Currently reading: Autocar Awards 2022: Fiat 500 wins best small car
The 500 leads the way for small electric cars, retaining its fun factor with a minimal footprint

We could have given the small car award to the Fiat 500 simply by virtue of it being small. It may sound like a low bar, but so many makers of supposedly small cars forget about that. As subsequent generations

of cars get bigger and wider, and hatchbacks get replaced with equivalent but slightly larger SUVs, it’s heartening to see that Fiat still values compact vehicles.

Read more on all the Autocar Awards winners here

Our roads aren’t getting any wider, and the 500’s dimensions are as useful on Turin’s streets as they are down an English country lane. As the world goes electric, an SUV more conveniently hides a bulky battery pack, but the new 500 shows it doesn’t have to be that way.

The 500 shows the direction for small electric cars (and therefore small cars in general). A bespoke platform means there’s room for a decent-size battery, giving a usable real-world range of 140 miles (even if that’s some way short of its official 199 miles), and the base Action model is one of the most affordable EVs on the market.

Where the 500 truly differentiates itself is that it is genuinely joyful, to look at and to drive. The old petrol- powered 500, which is still available as a mild hybrid, was a sales success, not because it was an especially good car but because its design was a brilliant reinterpretation of the old classic.

The new one does the same for the electric age: it’s recognisable, it’s retro yet modern, it’s cute and it’s distinctive. It earned Klaus Busse, Fiat’s vice-president of design at the time, the Design Hero prize in last year’s Autocar Awards.

Unlike the old 500, the new one is great to drive, too. It’s a competitive electric car, and its small dimensions and good visibility make it extremely manoeuvrable in the city. It exceeds expectations on the open road as well. The motorway is not its natural habitat yet the 500 still copes admirably, but what is remarkable is that the 500 is also an absolute hoot to drive on a twisty road.

The battery in the floor has banished any top-heaviness, and the stiff suspension, pointy steering and impressive lateral grip give the responses a keen driver wants.

A little more power, some sporty seats, some steering feel and a more playful balance would turn it into a very convincing warm hatch. Clearly Fiat is now being run by people who like cars, because brand boss Olivier François confirmed they’re working on an Abarth version. Might we see an electric affordable driver’s car in a few years? It’d be about time.


Read our review

Car review

Mild hybrid power gives Fiat's core model a chance to outlive its famous 1950s forebear

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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