The New Fiat 500e. At a glance, the small glamorous Italianate city car seems familiar.
Cute and curvaceous, it’s a Fiat 500, a model that’s been a significant hit for Fiat Auto for many years now. However, look closer, for this turns out to be a very different kind of Fiat 500. Yes, it’s the all-new pure electric version, just launched, which takes the much loved, winning 500 formula up to a whole new level for 2021.
Fiat has a lot riding on this third-generation 500e, which is the first all-electric car to be designed and built in Turin from the tyres up, based on a fresh modular platform.
First time out, the signs are good. The 500 zooms along silently, engagingly, through the city, offering three different EV driving modes to choose from. Acceleration is instant (it’s electric, after all). Comfort and refinement levels also score well.
So there’s a welcome high-grade look and feel to this new Fiat bambini, which kicks off with two battery options – 24 kWh or 42 kWh. Choose the former and there’s an official driving range of up to 118 miles.
Go for the 42 kWh battery, powering the 500 I’m driving here, and the range shoots up to a more welcome 199 miles on the WLTP cycle.
Or even stretching all the way to 285 miles, says Fiat, if you only drive in the city. My, that does sound good…
Your next decision is body style. There are two to choose from: hatchback or convertible, linked to four trim levels – Action, Passion, Icon and La Prima.
Prices start at a highly competitive £20,495 for the entry-level Action (after UK Plug-in Car Grant).
Today, though, the focus is on the 500 with the up-spec 42 kWh battery. This combines with a 118bhp (87 kW) motor to give the Fiat a very real turn of pace.
Visually, this hi-fashion Fiat certainly catches the eye in the street, although so do millions of other Fiat 500s that have come before, some might say, so where’s the real progress?
Well, check out the all-new technology and excellent design touches on this electric 500; it’s now a bigger, wider car than before and wears a ‘500’ logo on the nose as opposed to the usual Fiat badge (which is on the back).
Smart and airy, the cabin is all new. The latest full-width dash is unquestionably a significant improvement. I love some of the touches like the piano key buttons for park, reverse, neutral, drive – also the small electric internal door buttons.
Inside, you get extra leg and shoulder space compared to former gen 500s. That said, room in the back is pretty limited.
Connectivity and kit levels are well up across the range, but only the Icon and La Prima grades get a classy central 10.25 in high-definition touch screen connected to Fiat’s new Uconnect 5 infotainment system. This works fine and is set up to connect a smartphone in as little as five secs.
Charging. The new 500e comes with an 85kW fast charger system designed to give you 80 per cent battery capacity in just 30 minutes on all but the base Action model.
Even faster, a 5-minute charge lets you travel 30 miles. Separate from this, as you’d expect, a suite of home charging solutions are also up for grabs.
Driving through leafy Cambridge in this 500e Convertible Icon (expected to be range best-seller), the Fiat feels polished, agile, easy to manoeuvre and of course….silent.
Performance is surprisingly punchy, but then that’s as it should be, considering there’s a wall of 220Nm of torque available right from the off.
Time to try the different driving modes. In Normal, well, the 500e feels like a typical modern EV city car: efficient, noiseless, emission-free, easy and fussless to drive.
But switch to range and now you’re into one-pedal driving and strong regenerative braking (recovering energy to the maximum) when you lift off to slow the car down.
This regenerative braking effect is pretty strong, maybe too strong, and does take some getting used to.
Sherpa mode marshals the different components to make sure the Fiat 500 gets to its sat nav destination, or nearest charging station, while there’s still charge left.
Out in the country, that feeling of integrity between body, steering, suspension remains impressive; although riding on (stylish) 16inch wheels, the Fiat does get a touch bouncy at speed. Start to push and the previously nicely communicative steering starts to lose its edge, especially around dead centre.
Rolling the electric roof back on this 500e Icon convertible was a doddle. Fiat’s had lots of practice with this of course down the years and it works and looks a treat.
Big picture. Fiat has created something special here. The 500 outpaces the Honda e on price and performance and is both newer and more interesting than the Renault Zoe.
That said, at £31,898 as tested, with options, this Fiat 500 Convertible Icon would hardly seem a low-cost car for the people as the 500 has been over its storied 60+ year history.
However, here and now, this smart new electric warrior, the Fiat 500, is unquestionably all that and more and up there with the best in class. Benvenuto!
As a motoring journalist, he’s been writing about cars for a long time, starting in London in fact around the time the Sex Pistols first began limbering up….
Thereafter his journalistic remit has covered both new and classic cars, some historic motorsport reporting plus a long spell in Tokyo, covering the Japanese car industry for a range of global media outlets. Peter is a car writer and tester in the UK. Gooner, Alfisti and former Tokyo resident. If it has wheels, then he is interested.
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