FIAT 500 ELECTRIC REVIEW

The Fiat 500 Electric is a welcome choice for EV buyers in the city car class, offering a fun driving experience and a decent 199 mile official driving range.

  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
  • Fiat 500 Electric
Green Car Guide Rating: 8/10

Key stats

  • Model/ Engine size: Fiat 500e Icon 42kWh battery
  • Fuel: Electric
  • Electric driving range (WLTP combined): 199 miles
  • Maximum rapid charging rate: 80 kW

Summary

  • Fun to drive
  • Good performance
  • Comfortable ride but bouncy
  • 199 mile range; 24kW version also available with 118 mile range

BACKGROUND

Some manufacturers have been ahead of the curve with bringing electric cars to market, and some have been lagging behind. Fiat falls into the latter category, but you can now buy an all-electric city car in the form of the Fiat 500. But does it retain the fun of the petrol Fiat 500?

Fiat 500 ElectricFiat 500 Electric

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

Perhaps the key feature of the Fiat 500 is its characterful small car appearance. Thankfully this is still the case with the Fiat 500 Electric. The character is accentuated still further with the ‘Rose Gold’ colour of our test car, which, combined with the 17-inch alloy wheels, certainly makes it stand out.

The 500 Electric is still a city car but it has grown in size compared to the previous model, as well as in weight; the Electric model is 400kg heavier than the second generation car. However virtually all cars have grown in size, so the 500 is still one of the most compact cars you can buy, which is a definite help when parking in busy urban areas.

The downside to it being a small city car is that the legroom is very tight for any occupants of the two rear seats (also access to the rear isn’t easy with only two doors), and the boot is small at 185 litres. To open the doors from the inside, you press a button and the door pops open.

The car we’re testing has a 42kWh battery and a 118bhp electric motor.

Fiat 500 ElectricFiat 500 Electric

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

The headline is that the Fiat 500 Electric is fun to drive. It’s more fun to drive than a Fiat 500 with a petrol engine because, like all electric cars, there’s instantly available torque on offer at all times, and the main powertrain weight is in the floor, which lowers the centre of gravity, helping in the handling department. At 1,365kg the 500 is also lighter than most other EVs.

However it’s heavier than a petrol Fiat 500 so it’s not as agile. The 500 Electric has suspension tuned for comfort, and as it’s a small car, with a short wheelbase, this combination results in a bouncy ride (even with the heavy battery).

Performance is good (0 to 60mph in 9.0 seconds and a 93mph top speed); you wouldn’t expect anything other than front-wheel drive in a 500, which results in the normal tendency for understeer and potential wheelspin.

The standard benefits of electric vehicles apply, such as refinement and near-silent progress, as well as being easy to drive.

The 500 Electric is automatic, and rather than having any form of traditional gear selector, you change gear by pushing the buttons that are laid out on the dashboard.

There are three drive modes. Whereas a typical EV often has three modes of Eco, Normal and Sport, the 500 Electric has Normal, Range and Sherpa, in other words there’s no Sport, and instead there are two ‘eco’ modes. ‘Range’ is what it says on the tin – this setting, with increased regenerative braking, is designed to maximise your driving range. Then there’s ‘Sherpa’ which does the same thing, but to an even greater degree, as well as turning off the air conditioning and stereo, and limiting your speed to 50mph. All three modes have a resulting effect on your displayed range.

There’s one issue with the regular Fiat 500 that’s also an issue with the electric model: the driving position. Although the steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, the driver’s seat has no height adjustment whatsoever, and feels too high. This means that many drivers may not be able to find a comfortable driving position. Drivers with medium to long legs may also find that their left leg is resting against the centre console.

Another area of weakness for Fiat in the past has been infomedia systems, but the one in the 500 generally works well, with welcome shortcut buttons for the touchscreen. You can even switch off the lane departure warning system easily by pressing the button twice on the left-hand steering wheel stalk.

There’s no reversing camera but you do get a diagram, and slightly annoyingly, you have to release the electronic handbrake manually.

Fiat 500 ElectricFiat 500 Electric

DRIVING RANGE AND CHARGING

The Fiat 500e with a 42kWh battery, as tested, has a WLTP combined electric driving range of 199 miles (you’d think that Fiat would find a way to extract one more mile to hit the 200 mile mark). After a week of mixed driving, the car’s real-world range was varying between 161-167 miles, which is good.

The 500e can be charged using either a CCS DC rapid charger or a Type 2 connection. At a 50kW CCS charger, it can get to 80 per cent charge in 35 minutes, while a 11kW supply takes 4 hours 15 minutes to fully charge. A full charge on a domestic three-pin socket takes 15 hours and 15 minutes.

How to charge an electric car

Fiat 500 ElectricFiat 500 Electric

PRICE AND MODEL RANGE

The Fiat 500 Electric Icon with a 42kWh battery is available from £27,995, before the UK government plug-in car grant (currently £2,500). Our test car had options worth £2,137, taking the total price to £30,132.

The Fiat 500 Electric is available with either a 24kW or 42kW battery with ranges of 118 miles or 199 miles respectively. Everyone here at Green Car Guide would opt for the 42kW model and it sounds like car buyers would agree with us, as Fiat expects this model to account for around 85-90 per cent of sales. As well as the Hatchback as tested, there’s a Convertible body style. The Convertible adds a further £2,650 to the Hatchback list price, or the Prima model adds £3,000.

Fiat 500 ElectricFiat 500 Electric

Conclusion

We all have to move to electric cars, but at the moment many EVs are large and expensive SUVs. So the Fiat 500 Electric is a welcome addition to the choice of EVs for car buyers. It’s compact for city use (as well as being zero emission for school run duties etc), it’s visually characterful and it’s also fun to drive. However it’s not the most practical EV, and it would benefit from height adjustment for the driver’s seat; the Fiat 500 Electric is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.

Car facts and figures FIAT 500 ELECTRIC REVIEW

  • Test electric driving range: 161-167 miles
  • Electric consumption: 13.9 kWh/100km
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED): £0 year 1
  • Benefit in kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2021/22): 1%
  • Price: £25,495 (after the UK government PICG)
  • Insurance group: 16
  • Power: 119PS
  • Torque: 220Nm
  • Max speed: 93mph
  • 0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
  • Weight: 1365kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor