Fiat’s new 500 city car will be electric only when it reaches the UK early next year.
Arriving first in convertible form, the new 500 is only the second iteration of the Italian icon after the original of 1957. It sticks closely to the look of the model that was launched in 2007 and went on to become an incredible sales success for Fiat.
Although the styling suggests otherwise, it is all change under the skin for the 500. This is the first dedicated electric car from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and it makes use of a new architecture that allows the 500’s footprint to grow by 6cm in length and 6cm in width, to 3.63m long and 1.69m wide. It is also 4cm taller than before, at 1.53m.
Fiat boss Olivier Francois said the new 500 was "not just the third generation of the car, but the third reincarnation of a spirit.
"We're all in. It's all electric and only electric from day one. With the 500's business success that's a bold decision. But it doesn't feel the time to be timid. This car is not just for 2020, but the next decade. It's built new from the ground up."
The electric 500 will go on sale in the UK in the first quarter of next year, with production taking place at Fiat’s plant in Mirafiori, Italy. Pre-ordering has opened for the 'La Prima' high-spec launch edition convertible variant, which costs from £29,000 including the UK government's plug-in grant. The La Prima models will be highly limited in supply, with 500 assigned for the UK.
Pricing for entry levels is expected to be more competitive. Full details of the full 500 range, including the hatch version, are due to be revealed at a full launch event in July.
The powertrain of the new 500 includes a 117bhp electric motor and a 42kWh lithium ion battery pack. The all-important claimed range figure stands at up to 199 miles on the WLTP test cycle – significantly up on the 144 miles offered by the new Mini Electric and its 29kWh battery pack and more in line with the 211 miles from the Peugeot e-208 supermini.
The new 500 can crack 0-62mph in 9.0sec but has a much brisker 0-31mph time of 3.1sec. Top speed is limited to 93mph, although that drops to 50mph when the most eco-focused of the three driving modes, called Sherpa, is selected. This reduces power, throttle response and top speed and switches off the climate control and other ancillary electronics.
Named after Himalayan Sherpas, who guide expeditions to a safe arrival, the mode is designed to reduce range anxiety and ensure the driver is able to reach a charging point should the battery run low.