Okay, let’s take stock for a moment. What’s all this drama about electrification? Are we really going to save the planet by consigning the internal combustion engine to the bin? The latest Fiat 500 Hybrid is the latest step towards this goal from the Italian carmaker.
According to the do-gooders who inhabit this earth, we are. Sure, there’s truth in the fact vehicles pollute, but we’re getting our pants a little too bunched up. I’ve got kids and want the environment to be clean for them and their children – but, come on – getting rid of diesel and petrol motors by 2035 is overdoing it a bit.
The neurosis has led to every significant carmaker suddenly getting all excited about electric cars – and, would you believe it – they’re all launching them. This year, I’ve been to the Honda-e, the Mustang Mach-E and God knows what other ‘e’ launches. It’s kind of predictable that automakers are getting on the bandwagon. They’ve got to – legislation is snapping hard at their heels.
It’s been ramping up towards this for years when you think about it. Cars used to be fun, but now they’re as much of a laugh as large fridges. It’s been about CO2 and taxes for near enough the last two decades. Yawn. And now it’s about batteries and electric motors — double yawn. Even my ten-year-old son is disappointed that the combustion engine is now a “baddie”.
But this is my selfish non-sensible side talking – and I guess it’s time to grow up and join the rest of the conservative “oh, stop being so childish” brigade.
One car that’s been around for ages but still hasn’t become grey, dreary and grown-up is the Fiat 500. We all know it’s not the same car as it was from 1957 to the mid-seventies. And we also know it is the same car that was ushered in during 2007. It’s a Fiat 500, “but not as we know it, Jim”. Whatever, the modern version of the 500 has been as popular as Elvis’ sweaty scarves were at Las Vegas.
The fashionistas have sucked these 500s up like no tomorrow, and they’ve been an Instagrammer’s wet dream since, well, Instagram began. And you know what? I’ve been on Fiat 500 events where so-called “influencers” don’t even have driving licences – yet they love the little car. Or maybe they just love themselves being photographed by the 500?
Anyway, now Fiat is, shock, horror, moving into the oh-so predictable “help, save the planet” mode. It needs to. An all-electric 500e will be out later this year, but to ease the pain, Fiat is ushering in the 500 Hybrid. Don’t panic, it’s the same car, just with a 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor working as one. To cut a very nerdy story short, there’s a battery that stores extra energy created by this electric motor when you decelerate or brake. This energy is then used to restart the car when it’s in stop/start mode, or when the engine needs more oomph. The system also helps prevent vibration on start-up and generally makes for a smoother ride about town.
Fuel economy – something we won’t need to worry about much longer – is up to 53mpg and emissions are down by 30 per cent to 88g/km CO2. Great, isn’t it? We’ll have to trade our fuel economy concerns for range anxiety instead when the 500e comes out.
Oh, but there’s something else about the 500 Hybrid that’s eco-friendly. The seats of the top “Launch Edition” model are made from crap fished out of the sea. Well, not crap exactly – more like plastic detritus. The grade is also painted a fetching green shade ‘Dew Green’ – highlighting the fact that this is the “greenest” 500 to have ever rolled out of Italy – at least until the 500e does. Which, as I say, is soon.
Car reviewed: Fiat 500 Mild Hybrid Launch Edition , on the road price £16,795 0-62mph 13.8secs Top speed 104mph Engine 999cc 3-cylinder and electric motor Euro 6 Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 53.3mpg CO2 emissions 88g/km Max Power 70hp@6000rpm Torque 92Nm@3500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual
Tim Barnes-Clay qualified as a journalist in 1994 and is a member of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers. He initially trained in broadcast journalism and has worked as a reporter and news reader at various radio stations in East Anglia and the Midlands. He has also been a motoring journalist for the Mirror Group’s L!ve TV cable network and a presenter, reporter and producer at ITV Central in Birmingham. Tim is now an automotive writer, focusing on car reviews. He has media accreditation with all motor manufacturers’ press offices, and this enables him to test drive the latest cars. He also attends new vehicle press launches at home and abroad.
“I was lonely driving here tonight so I hugged the road.” – Jay LondonTweet
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