Can the electric 500 impress in ways other EV city cars don’t? We’re finding out

Why we’re running it: To find out if the reborn 500 in fully electric guise is just as charming to live with as it is to look at

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Fiat 500 EV: Month 1

Frosty reception - 12 January 2022

Cold weather hasn’t been kind to the Fiat’s range estimate, which is now hovering around 155 miles on a full charge. On the plus side, not having a massive battery means not having to wait an age to charge it, even on a 7kW connection. I accrued around 25 miles of range on a recent 20-minute shopping trip – far better than the paltry single-digit gains that I’ve seen from larger EVs.

Mileage: 1260

Back to the top

Welcoming the 500 to the fleet - 5 January 2022

It’s rare that my wife’s reaction to learning what my next long-term test car will be is anything other than indifference, but she was genuinely excited to hear that I would be running an electric Fiat 500 for the next few months.

The fact that we own a petrol-powered Fiat 500 ourselves probably helped. The idea of trying something ‘familiar but different’ is much less intimidating for a non-car person than some of the large SUVs I’ve brought home previously.

Her reaction also speaks volumes about the wide-ranging appeal of Fiat’s retro-chic city car, which is fast approaching its first year on sale in all-electric form. Fiat 500 owners are a diverse bunch, you see. They’re not limited to a single age group or gender, and there’s a great many of them, with the model making regular appearances on best-seller lists across Europe. Given that Fiat hasn’t dramatically mixed up the formula for the all-electric version, that success looks set to continue.

The new 500 sits on an all-new platform that can better accommodate batteries, but it’s only marginally larger than the combustion-engined version. The line-up remains varied, with your choice of hard-top or landaulet, and the styling is definitely more evolution than revolution – albeit with a few modern twists to help the car compete with the growing number of style-led superminis. Size-wise, it rivals the Honda E and Mini Electric, but it can be configured with a big enough battery to challenge larger models, including the Peugeot e-208 and Renault Zoe.

Back to top

Our car comes with the larger, 42kWh battery option, which means it should be better suited to longer-distance driving – or at the very least require fewer trips to a plug socket – and an electric motor that delivers 118bhp. That’s almost twice the horsepower of the 1.2-litre petrol unit that propels our own 500.

It arrived with us in mid-range Icon trim, which comes fairly well equipped as standard. Premium touches such as the electronic buttons in place of manual door handles and the pebble-like, soft- touch keyfob remote give a great first impression. The interior also feels like a major improvement over that of the old car, with nicer materials and great attention to detail, like the ‘Made in Torino’ graphical Easter- eggs hiding in the door pockets.

The digital instrument cluster is minimal yet informative, and the accompanying 10.5in infotainment touchscreen gets sharp graphics and fast input responses that are unmatched in the city car class. Happily, the simplified dashboard isn’t completely devoid of physical buttons and makes good use of space to maximise oddments storage. That’s handy, because boot space is just as limited as it is in the petrol-powered 500, and now it has to accommodate both the three-pin and Type 2 charging cables.

Options? Very few. Discounting the Glacier Blue paint (£600) and 17in alloy wheels (£500), the only noteworthy additions are the £450 Winter Pack, which brings a heated windscreen and heated front seats, and £130 wireless smartphone charging function – for once a genuinely useful inclusion, thanks to the presence of wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There are plenty of larger (and far more expensive) cars that have yet to catch up in this area.

Back to top

Icon-spec cars get only parking sensors as standard, instead of cameras, but I don’t expect to feel hard done by: even though the EV has grown a little, it remains a very compact car with excellent all-round visibility. You still sit very high but the driving position isn’t any worse than the petrol 500’s, which is impressive, given that you’re now perched atop a skateboard stuffed with battery cells.

First impressions have been overwhelmingly positive. The 500’s rapid 0-30mph acceleration lets you nip away from traffic lights almost immediately, and it doesn’t feel out of its depth once you reach the motorway – although I’ve yet to see what impact a 70mph cruise will have on range. The seats are comfortable, with just enough leg room for a six-footer, and while overall ride quality seems pretty firm, it’s proving to be an excellent commuter. We will see how it fares over longer distances later: I have a few trips planned that will require a mid-journey charge.

The biggest challenge so far has been learning to judge the regenerative braking, which is minimal in the Normal driving mode but quite forceful in the Range and Sherpa settings. It’s strong enough to turn the 500 into a one-pedal car, but because it gets a lot more sensitiveat slower speeds, I’ve been finding it brings me to a halt just before a junction, rather than at it. This is especially true in reverse, where I would prefer a little more rollback. It can make parking a jerky experience.

Back to top

Only a week after I took delivery, the car was called into action for a full road-test review. The fact that I missed it while it was gone certainly bodes well for the next few months.

Second Opinion

Having driven a 500 with the little battery, I think Tom will be grateful for the range of his car. The 24kWh option really is good only for city work, especially in the winter. But what a joyous thing it was when I drove one around Cambridge. It’s hard not to be seduced by the 500’s charm.

Piers Ward

Back to the top

Fiat 500 42kWh Icon specification

Specs: Price New £28,495 Price as tested £30,175 Options Glacier Blue paint £600, 17in alloy wheels £500, Winter Pack £450, wireless mobile charging £130

Test Data: Engine asynchronous electric motor Battery 42kWh Power 118bhp Torque 162lb ft Kerb weight 1365kg Top speed 93mph 0-62mph 9.0sec Range 199 miles CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

Back to the top

Join the debate

Comments
10
Add a comment…
gavsmit 9 January 2022

A lot of car magazines raved about the Fiat 500e when launched but I suspected it was a case of style over substance if you concentrate on what really matters and the price of what you're actually getting.

And that suspicion appears to have been correct as a recent 5th Gear Recharged episode rated it as one of the worst small EVs on test when taking into consideration driving experience, practicality, range, performance and value for money.

And rear windows that don't wind down in a £30k car is unforgivable. 

si73 19 January 2022
I don't disagree re overpriced cars in general, but the standard range car is cheaper than its style lead Mini and honda e equivalents with a similar range and no one buys a city car expecting masses of space and practicality, for example a petrol Mini is more expensive than a bigger fiesta and far less practical, and as for the no winding rear windows, I can't think of any 3 door cars with windy rear windows, including 2+2 coupes, I may be wrong but I think a lot of more expensive 2+2 or 2 door coupes have fixed rear windows, Minis are available for more than £30k and without winding rear windows.
Stockholm Calling 8 January 2022

Don't want to sound like a stuck record, and I know that prices have gone up a lot, but the monthly pcp payment is far more important a figure than the list price these days. Nobody is going into a Fiat dealer and plonking down 30k cash on a new 500e. 

artill 8 January 2022

I can see the appeal for some, but wow, its VERY expensive.