Fiat 500 Electric Review
The Fiat 500 is reborn as an electric car. It has an impressive 199-mile range and retains its iconic good looks, but is now bigger, heavier and pricier than ever before.
What's not so good
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The Fiat 500 has been reborn as an electric car, but it keeps its all-important retro-chic looks and you can still have it as a hard-top or cabriolet. It is bigger and heavier than before, though, and competes with some strong EV alternatives such as the Honda e, Mini Electric, Renault Zoe and Peugeot e-208.
Rather than add a bunch of fiddly details to the outside, Fiat’s gone back to basics and made the 500 look smoother, more rounded and even more minimalist than before. It’s like your grandad suddenly ditching the dyed comb-over and shaving his head instead. Smoother, simpler, cooler.
For starters, the old car’s headlights have been ditched in favour of two semi-circular lamps with a curved daytime-running lights that shine out through the bonnet.
The flush door handles and hidden indicators are pretty much the only difference you’ll spot from the side, and the lack of an exhaust pipe is a dead giveaway that you’re looking at the new car from behind.
OK, so the new Fiat 500 looks pretty similar to the old car on the outside, but it’s a totally different story inside. There’s a brand-new seven-inch digital dial display instead of traditional dials, and you get a big 10-inch touchscreen on the dashboard with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The physical controls for the heating and air conditioning are grouped together under the central touchscreen and there’s a storage tray where you’d find a gear lever in a petrol- or diesel-powered car.
Space in the front is good for two adults and there are decent storage options, but the back seats cater for two only, and they’ll have to be quite small people at that. Fitting a child seat is pretty much impossible, too, while the 500’s boot is good for the weekly shop, but not much else. It is a city car, after all.
If you aren't ready to go electric, fear not: Fiat will continue to sell the 'old' 500 powered by its mild-hybrid petrol engine alongside this new model for a few years yet.
The new Fiat 500 comes with either a 23.7kWh battery with a 115-mile range or a 42kWh battery that gives it a 199-mile range. That’s better than a Honda e or Smart EQ, but worse than a Renault Zoe. You can recharge your 500 using a three-pin socket, but that’ll take all night – literally. You’ll be better off getting the optional 7.4kW wall box that’ll fully charge its batteries in a little over six hours.
You’ll also want to shell out extra for the 11kW charging cable, which will speed things up nicely – although it’s annoying Fiat charges extra for it at all.
The quickest way to charge the larger battery in the new Fiat 500 is using an 85kW public fast charger. These can top it up from empty to 80% charged in 35 minutes, and add a useful 30 miles of charge in just five minutes.
The Fiat 500 comes with either a 95hp motor that can hustle it from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, or a 118hp electric motor with enough poke to accelerate it from 0-62mph in nine seconds. That doesn’t sound particularly fast but the new 500 will do 0-30mph in three seconds, which is nippy in town and faster than most small city cars.
Also handy in town is the new 500’s automatic emergency braking that’ll spot pedestrians and cyclists in your path and automatically apply the brakes if it thinks you’re about to hit them. There’s also adaptive cruise control that’ll accelerate and brake for you on motorways to keep you a safe distance from the car ahead.
There are three driving modes, Normal, Range and Sherpa. Range mode uses the motor to recharge the batteries when you brake to help boost the Fiat 500’s range, while Normal model tones down this ‘regenerative braking’ effect.
The Sherpa function limits the Fiat 500’s top speed to 50mph (down from 93mph) and turns off the air conditioning. These extreme measures will be useful in an emergency when you really need to eke out every last mile to reach a charging point.
So, the Fiat 500 is now an electric city car, but we think you’ll agree it’s a good one provided you don’t need lots of space or expect the last word in interior quality. If you just love the looks, then watch our full video review above for a closer look or head to our deals page.
The Fiat 500 is comfortable enough in the front, but tight in the back and the boot is pretty small too. It’s a case of style over substance.
Practicality is pretty decent, as long as you’re sitting in the front. There’s good adjustment for the steering column and the front seats, and even taller drivers will have plenty of headroom. Of course, you can always go for the convertible model, in which case headroom isn’t an issue when the roof’s back.
However, anyone sat in rear seats will feel pretty hard done by. The Fiat 500 is a three-door only, so getting into and out of the back seats requires quite a degree of flexibility. Once you’re in there you don’t have a great deal of space, either for your legs or your head.
Worse still, there isn’t much in the way of storage spaces, and there’s a notable absence of USB charging points. The rear windows don’t even open, so you’ll feel like a real second-class passenger.
Should you wish to put a rear-facing child seat in the rear, you’ll actually have to move the front seat forward quite a way, which is less than ideal.
There’s no gearlever in the 500, so Fiat has seen fit to fill that space with… space. That means there’s a large lidded storage cubby between the front seats. The cubby between the seats also contains a 12V power socket and a USB connection.
Further back, the adjustable armrest lifts up to reveal another storage box, and finally there are two door pockets that are capable of holding a one-litre bottle.
At the very front of the centre console, Fiat has fitted a clever foldaway cupholder.
If that little lot isn’t enough, there’s the usual glovebox, which is actually pretty large.
The boot opening is huge, but the boot it conceals is not large, at just 185 litres, which means you can carry a maximum of three carry-on luggage cases. Bear in mind though, that this is 14 litres more than the car’s main alternative, the Honda e, can carry.
The load space can be increased by lifting out the tiny parcel shelf and folding down the rear seat backrests, but these just rest on top of the rear seat cushions and therefor sit at an angle, and there’s also a huge step in the floor of the boot. Flexible it is not.
Useability could be better too, because the seatbelts get snagged and trapped every time you lower the rear seat back, which just brings added irritation.
The Fiat 500 is nippy and light to drive in and around town but the ride is annoyingly fidgety.
The Fiat 500 comes with a choice of two electric motors: a 95hp motor that can hustle it from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, or a 118hp electric motor that’ll accelerate it from 0-62mph in nine seconds, which is brisk but not rapid.
The smaller engine is powered by a 23.7kWh battery, which gives it a range of 115 miles. If you shell out the extra £250 for the 11kW charging cable you can charge it fully in two and a half hours from a typical charging point. However, a fast charger can charge it to 80% in just half an hour.
The 118hp engine is powered by a 42kWh battery and has a range of 199 miles (closer to 150 miles in the real world). This can be fully charged at a typical charging station in a little over four hours, and a fast charger will get it to 80% in 35 minutes.
The 500 is designed to spend the bulk of its life in the city, so it is extremely light to drive. You can twirl the steering using one finger, so great is the assistance, and the turning circle is tiny, which obviously helps when parking.
Talking of parking, it’s as easy as you’d expect, because all versions of the 500 have rear parking sensors fitted as standard. Top-spec 500s add a rear parking camera and front sensors, to make matters even simpler.
However, while the steering is light, the rest of the car isn’t, which means the suspension has to be quite firm to keep everything under control. The downside of this is that the ride is decidedly fidgety over typical UK urban roads, but the upside is that body roll is minimal when you’re going a bit more quickly. Nevertheless, weight is the enemy of fun, and the 500 definitely feels a bit too lardy to be truly agile.
The powertrain has that typical EV instant responsiveness in town, so feels properly nippy off the line. Even when you get on to faster roads, such as dual carriageways, there’s plenty of power in reserve for overtaking.
Top-spec 500s feature adaptive cruise control and lane-centring, which takes the sting out of longer journeys.
The interior is much more modern than the old car’s but some of the trims feel quite cheap.