FIAT 500e review


Adorable and green too, so what’s not to love about the FIAT 500e electric car? Read on.

Since the 1960s the FIAT 500 has been seen as an adorable car. The historic original has a great back story and is truly a car for the people. The 500 gave many people mobility in a ridiculously compact form that was incredibly efficient. As a kid I remember well that my Mum had one, I can still remember my Dad for a laugh driving the two cylinder rear wheel drive 500 with his head sticking out above the open cloth sunroof. It was a simple car to work on too. I remember helping him change its clutch with no engine hoists needed. We simply lifted the engine out by hand! On another occasion we found a parking spot that was too tight to drive in to fully so he reversed the back in and we both got out and lifted the front of the car in to the spot. The simply use of a starter lever and choke lever and other cost saving devices like the rubber push button for the window squirters were examples of cost saving. In recent years the reborn 500 has been used to cash in on the MINI customer who wants cuteness in a car more than practicality. Nostalgia provokes a powerful emotional response so for FIAT to bring an all electric, third generation FIAT 500 to the market… I instantly loved it.

Starting from €24,995 in Ireland the tiny 500e can hold four adults at a squeeze. With just two people up front its best and nice and cosy – perfect as an urban runabout. The boot is ridiculously small and if you put a type 2 EV charging cable in to it its nearly full – slight exaggeration. In truth I was able to do the family’s big shop in the 500e with the rear seats folded down. The car drives very well and is nimble and responsive without being outrageously quick. It can hold its own from the lights with the big boys and this is where small city cars are a real giggle. Zipping away from the lights in a Range Rover versus a 500e is a lesson in wasted energy.

As with all electric cars the range question is always top of the agenda. The 500e comes with a choice of rechargeable battery size. When I say choice it is only the entry point ‘Action’ model that features the tiny 23.8kWh battery – all other models have a 42kWh battery. The €24,995 BEV has its own low power electric motor that pushes out a modest 95hp and this delivers a 0-100km/h time of 9.5 seconds (fair) and a top speed of 135km/h. From a full charge its range is 190km – so this version is aimed at urban use. Whatever you do don’t buy this version if you need to cover any sort of distance unless you love recharging at public points. Thankfully the 42kWh delivers better figures with a maximum range of 320km from a full charge. The battery can be fast charged at speeds up to 85kW so 5 minutes can get 50km or to put it another way an 80% charge takes as little as 35 minutes. The 42kWh version gets a more powerful electric motor that pushes out 118hp to the rear wheels. Top speed is limited to 150km/h so the outside lane on the autobahn should only be visited occassionally or avoided. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes 9 seconds and more significantly the urban sprint from 0-50km/h takes just 3.1 seconds.

The driving experience is fun. The car rides quite flat and the suspension fells solid and weighty with only the odd crashy feeling over bumps and rougher surfaces. As with all EVs the ease of use next to a petrol powered car is remarkable. The automatic geared drive is smooth but there can be all between selecting D and R or vice versa and this annoyed us slightly. Like the current Leaf’s e-pedal you can get experience a one pedal driving experience in the 500e. The EV has a number of driving modes with only the need to learn that ‘Sherpa’ mode seeks out the most energy efficient way of using energy and maximising range – of course the driver is the most important arbiter in the quest for maximum driving range.

The 500e depending on grade offers lots of driving aids and kit plus essential safety aids (ADAS). It is also the first car in its class that allows level 2 semi-autonomous driving. The 500e is a connected car and can access over the air updates as needed. Action, Passion (€26,995), Icon (€28,995) and La Prima (€32,495) are the grades, and there is a convertible 500e available too in Icon and La Prima grades (€31,495/34,995) The convertible offers slightly less range from a full charge.

The FIAT 500e is limited in carrying capacity, range and versatility – but forget all that it is so cute!!!! Seriously you should do your utmost to make it work in your life – you’ll be the better for it!


About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan is a senior and highly respected motoring journalist based in Ireland. He is a frequently heard voice on motoring, transport and mobility matters and has multiple credits on national television, national print media, national and local radio and other outlets. Michael Sheridan has been a Car of the Year Judge for more 20 years (& more recently a Van of the Year judge). Michael has produced and directed many international and national motoring TV programmes and documentaries both on cars and motorcycles - including four films on the iconic Route 66. Michael Sheridan is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

Comments are closed.