The new Fiat 500 Electric (500e) is a small-sized electric car that was unveiled in March 2020. Despite many similarities with its conventionally-powered petrol sibling, the electrified model was designed from the ground up on a new platform – marking a new era for the Italian automaker.
The city car is also among the first to offer Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities and is available as a hatchback or convertible. We previously reviewed the former on our YouTube channel but in this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at the convertible model.
Fiat 500e price & competition
In its hatchback state, the car is available in four different trim levels: Action (£20,995), Passion (£24,495), Icon (£25,995), and La Prima (£27,995); switch to the convertible, and it starts from the Passion at £27,145, goes to £28,645 for the Icon that we have on review and the top-of-the-line La Prima costs £30,995 without any options.
Each of the trims has its own standardized features, with a multitude of options available too – as you’ll see from the images below (click to expand):
The most important thing to note, however, is that the hatchback Action is the only one that’s offered with a 24 kWh battery pack. This model has 70 kW (93 hp) of power, a top speed of 84 mph, has a claimed WLTP range of 115 miles and has a charging input of up to 50 kW. Switch to any of the other trims, and you’ll find the vehicle is offered solely with a 42 kWh battery pack that’s deemed to run for 186-199 miles on the WLTP test cycle, has 87 kW (118 hp) of power and a top speed of 93mph; peak charging input also increases to 85 kW.
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When it comes to alternatives, the most obvious choice, albeit not fully electric, is the Fiat 500 Hybrid that starts from £13,405. The mild-hybrid features a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that outputs 52 kW (70 hp) of power and has a top speed of 104mph.
Of course, outside of what the Italian automaker offers, there are a plethora of all-electric hatchbacks and saloons to choose from: the rapid Tesla Model 3 costs £40,990; the sporty BMW i3 from £33,805; the well-rounded VW ID.3 from £31,290; the practical Hyundai Ioniq Electric starts from £30,550; the spacious Renault Zoe starts from £27,495; the comfy Nissan Leaf at £25,995; the tech-focused Honda e at £28,215; the familiar-looking Vauxhall Corsa-e at £27,140; the stylish Mini Electric at £26,000; the bite-sized Volkswagen e-up! starts from £23,555 with its near-identical sibling, the Seat Mii Electric, coming in at £20,300; and the smallest EV, the Smart EQ Fortwo, which starts from £19,200.
Read next: Fiat 500 Hybrid review: A stylish city car
Fiat 500e exterior review
Despite coming in at a lower-end of the price spectrum, the Fiat 500 Electric is arguably the best-looking out of the bunch. Indeed, it still retains that classic Nuova Cinquecento design from the late 50s, but has a lot of modern, and much-appreciated, twists.
Take for example the front of the vehicle, it has a covered front grille to help with aerodynamics, headlights that are part-integrated within the vehicle’s bonnet and smooth lines that preserve the car’s cute stance.
From the side, the indicator is built into a small protruding fin that’s located atop of the front wheel arches; door handles are integrated within the vehicle’s frame making the vehicle’s design flow a little better and with the press of a button releases the mechanism; and to top it off, body-coloured wheel arches and sideskirts complete the side profile.
At the back, the taillights have an almost outward-looking profile, where the C-shaped design protrudes from the vehicle’s shell. The car is also slightly wider around the back, giving it a more sporty look.
Fiat 500e interior review
The same praise could be given about its interior design, which is a definite step up over some of its competitors, namely cheaper EVs that are on offer from the Volkswagen Group. The Italian automaker’s choice of materials – where the upholstery is made out of 100% recycled material; 10% of it comes from the sea – combined with the layout of the cabin provide a real sense of style.
Even simple additions, such as the easy-to-grip steering wheel with its clever button configuration, make for a more pleasurable driving experience. Aside from its facade, where there are instrument cluster controls on the left and cruise control settings to the right, there are also buttons located behind the wheel that are dedicated to media controls – identical to that of the Jeep Renegade 4xe; this makes switching radio station/track or volume really intuitive as one doesn’t have to dislodge their hand position off the wheel.
Behind the steering wheel sits a 7″ digital instrument cluster, which can – to an extent – be tailored to your liking. Information is plenty bright and does dim in lower ambient light conditions, however, we did find the system to be a little sluggish when going through tunnels or when trying to display navigation data. We hope this can be improved via a future firmware update.
On the subject of technology, as standard, the Action omits a centre-weighted infotainment system. Should you want a 7″ display, it’ll be available as an £850 option, or found within the Passion trim as standard. Move up to the Icon or La Prima, and you’ll find a larger 10.25″ display, instead. Likewise, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay only make an appearance if you have a digital infotainment system; given a display is required for these third-party operating systems.
To connect up to the infotainment system in the compatible models, the Fiat 500 Electric has a USB Type-A port located on the dashboard; another one can be found next to a 12V socket within the centre console, although, these ports are solely used to charge a device.
Connecting without a wire to the infotainment system is also plausible, with the use of wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Fiat 500 goes a step further, even, as the system supports the SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs over Bluetooth. The latter being extremely rare, as no other vehicles we’ve tested to date support this audiophile-grade codec.
In terms of audio, the car features four speakers as standard, wherein the La Prima variant, two further speakers come integrated at the rear of the cabin – one can also upgrade the other trims (excluding the Action) to feature six audio drivers with the £850 ‘Eye Park Pack’. If you’d like to hear how the stock four-speaker system sounds, head on over to our YouTube channel.
Moving on from the use of technology, we love that the automaker has preserved a few physical buttons on the dashboard – those located right under the infotainment display are dedicated to climate controls, while the ones under the non-slip phone cradle (which can double-up as a wireless smartphone charger), are drive mode selectors. By the centre console, there’s also a physical volume wheel, an e-parking brake lever and an e-Mode selector – we’ll touch upon this further down.
Elsewhere, traditional interior door handles have been replaced with a button. Pressing it will open the mechanism, and makes for an effortless means of getting out of the cabin. A manual door release lever also provides a means of exiting the vehicle in the case of a malfunction or emergency.
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Fiat 500e storage review
On the subject of the two doors, they have a small compartment for a 500ml or a large-sized purse/wallet. Further storage can be found by the centre console where there are a few compartments to store away small-sized valuables, a retractable cupholder toward the front, and the glove compartment also provides a means of storing goods.
Of course, one also has the boot, where there’s 185 litres of space and 550 litres with the seats folded flat – an identical figure to the Fiat 500 Hybrid we had previously reviewed. A small underfloor compartment also provides a means to take essential tools or place a singular charging cable. Note, the convertible doesn’t have a hatchback design and seemingly has a smaller storage capacity, although, Fiat claims both vehicles share the same cargo volume.
Here’s how the new 500e stacks up to its all-electric rivals: Nissan Leaf (435/1,161 litres); Hyundai Ioniq Electric (357 /1,417 litres); VW ID.3 (385/1,267 litres); Renault Zoe (338/1,225 litres); Vauxhall Corsa-e (267/1,076 litres); VW e-up! (251/951 litres); Seat Mii Electric (251/923 litres); Mini Electric (211/731); Honda e (171/571 litres); Smart EQ Fortwo (260/360 litres).
Indeed, storage capacity isn’t vast, where the likes of the cheaper Volkswagen EVs provide a more practical design, let alone bigger vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, which trounce the Fiat 500 Electric in this domain. Similarly, the rear seat design doesn’t make it easy to be propped down, where you’ll need to bring the front two seats forward in order to accommodate for larger-sized goods to be placed in the boot. Elsewhere, the rear seats don’t fold flat and are raised, thus not having a flat loading.
Fiat 500e comfort review
Moving onto comfort, the rear of the cabin will only seat two occupants, and here space is extremely limited; 6-foot (182cm) individuals will feel henned in at the back, where legroom is pretty poor. Headroom isn’t that great either, where such individuals will have their head grazing the lining of the roof.
At the front, however, space isn’t so much of an issue, as headroom is plentiful; 6-foot 4-inch (193cm) individuals will feel at ease even though the car’s front seats cannot be adjusted in height. Legroom isn’t too bad, however, long-legged individuals might find that their legs sit a little close to the centre console.
As for the seats themselves, they’re cushiony soft. The padded material found both at the front and rear make for an agreeable experience.
Moving onto cabin noise, the Fiat 500 Electric is surprisingly well insulated. Even the cabriolet has minimal road noise that creeps into the cabin; the most notable source of exterior noise comes from wind deflecting off the A-pillars.
Now while this might seem trivial, every electric vehicle that travels at speeds of under 12mph requires some form of acoustic warning for pedestrians. Instead of emitting a si-fi sound like a lot of its competitors, Fiat has chosen to play the music of Amarcord by Nino Rota, in pure Dolce Vita style. It’s certainly different and might turn a few heads.
Fiat 500e performance review
On the subject of driving comfort, it is somewhat surprising that the automaker opts for a slightly stiffened suspension setup. Going around town, you’ll find that the car jolts around when faced with potholes, speed bumps or rougher terrain. On the flip side, it handles extremely well around country roads, providing minimal body roll and a pleasant driver’s feel. While it won’t compete with the likes of the Mini Electric, VW ID.3 or Honda e, it is certainly better than the likes of the Renault Zoe, VW e-up!, Seat Mii Electric and Vauxhall Corsa-e.
Despite the car inciting plenty of excitement when driving around windy roads, one should be careful with the vehicle’s level of grip. Here, the Fiat 500 Electric has a front-wheel-drive (FWD) system only, which is prone to slipping when instant power is required from its front-mounted motor. Aside from the Action trim, its motor dispatches 87 kW (118 hp) of power, 210 Nm of torque and attains a top speed of 93mph. Using Racelogic’s Vbox Sport, we had the car tested from 0-60mph in a very respectable 8.05 seconds.
Where the car really comes to life, however, is in its ability to deliver a competent all-electric driving range. In the 42 kWh cabriolet and hatchback variants, we achieved between 140-160 miles from our mixed driving tests. This betters most of its similarly-priced rivals and even goes toe-to-toe with larger-sized hatchbacks. A figure and test we weren’t expecting to achieve, given our disappointment with the Fiat 500 Hybrid.
Indeed, unlike the mild-hybrid variant and the likes of the fully electric Smart EQ Fortwo, Mini Electric and Honda e, the new Fiat 500e can be used for both inner-city commutes and longer drives to see friends and family.
One-pedal driving is also possible by selecting Range or Sherpa mode through the scroll wheel located by the centre console. In these two modes, the car can be brought to a complete standstill when lifting off the accelerator pedal. However, the amount of regenerative braking is rather severe and while we’re a fan of using these modes over the regular Normal driving mode, which mimics a normal combustion engine, it’s certainly not as smooth as the Nissan Leaf, Mini Electric, or Honda e, which all manage to subtly bring the car to a halt. Let’s just say that the biting point of the regenerative braking is hard to get used to; a first for us, having reviewed numerous EVs.
To recoup energy at a much faster rate into the Samsung-made battery pack, the automaker has enabled up to 85 kW of charging input. On the 42 kWh model, it’ll take 35mins to 80% on an 85 kW charger; 4hrs 15mins to 100% using an 11 kW input; 15hrs 15mins to 100% using a regular 2.3kW 3-pin socket. The 24 kWh Action trim is as follows: 30mins to get to 80% on a 50 kW charger; 2hrs 30mins to 100% using an 11 kW input; 8hrs 45mins to 100% using a 2.3kW 3-pin socket.
Fiat 500e safety review
When it comes to safety, the new Fiat 500e has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, however, the 2017 model scored just 3/5 stars, where it didn’t fare well in Child Occupancy (49% nor the Safety Assist (27%) tests. But, the new model has plenty of driver assistance systems, namely in the La Prima trim. Here, Level 2 autonomous driving is on offer, where the vehicle has Front-facing camera monitoring technology, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC), Lane Centring, Intelligent Speed Assist, Urban Blind Spot, Attention Assist and 360-degree sensors and cameras.
In our tested models (Passion and Icon), we found the basic cruise control, lane-keep assist and the traffic sign recognition systems all worked flawlessly. It is worth noting that the lane keep assistance in this instance will only provide a gentle nudge when you’re veering off-piste, and won’t allow for autonomous driving. Further, the system will re-enable itself each time you step inside the cabin – to disable it, you’ll need to tap twice on the button found on the left stalk.
As for visibility, the Fiat 500e’s small cabin makes it extremely easy to look at your surroundings. Rear parking sensors that come as standard in all trim levels also give you an audible cue when reversing; 360-degree parking sensors are available as a £850 option in the Passion or Icon trims, while it comes as standard in La Prima. Similarly, a rearview camera and a blind spot monitoring system follow suit.
Our biggest complaint when it comes to visibility is the positioning of the chunky rearview mirror – due to the front seats being locked in height, if you are relatively tall, you’ll find that the rearview mirror obscures your vision. The A-pillars are also a little large, meaning you’ll have to peek around them when going around corners.
TotallyEV’s verdict on the Fiat 500 Electric
On the whole, the Fiat 500 Electric ticks a lot of boxes: it’s supremely stylish, fun-to-drive, isn’t limited to inner-city commutes thanks to its driving range and is competitively priced. Frankly, if you’re looking for the best small electric car, this is it – as such, the vehicle receives TotallyEV’s Best Buy award.
Of course, one should consider the alternatives: if you want a roomy and comfy EV, choose the Nissan Leaf; if you’re looking for a practical car, it’s the Renault Zoe; an affordable yet good-performing electric car, it’s either the VW e-up! or Seat Mii Electric; an outright performer in range and performance, the VW ID.3; and the smallest and cheapest EV on the market, the Smart EQ Fortwo, is also worth your consideration.