The Fiat 500 Electric is the quintessential city car.
- Gorgeous design throughout
- Great to drive in town
- Two battery choices
- Rear seats are tiny
- Boot space is minimal
- Smaller battery range is limiting
Fiat 500 Electric Introduction
The Fiat 500 is a car that needs no introduction. A household name, the Fiat 500 is synonymous with style and now its third incarnation comes as a fully electric model. Still as cute as ever, its compact dimensions make it adept at city life, happily squeezing into spaces that SUVs can only dream of using. A contemporary interior includes the latest in-car connectivity, and of course, there are numerous specification options available.
Design and Specs
Fiat has done a commendable job in packaging the battery pack into the floor of the 500 Electric without altering the car’s overall proportions. Still firmly fitting into the city car segment, the Fiat is only 3.6 metres in length — more than a metre shorter than a Tesla Model 3.
While every bit of the car is new, it is still instantly recognisable as a Fiat 500. Distinctive headlights bisected by the bonnet line are some of the neat design flourishes, as are the indicators on the front wings that extend outwards and form part of a detail line that runs along the car’s shoudlerline. Fiat will continue to sell the combustion-engined 500 alongside this new model in the interim, and that version now has mild-hybrid electrification.
Other modern touches include ‘hidden’ door handles, where you reach in under the door and press an actuator to open it. Similarly, a push button ‘pops’ the door open when exiting the car. Several easter eggs are dotted throughout the cabin, such as a ‘Made in Torino’ sign and graphic of an original Fiat 500 on the base of the interior door handle and a skyline of Turin across the wireless charging pad.
A major plus of the 500 Electric Cabriolet is that it affords its owner the benefits of open-top driving without losing and of the structural or practical aspects that the regular hardtop offers. A touch of the button retracts the central fabric roof section, and a second press then sees the rear window fold flat as the roof retracts fully to sit on top of the rear window line. The entire process takes around 25 seconds and can do so while the car is driving at speeds up to 100km/h, removing the risk of getting caught out in a quick rain shower.
Battery and Range
There are two battery sizes available with the Fiat 500 Electric. The first is a 24kWh unit capable of a combined driving range of up to 190 kilometres and up to 257 kilometres in city driving. This version is also capable of DC rapid charging at up to 50kW. A 93hp electric motor drives the front wheels and generates 220Nm of torque, which is ample pulling power for a car of this size. It can accelerate up to 100km/h from rest in 9.5 seconds and has a top speed of 135km/h. This smaller battery does put the 500 Electric into a more affordable price bracket, but the range is somewhat limited and puts it on par with others such as the Honda E and Mazda MX-30.
The second battery option gives the 500 Electric a much greater scope for operating thanks to its 42kWh (37.3kWh usable) capacity. That is enough, Fiat claims, to provide a driving range of up to 322 kilometres on a single charge in WLTP conditions, and as much as 460 kilometres in city driving. Outright performance doesn’t differ a great deal. The electric motor has a slightly higher output of 118hp but the same 220Nm of torque, and it is only half a second faster as accelerating to 100km/h. This version also has a higher peak rapid charge rate of 85kW, enough to bring the battery back up to 80 percent in as little as 35 minutes.
As you may have guessed from its exterior dimensions, the 500 Electric isn’t exactly cavernous inside, but if you’re rarely going to have passengers riding in the rear seats, then it nails its brief as a city car. There are good levels of interior space up front, partly thanks to a row of buttons replacing the traditional gear selector.
A 10.25-inch touchscreen handles all infotainment functions and wirelessly runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The native Uconnect 5 system is much more advanced than previous offerings from Fiat in this department, and the instrument display is a 7-inch affair that is crisp and clear. The two-spoke steering wheel seems to be just the right size, and the buttons affixed to it all feature a glossy finish that looks good and echoes the strong sense of this being much more of an upmarket car akin to the MINI Electric.
You’re unlikely to do a whole lot of shopping on a trip to Ikea in a Fiat 500 Electric. The boot measures 185 litres and, in the hatchback version, is more easily accessible. With the convertible version tested here, the boot lid hinges upwards due to how the fabric roof section retracts, so it can be trickier to load in bulkier items.
Fun is the word that best describes what the Fiat 500 Electric is like to drive. Zipping away from the line every time a traffic light goes green, the plucky Fiat never fails to put a smile on your face. It feels much quicker than the performance figures on paper would suggest too. This more potent of the two delivers power instantaneously, so only a gentle prod of the accelerator pedal is required when going for a gap or quickly overtaking something.
There’s little point in comparing this 500 Electric to the regular petrol-flavoured model as the two are very different cars under the skin. Having its battery sandwiched within the floor keeps much of the car’s mass nice and low, resulting in safe and stable handling. A light steering setup adds to the 500’s sense of agility, while its compact tyreprint, short wheelbase and steering lock provide ample manoeuvrability.
It also rides quite well for such a car, seeming quite solid on the move. The electric powertrain is quiet, and even at motorway speeds, the Fiat remains composed and refined. A trio of drive modes is selectable, with the ‘Sherpa’ setting maximising the battery range to ensure you reach your destination. There is a strong energy recovery, which translates to a one-pedal driving sensation that is most useful in urban settings.
Fiat 500 Electric Summary
Unquestionably cool, the Fiat 500 Electric sits at the junction of effortless Italian chic and modern design. It is almost free of rivals on looks alone, and a positive and engaging driving experience adds to its substance. If you’re going to be driving around the city, the Fiat 500 Electric is one of the best ways you could do so.