Currently reading: Fiat 500 reinvented as all-electric city car for 2020
Third-gen 500 offers 199 miles of range, retro styling and roomy interior; launch edition to cost from £29,000
Mark Tisshaw
News
5 mins read
4 March 2020

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.

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The two other modes are Normal and Range, the latter of which significantly boosts the amount of regenerative braking to allow practically single-pedal driving. Interestingly, the now legally mandated low-speed acoustic warning in the new 500 is taken from Nina Rota's score for the film Amacord. "We wanted something that stands out. It's the only engine able to play a melody, like the ringtones of your phone," said Francois.

The 500 is equipped with an 85kW rapid-charging system that can recharge the battery from empty to 80% capacity in 35 minutes and can take just five minutes to provide the car with 31 miles of range, which Fiat claims is more than what is needed for most people’s average daily use.

Launch-edition models, called La Prima, also come bundled with a Fiat-branded wall charging unit that offers basic 3kW charging but can be upgraded to allow 7.4kW charging at home.

The exterior look is evolved from that of the current 500. There are sharper lines, but the same cute style of the original remains in the light and bumper designs. Flush door handles now feature, as do LED headlights and tail-lights.

Although the exterior design is broadly similar, it’s all change inside, addressing one of the ageing current 500’s biggest weak points. The dashboard is much wider and the amount of switchgear significantly reduced for a much cleaner overall look.

Infotainment comes from FCA’s new Uconnect 5 system, controlled by a 10.25in touchscreen that includes a host of functions such as sat-nav, a wi-fi hotspot and wireless Apple CarPlay.

A 2cm increase in wheelbase to 2.32m also boosts interior space, Fiat claims, and the floor-mounted battery pack doesn’t reduce cargo capacity.

Fiat has brought in automated driving technology on the 500, too. It now comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and intelligent speed limit assistance, as well as a driver drowsiness detector and a 360deg parking camera.

The new 500 has made its debut as a convertible, but a fixed-head version is set to follow, and will be shown at a planned launch event in July. Fiat claims the new 500 is the world’s first four-seat convertible EV. Its roof is a sliding fabric top, as before.

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The current 500 has just been updated with a new mild-hybrid petrol engine. It will stay on sale for at least two years alongside the EV to offer a more affordable route into 500 ownership and an option for those not ready to go electric.

Autocar understands that a five-door version of the 500 remains under consideration, using two small rear-hinged doors to grant access to an enlarged rear passenger area.

Fiat has also worked with Giorgio Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell to produce three one-off versions of the new 500, which will be auctioned off for charity.

The 500 was due to be launched at the cancelled Geneva motor show, but was instead revealed in a special online video filmed in Milan, near to the area that has been badly affected by a major outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Francois said: "Milan is the engine of the Italian economy. In this difficult time we wanted to reach our and show energy and optimism. We stand beside Milan."  

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Comments
27

4 March 2020

I'm mainly put off by that interior, considering Honda did such a great job with the E. This new 500 could literally be anything based on the dashboard alone (it's even got Lancia Y vibes). Front end just looks a bit cross. Not a great colour to launch in, either. Fiat should embrace the 500 for what it is, and not try to dress it as some suited urban Tesla. Bit disappointing. 

4 March 2020
Interesting. I’d have said that the last thing the 500 needs is to be even taller, but I suppose it balances out the very significant increase in width (and length). The roll top roof gives it a unique advantage as an EV, for now.

Is that 199 mile range only available in Sherpa mode? Knowing FCA’s past cynicism with testing regimes, I wouldn’t be surprised!

And what will PSA do with this platform? It goes against their EV strategy, but could open up interesting possibilities for new Citroens or Peugeots (not Opel - they haven’t been interesting for a very long time). How about a small urban delivery van or people carrier?

4 March 2020

Nice but won't be so many around then at 29k. What's Fiat going to sell lots of going forward? 

4 March 2020

Tesla shows them the way and FCA comes out with this. If you cant even copy, the best thing is to just get out of the way - just get lost.

4 March 2020
The base model 3 is 5K more with more range, more features, bigger, faster, probably better residuals too.

The usual suspects really are years behind Tesla.

Personally, I'll stick to my petrol engines thanks :D

4 March 2020
flukey wrote:

The base model 3 is 5K more with more range, more features, bigger, faster, probably better residuals too.

The usual suspects really are years behind Tesla.

Personally, I'll stick to my petrol engines thanks :D

The Fiat 500 is way too expensive, I too would go for the Tesla model 3 at that price point. But to say the usual suspects are way behind simply isn’t true. The Jaguar I Pace for example is a lot cheaper, faster, better looking and better handling than the Tesla Model X.

4 March 2020
flukey wrote:

The base model 3 is 5K more with more range, more features, bigger, faster, probably better residuals too.

The usual suspects really are years behind Tesla.

Personally, I'll stick to my petrol engines thanks :D

Erm a model 3 for £34k ... If only, the base model is £42k.

5 March 2020
Thumper wrote:
flukey wrote:

The base model 3 is 5K more with more range, more features, bigger, faster, probably better residuals too.

The usual suspects really are years behind Tesla.

Personally, I'll stick to my petrol engines thanks :D

Erm a model 3 for £34k ... If only, the base model is £42k.

Erm £39.9k (using the same pricing method as the Article) is what you'd pay for a base Model 3

4 March 2020
I must say a very negative view. This Fiat is the ideal city car its vibrant and has a Joie de Vivre a great interior compared with the fridge like interior of the Tesla, The Tesla unlike the Fiat is not really city friendly . This Fiat is fast charging and and so Italian in its charm as I said much more fun than the cold and miserable looking Tesla

4 March 2020
Antony Riley wrote:

I must say a very negative view. This Fiat is the ideal city car its vibrant and has a Joie de Vivre a great interior compared with the fridge like interior of the Tesla, The Tesla unlike the Fiat is not really city friendly . This Fiat is fast charging and and so Italian in its charm as I said much more fun than the cold and miserable looking Tesla

Exactly. Not only is this cute little Fiat much more affordable than a Tesla, it's infinitely more desirable. Looks like a great little car for urban life.

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