Fiat 500 electric
Won on character
Look at the photos and the answer is immediately clear: yes! The Fiat 500 e has the iconic look of all previous generations, but has been developed further into the present. The headlights are half sunk into the bonnet and, together with the high raised nose with closed grille, provide a tough and confident look. The curve in the lower bumper forms a grin that gives the cheerful look that is characteristic of the 500. A clever detail are the door handles, which are recessed into the doors without complex engineering.
Thanks to its new look, the 500 e appears much larger than before, but in fact the car is only 6 cm longer and wider than the previous generation. The latter will remain on sale alongside this electric version for now, because not everywhere is as far along with electric driving as in Western Europe.
Not only from the outside has the 500 made a leap in time, the interior too has become much more modern. Despite an almost minimalist design, with only a central display and a small number of controls, the 500's playful character has remained. For instance, the colour of the bodywork blends into the top of the dashboard and the dashboard is embraced by a dashing arch at the bottom.
Not only does all this look good on the 500, it is also a lot more practical to use (space) and logical to operate (ergonomics). A gear lever has been dropped. The 500 e is operated with simple buttons for "forward", "reverse" and "park". There are no dials behind the steering wheel, but instead a display. Fiat makes good use of this by offering various layouts where different things take centre stage each time (navigation, fuel consumption or speed).
Fiat is not only late in introducing an all-electric car, Fiat also lagged behind in infotainment and semi-self-driving features for a long time. However, it is making up for that with the 500 e! The top-spec version driven here features a modern infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and induction charging. Driver assistance includes blind spot detection, adaptive cruise-control and automatic braking at danger. An app allows the driver to communicate with the car remotely. This makes sense, for example, to monitor the charging process or to cool or heat the cabin before a drive without compromising the charge in the battery.
As with the previous 500, the seat is relatively high. Even with the seat in the lowest position, the test driver kept looking repeatedly, but fruitlessly, for a way to lower the seat. Fortunately, the steering wheel is sufficiently adjustable to still achieve a good seating positie. On long distances, it is noticeable that the seats are rather "flat" and therefore do not support the body optimally. Also unfortunate: the headrests are just not high enough to ensure the safety of tall drivers. All seats are upholstered in a material extracted from plastic waste from the sea. This fabric has a pleasant feel and also looks so nice that it lifts the entire interior to a higher level.
Given the size of the car, it will come as no surprise that both the rear space and the boot are small. With an accommodating driver and co-driver, it is possible to cover short distances with four people, but it is not comfortable. In the boot, a charging cable can be found in a neat cover (so the boot won't get dirty if the cable does). Under the floor, space has been made for a charging cable that can be used to charge at the socket at home.
The 500 e is available with a standard battery (24 kWh) and standard electric motor (94 hp) or with an extra strong battery (42 kWh) and extra strong electric motor (118 hp). If the former is chosen, the 500 e is very competitively priced and thus barely more expensive than similar petrol-engined cars. Yet the cost per kilometre is much lower. With this, Fiat lowers the threshold to electric driving, and it is precisely with this version that Fiat can bring about the same revolution as with the 1957 archetype model.
However, the test car is the version with the strong battery, strong electric motor, the most rich equipment and even a convertible. This comes with a hefty price tag, but still the running costs are much lower than those of an internal combustion engine car. That the test car is equipped with the powerful engine is quite noticeable: the 500 e is lively and even viciously fast, as only an electric car can be. This applies not only to the sprint from standstill, even from 100 to 120 km/h the 500 e is fast. Because the performance is delivered in silence, it gives a superior feeling over a car that can only do it roaring and bellowing.
Another advantage of electric driving is the ability to drive with a single pedal, and the 500 e offers that possibility. When "range mode" is chosen, the car decellerates strongly when releasing the accelerator. Then kinetic energy is converted into electricity, saving power. Unlike other electric cars, the 500 e does not allow you to set how strongly it decellerates when releasing the accelerator, but the default setting is fortunately not much to complain about. For highway use, the standard mode is the most pleasant. Then, when releasing the accelerator, the 500 e coasts like a conventional car.
With its 42 kWh battery, the 500 e can theoretically cover 300 km (WLTP standard). Despite the fact that the test drive was done in low temperatures (unfavourable for electric cars) and with a wanton driving style (the temptation was too great), the promised range could be achieved. A drive through town took 15 kWh / 100 km. On the motorway, the test car consumed 14.1 kWh / 100 km. Charging can be done at 11 kW at a public charging point and at 85 kW at a fast charger.
The driving pleasure comes not only from the engine, but certainly also from the handling. Because of the batteries, electric cars are heavy. At 1,400 kg, the 500 e is certainly not a lightweight, but the chassis manages to mask this for the most part. Only when deliberately taking a corner far too quickly is it noticeable that the tyres cannot ultimately direct the weight into the desired course. Then the 500 e loses its grip sooner than a lighter car and the electronic stability system has to intervene.
In town, the turning circle is nice and small. Therefore, it is still possible to take a turn at the very last moment. The steering is very light and almost limp, but direct. This gives the 500 e a lively character and the driving pleasure the 500 has been known for for decades!
Is the electric Fiat 500 more fun than just any electric car? Yes, without a doubt. And like the previous generations, the 500 does so with engaging looks and a lively character. Whether the price is also "more fun" depends very much on the version chosen.
The base version with standard battery and light engine beats the competition hands down. The simplest 500 e is not only more fun, but also offers much more car than current electric cars with the same price tag.
When opting for the more powerful, richer versions, the difference from the existing range narrows. Compared to the competition, the 500 e offers similar technology (performance, range, charging options, equipment, safety) but again much more character.
- Iconic design
- Quick and lively
- Rich, modern equipment
- Comfortable chairs
- Light, limp steering
- Intrusive messages from sat nav(switchable)