THERE is no doubt that without the diminutive 500, Fiat would have fallen long ago.

Sixty years on and the current incarnation of the cute Cinquecento continues to account for 50 per cent of sales.

Sixty years on and the current incarnation of the cute Cinquecento continues to account for 50 per cent of Fiat's sales

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Sixty years on and the current incarnation of the cute Cinquecento continues to account for 50 per cent of Fiat’s sales

But times are changing.

Having evolved the 500 over the past few years into a couple of bulbous crossover-cum-SUVs, the 500L and the 500X, the latter of the two now represents some 15 per cent of Fiats leaving showrooms.

And that number is growing.

The 500X is also responsible for bringing, proportionally, the most new bums on seats by luring in those who’ve never owned a Fiat before.

This is the latest addition to the range – the 500X Sport.

The Italians have tuned the suspension, dropped the ride height and recalibrated the steering on the new 500X Sport

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The Italians have tuned the suspension, dropped the ride height and recalibrated the steering on the new 500X Sport

And it’s here to try even harder to convert you.

In line with its big chrome badge, it does look a little sportier and feels a little sportier – but it’s no faster.

So don’t confuse it with being a hot SUV.

What the Italians have done is tuned the suspension, dropped the ride height by 13mm and recalibrated the steering.

There’s a choice of two turbocharged petrol engines to pick from: 1-litre (120hp) with a good old six-speed manual, or, for £3k more, a 1.3-litre (150hp) with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The cosy cabin feels more special with a flat-bottomed Alcantara sports steering wheel and Alcantara-covered binnacle

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The cosy cabin feels more special with a flat-bottomed Alcantara sports steering wheel and Alcantara-covered binnacle

I’d save myself the extra outlay while benefitting from the improved fuel economy and plump for the little manual.

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The stick-shift alone makes it feel more sporty.

Standard tech bundled in the Sport includes traffic light recognition, lane assist, climate control, rear parking sensors and cruise control.

There’s also the brand’s standard 7in touch-screen infotainment system which, although it’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, does lag a tad behind some rivals.

What helps the Sport rise above the alternative Cross and Urban trim grades are the little touches.

The 500X Sport's handling may be ever so slightly improved but tricky to accurately judge without back-to-back testing of a non-Sport 500X

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The 500X Sport’s handling may be ever so slightly improved but tricky to accurately judge without back-to-back testing of a non-Sport 500X

It features bespoke 18in alloys (I’d do 19in for an extra £350), body-coloured side skirts and arches and a faux diffuser rear bumper with twin chrome exhaust.

Inside, the cabin gets a tad cosier with black headlining and feels more special with a flat-bottomed Alcantara sports steering wheel, Alcantara-covered binnacle and, naturally, a few logos here and there to literally spell it out.

Its handling may be ever so slightly improved but tricky to accurately judge without back-to-back testing of a non-Sport 500X, which has never been ground-breaking but certainly acceptable for your average small family in a bit of a hurry.

The new model features bespoke 18in alloys, body-coloured side skirts and arches and a faux diffuser rear bumper with twin chrome exhaust

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The new model features bespoke 18in alloys, body-coloured side skirts and arches and a faux diffuser rear bumper with twin chrome exhaust
The 500X Sport has standard tech including traffic light recognition, lane assist, climate control, rear parking sensors and cruise control

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The 500X Sport has standard tech including traffic light recognition, lane assist, climate control, rear parking sensors and cruise control

But what it will be bought for, and small extra premium paid for, is its smarter looks.

Always fancied a nippy Fiat 500 but consider it just too small for your needs, let alone anyone else’s?

The 500X should mark the Sport.

Key facts:Fiat 500X Sport

Price: £23,560

Engine: 1-litre turbo petrol

Power: 120hp, 190Nm

0-62mph: 10.7 secs

Top speed: 119mph

Economy: 45mpg

CO2: 141g/km

Out: Now

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