you look like Dick Tracy and attract some quizzical stares. Having said that, an unexpected benefit to having an Apple Watch is that when notifications appear (which are the same ones that show up on your iPhone), you can discreetly look at them on the watch rather than whip out your phone which attracts way more attention. Ditto for e-mails on your VIP list. That’s handy when you don’t want to attract too much attention, but still see if you need to respond to something.

Battery life is impressive. Daily usage left me with about 75% charge remaining at the end of the day. Meaning I could go at least three days between charges. If I did something athletic like running Strava or Runtastic Pro, I’d drop to about 60% to 65% of a charge remaining which is still impressive. To be honest, I was not expecting battery life to be this good.

So, what’s the downside to the Apple Watch? There are several. I’ve covered the app situation which limits how independent the watch can be. On top of that, only iPhone users need apply to get an Apple Watch. Seeing as even Android Wear devices have token support for the iPhone, the fact that the Apple Watch only works on iOS may be seen as a negative. The last downside is price. My Series 2 Apple Watch cost me $529 CDN which is not cheap. And like a luxury car, the price can escalate very quickly depending on what band you want or what color you want. If that price tag scares you, the original Apple Watch which is now called the Series 1 is still available at a much lower price point as you lose GPS and waterproofing among other items. So if you’re into sports, that’s likely not an option. But if you simply want a wearable, and it must be from Apple, you have a choice.

The bottom line is this. The Apple Watch Series 2 is the Apple Watch that you should get if you want a wearable that works well with your iPhone. But keep in mind that the Apple Watch is still evolving as a platform. Thus the value beyond impressing a few people is going to be one of those “your mileage may vary” things that may get better in the future, but not offer you what you might be looking for right now. For me, I’ve found a few fitness and lifestyle related items that makes it a worthy purchase for me. But I suspect that you’ll have to consider what your use case is before you put down your credit card for one.