Currently reading: New Fiat Panda could launch as early as 2021
Fiat Centoventi concept showcases customisable EV city car with a range of 62 to 310 miles and a series of upgradeable parts
James Attwood, digital editor
News
5 mins read
6 March 2019

The Fiat Concept Centoventi electric city car unveiled at the Geneva motor show could reach production as a stripped back, highly customisable reinvention of the Panda as soon as 2021 - but only if potential buyers signal a love for radical concept and the the firm’s FCA parent company gives the green light quickly to the significant investment required to build it.

The car, said by Fiat brand boss Olivier Francois to have been first conceived four years ago under the codename CC4, referencing city car, fourth generation (there have been three previous Pandas), has been conceived to deliver both a minimalist but still cool take on the city car, while also delivering on the FCA Group's need to put electrified vehicles on sale in order to avoid tough regulatory fines for missing upcoming CO2 targets.

“It is driven by a desire to capture the essence of one end of the Fiat spectrum, while at the same time - if we’re being honest - to build our electrified portfolio and avoid any fines,” said Francois. “I prefer to focus on the former, as this is a car that I have watched being developed with great passion, but it is also important that I acknowledge the pressures, especially as they might help drive the investment decisions I need to get it made. Whether we like it or not, they are focusing our energies.”

Boosting the chances of Concept Centoventi, named in recognition of the Italian firm's 120th anniversary, reaching production is the announcement that the FCA Group has developed a new, EV-only platform that will underpin an all-new electrified Fiat 500 that will be unveiled at next year’s Geneva show. Francois admitted the two cars could potentially share the same basic underpinnings as a result, although he declined to confirm it.

The Centoventi - 3680mm long, 1527mm high and 1846mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2430mm - is designed to be highly customisable and upgradeable. Fiat’s suggestion is that it will be offered in base form with a single battery that gives 62 miles of range. Owners can buy or rent up to three extra underfloor batteries, along with one that slides under the driver's seat, to extend the range to up to 310 miles. Fiat says that the underfloor batteries can be added by a garage in "under five minutes".

The charging port is located in front of the windscreen, and features a cable reel under the bodywork, eliminating the need to carry cables in the boot. However, Fiat has not given any technical details of the car's electric powertrain. 

Strikingly, the four-seat concept version displayed at Geneva features a minimal dashboard and a removable passenger seat. There are notches on the dashboard on which buyers can fix features and accessories purchased separately. Fiat says it has patented the interlocking mounting system, which it likened to Lego blocks.

A range of seat types – from full seats to baby seats and laptop tables – were displayed, too, with the seats made from eco-sustainable materials. The machine is designed to use a smartphone or a tablet as a digital display screen alongside a 10-inch built-in unit. A more traditional 20-inch digital dashboard can be chosen as an option.

Fiat says it will offer the car in a single colour only. "You could say the model for this was the Model T. But it’s a a Model T in an iPhone case,” said Francois. “It is a something unique to Fiat to be able to produce a car that is both spartan and cool, I think,” said Francois. “The 2CV is perhaps a car that could do the same - but Fiat has the  brand width to do it too. It is the embodiment of what Fiat does best: less is more.”

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Helping buyers liven up the car’s look, Fiat says it will offer a range of four coloured roof, bumper, wheel covers and bodywork wraps, to make the car highly customisable. It will be sold with a removable roof, on which buyers can choose to add a sunroof, soft-top or luggage rack, among other options. There is also an optional roof featuring a solar panel, which can generate 50 watts that will power the cars's digital display under the rear tailgate.

That digital display can be used to display social media messages, or be used as an advertising sign – although Fiat says this will only work when the car is stationary.

Mopar, FCA's parts firm, will also produce a range of 114 accessories, and Fiat says the car will support a new business model based around e-commerce. Other custom parts will be offered and François said buyers will be able to select them from dealers, mobile fitters or second-hand, or 3D-printed parts if they have the capability.

Francois described the concept as 90% production ready, highlighting the suicide doors as likely to revert to a more conventional design as a result of the weight or cost that would need to be added in order for them to reach production.

The third-generation Panda was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2011. However, it hit the headlines last December when safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded it a zero-star rating.

Francois confirmed  that an eventual production version of the car would be "the least expensive BEV on the market", citing its modular battery design - with a low basic range - as a reason for making that claim. Although he would not confirm a figure, saying that it required testing with customers first, Francois indicated it could cost as little as £15,000 in base form, in line with similarly sized but conventionally engined cars today. 

The current Panda remains a strong seller for Fiat, especially in Italy. Around 170,000 Pandas were sold in Europe last year and registrations this January were up year on year.

The third-generation Panda was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2011. However, it hit the headlines last December when safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded it a zero-star rating.

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