Fiat 500 review

Fiat decides the all-new 500 should become an electric vehicle (EV) only – and it’s a move that turns out to be a masterstroke.

What's this?

A Fiat 500 with no engine. In principle, it’s an idea that fits perfectly with the ethos of the 500 that has served it so well since it first arrived in 1957: mobilise the masses. The Nuova 500 of 63 years ago was designed to get Italy moving as cheaply as possible and now, in 2020, the ‘New’ 500 (which we shall from now on refer to as the ‘500e’) is promising to do the same again, only for more markets than its home country this time. And using the very latest form of motive power that all car drivers must one day migrate to.

You see, this might look a lot like the outgoing 500, a model that has been built for the past 13 years, but this 500e is all-new. It sits on a fresh platform underneath and that is a chassis that has been designed purely with electric power in mind. There is no space in the architecture for any combustion engine to be fitted. This might look like a risky move by Fiat, to make its huge-selling city car into an EV only, but Fiat has taken steps to ensure this decision won’t be viewed as a massive clanger. Such as offering two battery packs, one called the City (24kWh) and one called the Long Range (42kWh), so buyers can choose between a cheaper, lighter car that will only go 185km on a single charge or a slightly heavier vehicle with the ability to do up to 320km if they so need it to. And also, the Italian company sells the 500e as both a Hatchback and the stylish Convertible with the full-length fabric roof. And it further ensures that both versions can charge on a DC rapid charging connection, the City at a maximum 50kW and the Long Range at a peak 85kW, meaning both vehicles go from 0-80 per cent of their cells’ capacity in around 30 minutes of charging.

How is it to drive?

This Fiat 500e Convertible is a quite brilliant EV and a simply superb city car, no matter what system of motive power is employed within its bodywork. We tried a 500e Convertible with the 42kWh battery, which also results in a slightly more powerful electric motor at 87kW (118hp); the 24kWh is paired to a 70kW (95hp) unit and takes 9.5 seconds to hit 100km/h from rest, compared to the Long Range’s nine seconds precisely. However, both cars have a maximum torque of 220Nm.

But if the 95hp model drives only half as well as the 118hp version, then it will be a very good car indeed. What Fiat has realised is that city cars are used precisely where their name indicates they will be used – in cities and towns. Therefore, a small EV doesn’t need to handle brilliantly out on open roads nor be capable of immense straight-line speed – the two 500e models do 135- and 150km/h flat out respectively – but they should be incredibly refined at low speeds and on rougher road surfaces.

The 500e Convertible is all of the above and more. It rides with a grace that belies the car’s very short dimensions, wheelbase and relatively low weight of 1,330kg, while the minimisation of acoustic discord in the cabin is kept to the barest minimum. Yet the Fiat’s real star is the superb little drivetrain. There’s plenty of urban ‘scooting’ potential here, with a brisk 0-50km/h feel and strong midrange characteristics, but it’s also massively civilised in terms of the smoothness of its power delivery and the background hum it emits. At no point is the Fiat 500e every noisy or uncomfortable.

Factor in the usual stylish looks on the inside and a heavily digitised interior that has sharp TFT displays for both the instrument cluster and the excellent infotainment screen, and what you have here is a deeply desirable electric city car that, if priced correctly in Ireland, should be the market leader in its particular field.

When is it coming to Ireland?

It is expected to land in Ireland in Q1 of 2021 but, as yet, we don’t know specifications and prices. We also don’t know if both 24- and 42kWh versions will be sold here, but our VRT laws should play into the 500e’s hands and it ought to turn out to be one of the most affordable new EVs on the road today.

Any juicy technology?

On the bodywork are some fancy E-Latch electric door releases for the 500e. These have a corresponding round, electric opening button on the interior trim finishing, although Fiat has been sensible and offered a mechanical override system to allow ingress and egress to the car in the event the E-Latches malfunction or lose their power supply. rating: 4.5/5

An all-electric proposition now, the Fiat 500 has finally come of age. The old model (2007-2020) was always an endearing machine with an internal combustion engine, but it never felt particularly game-changing or outstanding in any one discipline, save for its cutesy exterior appeal. This 500e, though, is different. Fiat has executed the electric city car format to a stunningly high level with this newcomer and apart from some slightly wobbly on-the-limit handling traits, there’s precious little to dislike about this hugely appealing and fabulously refined electric compact.

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