Fiat 500e review
The Fiat 500 is a small car legend that dates its heritage even before World War II with the “Topolino”. The 500 turned itself into an automotive icon with its second generation that was produced from 1957 up until 1975 and introduced design elements that still live on to this day. In 2007, Fiat decided to revive the 500 with retro styling and compact size. This made it an instant hit and turned the small car into a lifestyle object. With more than 7 million units sold throughout the generations, it is one of Fiat’s best selling vehicles. A few years ago, Fiat introduced a fully electric version of the 500, based on an adapted ICE platform. Now, for the new generation, the 500e is electric only.
The new Fiat 500e aims to continue the legacy of its predecessors. It carries on the retro styling cues outside, while the interior is hip and stylish. The 500e aims to target new buyers with great technology, more space and optimized range. As its price tag suggests, it should be a better car than its predecessor. In this review we find out if it’s worth it or if the new 500e is just a marketing exercise.
The model we reviewed is the Fiat 500е 42 kWh 3+1 in the highest possible trim “LaPrima by Bocelli”. It is the top of the line both in terms of equipment and in terms of battery size. It has a 37.3 kWh usable, 42 kWh total battery capacity, which outputs 87 kW (118 hp) and 162 lb-ft to the front wheels.
The new 500e has been on sale for almost 3 years now and has become quite a common sight in Europe. So far, it seems that the retro-modern recipe is working its magic masterfully. In 2022 it was the most sold BEV of the whole Stellantis group and reached amazing sales figures of 120,000 vehicles sold, more than half of which were in Europe. Sales are bound to grow further as the 500e rolls to the U.S., while the existing markets see availability improve.
The Fiat 500e is positioned in an expanding segment of small EV’s where competition is expected to grow in the future. It offers exceptional daily practicality, based on its compact size, while the estimated range of over 186 miles doesn’t strictly limit it to the boundaries of the city.
Fiat 500e at a glance:
- Dimensions: 143 inches x 66.3 inches x 60.1 inches, 91.4 inches wheelbase.
- Drivetrain tested: 42 kWh 3+1 - FWD 87 kW (118 hp), 162 lb-ft, 37.3 kWh usable, 42 kWh total battery capacity.
- Other drivetrains: 23.8 kWh HB - FWD, 70 kW (93 hp), 162 lb-ft, 23.8 kWh usable, 24 kWh total battery capacity.
- Charging: 85 kW DC max, 10-80% in 26 min; Type 2 11 kW AC
- Range: 194 miles WLTP
- Weight: 3,097 lb unladen, 3,805 lb gross
- Other features: Lane assist, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Connected services.
The Fiat 500e can be instantly recognized. It has the typical oval shapes all around the body and an overall shape that is a throwback to the previous generations. Although it has grown by some 7 cm compared to the outgoing model, it remains impressively compact.
Up front the changes are a lot and are the most significant. Gone is the Fiat badge, which is replaced by a prominent “500” logo in the center. The headlights are no longer two solid round pieces on each side, but the main assembly now is separated between the bumper and the hood, while the running LED lights are below them and are integrated into the bumper. The lower skirt includes the grille, which cools both the battery pack and the tires. The overall fascia of the 500 is reminiscent of its predecessors while also being uniquely distinct.
Going on to the side, our version strikes imminently with a shocking optional feature on its passenger side. It has a second suicide door for easy access to the second row of seats. This is a major change for the “cinquecento” and shows how much Fiat wanted this model to be improved. Otherwise, the 500e has the typical side profile with a wheelbase almost as much as the car itself and steep roofline in front and in back. This is done not only for styling purposes, but also to maximize interior space.
The back side of the fiat 500e once again makes a throwback to its heritage, but with accentuated modern touches. It keeps the big bulbous rear lights, but the design is modern with LED lighting. The Fiat badge once again is omitted from the center part of the trunk, but this time is replaced with huge letters that spell out "FIAT". On the rear bottom of the trunk lid the model name “500” is pierced from a blue line to signify it is the electric version by turning the second “0” into an “e”. The rear is finished with an elegant spoiler that completes the look of the whole vehicle.
Stepping inside the 500e you are welcomed in a cozy and spacious interior. For such a small vehicle, the front row passengers have a lot of free space for a more comfortable driving experience. The big flat windshield and the relatively low side windows create a roomy atmosphere inside. This feeling can be further enhanced if you opt for the cabriolet version and put the roof down.
The driver of the Fiat 500e uses a comfortable steering wheel, which is slightly flattened on the bottom for easier access in and out of the vehicle. Our test model had the optional two-tone leather wheel in black and white, which looks and feels amazing. Behind it is the digital gauge cluster, which is surprisingly configurable for a car in this segment. You control it with the buttons on the steering wheel, which are intuitive and responsive. A nice touch that has been a hallmark of Stellantis models are the radio buttons on the back of the wheel itself, which are a brilliant feature once you get used to them.
Going on to the left of the steering column is the row of buttons that control the parking sensors, traction control and the headlights. Strangely enough, the control for the lane-keeping assist is separated and is on the end of the turn signal stalk.
The doors are massive and their most notable feature is that they have an electric door popper button instead of a conventional door handle. Of course, in case of failure there is a separate door latch in the lower part, but it is intended primarily for emergencies. The door itself is very big and opens very wide, which may cause some problems in tight parking spots, but offers a lot of space for storage. Both doors have two wide and deep pockets that can hold all kinds of objects. The handle on both sides has "Made in Torino" engraved, together with a stylized image of the 500's side profile.
The floormats of the Fiat 500e have a very funky design with a “500” embroidered into them, but even in our low-mileage test model they had started to tear in both seats and looked everything but appropriate for a new car.
The driver and passenger have access to the center touchscreen display, which in our case was the 10.25” variant. The lower “Action” trim level comes with only a 7” display. It is relatively responsive to the touch, though some significant lag is present when switching between different apps. It comes with navigation, Uconnect services and wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The system itself is basic and has no significant quirks, which makes it easy to use and understand.
Below the screen are the climate controls. The 500e comes with a single-zone climate control, which is no longer a common sight in the automotive industry. It would have been good if a dual-zone was at least optional.
Right below the climate controls is a big storage area that includes the optional wireless charging pad, but can also be used as a regular pocket as it has a big and wide opening. In the same vicinity is also a single USB port, which looks a little bit like an afterthought as it sticks out, but at least it’s there and does its job.
Moving on even lower on the center console, there are the gear controls. The gears are controlled with the help of buttons, instead of the more traditional gear lever or dial. Still, they operate just as you would expect them to.
One thing that should have been next to the gear buttons but isn’t is the “e-MODE” selector, which is placed as a continuation of the center armrest. It controls the different driving modes of the vehicle and how much it recuperates while driving. To the right of this dial is another one that looks the same but controls the stereo volume. What separates these two dials is the parking brake button.
As for the center armrest - it is covered in the same leather as the seats and hides a surprisingly big storage area underneath. As an option, Fiat offers an ultraviolet light for the storage underneath the armrest, which is a smart decision and a neat option, that sets apart the 500e from the competition.
Directly below the center armrest is a big storage space with a rolling lid, which hides a cupholder, together with USB-C, USB-A and 12V charging ports. Its lowest outside part is foldable and reveals a cup holder that can store even the tallest of cups.
It is time to climb in the back seats, where absolutely nothing is going on. Naturally, these seats are intended mainly for kids and occasionally passengers, which is the reason why not much is going on there. While the suicide door on the passenger side is a good addition for easier access, it doesn’t mean it adds any more space to the back seats. The reviewer of this vehicle is 1.95 m (6'4") tall and can barely fit with the front seat all the way to the front. Headroom is also insufficient even for significantly shorter people.
Inside nothing creaks and the build quality feels solid. What prevents this car from offering a truly great experience in the interior for its class is mainly the quality and choice of materials. Hard plastics can be found everywhere, especially on the door panels, where there is only a slight piece of leather for the armrest. The surfaces you most frequently get in contact with feel cheap, which is a shame for a car, that in our case was optioned out to nearly $48,300. The actual good materials cover the dashboard and are rarely being used or touched. The synthetic leather for the interior looks good, but the “Fiat” embroidering all over the seats may prove to be an obstacle. It easily attaches to clothes and is really sticky, which can destroy every outfit, especially when wearing loose jeans or dresses.
Storage and practicalities
The trunk of the Fiat 500e is normal for a car with such compact size with a capacity of 6.5 ft³ and with folded seats the maximum capacity reaches 19.4 ft³. These numbers are to be expected in a small vehicle, but what is a slight disappointment is that the rear seats don’t fold fully flat. The trunk also includes the charging cable and the first aid kit.
The back side of the rear seats is surprisingly left with exposed metal instead of some fabric to cover it up. This means it will be easier to clean and less likely to tear in the future, but certainly looks cheap and even unfinished.
Driving the 500e is a joyful experience. Fiat managed to make that connection to the previous generations by making the 500e light on its feet and with great road feedback. The steering wheel is communicative and responds to every little movement of the hand, without being too heavy. You can always tell where the car is heading, even when driving on uneven surfaces.
The seating position is high, with a good field of view, which makes parking unbelievably easy. The steering wheel can be adjusted to all seating positions and fits right into any hand.
Low speeds and tight cornering is where the 500e shines. It is extremely maneuverable and fits in almost any place. It is sprite in the first 31 mph of the acceleration, which is the usual speed in the cities.
High speeds have never been the Fiat 500’s specialty, which is the case in the 500e as well, even with the significantly increased weight of the vehicle. It is simply too tall in height and too short in size, with a steep windshield, which makes it unbalanced and unsettled at high speeds.
The suspension is balanced, without being either too comfortable or too sporty. It is tuned just so it isn’t too harsh with potholes and bumps, while at the same time it doesn’t lean too much in corners. It gives good feedback of the road surface and since it only has 87 kW (118 hp) it can transfer all the power on the pavement without wheelspin. This is true even with the very hard tires we had equipped on our test vehicle, which were Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance. They come as standard in size (205/45 R17) and are designed for optimized range rather than high grip.
Technology inside the Fiat 500e is modern, without standing out with industry-first features. It shares parts with a lot of Stellantis products, which combine for a good driving experience. None of the technology feels outdated or lags behind in any way.
An interesting selling point of the 500e is that the audio system can be set up by Andrea Bocceli’s personal preferences. It is a really good sound system and creates a unique experience. It makes you feel special listening to music inside your car, knowing that you hear what one of the world’s greatest musicians of all time wanted you to hear.
The infotainment is shared with many new Stellantis models ranging all the way from the Jeep Avenger to the supercar Maserati MC20. It offers a wide range of apps, including connected services, built-in navigation, phone app and wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The touchscreen is responsive and easy to use, but the small size of both the screen and its icons may be a problem for people with impaired vision. Lagging is also present, although it isn’t as bad as it used to be in older Fiats.
All the driving assistants inside the 500e work great, with just enough interference to make for a simpler and easier travel. Only the lane keep assistant may be a little bit too insistent at times, but can be easily turned off if you so desire. Sadly, it cannot be permanently turned off and you have to conduct the same procedure of pressing the turn signal stalk twice before every drive.
Switching between the 3 different driving modes is easy. In the first one without recuperation the little Fiat is smooth and calm to drive. The second level is the option for one-pedal driving, which is among the very best in the industry. It doesn’t have harsh initial braking, but rather smoothly develops its stopping power. It can also stop completely on regenerative braking, which makes city driving with one pedal completely possible. The third driving option is called “Sherpa” and is for the cases where you really want to maximize your range. It turns off air conditioning completely and the car will not go above 50 mph. Power is also significantly reduced, which improves range and therefore you can cover greater distances without charging.
The rear-view camera is a place where Fiat made some cost-cutting and decided to go with a low-quality camera, which looks and feels old. It is bad in broad daylight and almost unusable during the night.
Choosing to not include heated seating as a standard option in any of the trim levels is a bad decision. They at least offer it as an option, but if you are less careful with the specification of the vehicle, you might end up without heated seats on a car worth almost $54,000.
Subjectively and objectively the ride of the 500e is balanced. It is neither too sporty, nor too floaty. Cracks and potholes don’t go unnoticed, but no harsh hits are felt. On our bumpy test track it performed just as expected - it communicates with the driver and you always know what is underneath the tires, without being too invasive.
The cabin noise inside the Fiat 500e is impressive for a very small car with such a steep front fascia. Tires are the main source of noise inside the cabin. Winds are naturally felt a lot. In normal daily traffic speeds the 500e’s cabin can be characterized as calm.
Fiat 500e Cabin Noise:
|37 mph||55.5 dB|
|56 mph||62.7 dB|
|81 mph||68.5 dB|
Sound level tests are carried out with a specialized sound level meter placed in the car’s cupholders. The test is conducted with air conditioning and radio off and while maintaining a steady speed.
Acceleration and braking
Going off the line is not impressive. Yet, we still managed to achieve a time of 8.75 seconds for our 0 - 62 mph sprint. A good result for a vehicle of this size and with such power. The outside temperature was the optimal for such a test 68°F. The manufacturer states 9.0 seconds as official data.
Braking is good in daily traffic and emergency stops are adequate. The best braking distance we measured was 37 m (121'39") for 62 mph - 0. Multiple heavy brakings didn’t extend the distance significantly, which is a commendable achievement.
The transition between regenerative braking and standard braking was not that great and could be easily felt.
Acceleration and deceleration are measured with a RaceBox device inside the car. Testing is done with a single person inside the car, with air conditioning and traction control off.
The 500e has impressively good consumption and can achieve values above its WLTP rating of 194 miles, especially in city driving. We tested our model at 68°F, which is the ideal temperature for maximizing range.
Fiat 500e Consumption:
|37 mph||7.4 mi/kWh||276 miles|
|56 mph||4.9 mi/kWh||181 miles|
|81 mph||3.2 mi/kWh||119 miles|
We measure consumption by driving at constant speeds on an identical test route during the day. Testing is conducted with air conditioning, all safety systems and radio on. The data comes from the vehicle's board computer. Specific testing parameters such as ambient temperature are mentioned in the text on a case by case basis.
The manufacturer states a maximum charge of 85 kW DC. Our test showed it could do 84, which confirms what Fiat states. This allows for a 10-80% charge time of 26 minutes. Of course, it can also be charged with type 2 chargers with up to 11 kW.
To calculate the expected charging times in every possible situation, please refer to our tool below, which is based on real-life data. It calculates charging times depending on the charger you have available and the kind of top-up you are looking to get.
See this Real-world charging time tool on our website.
The Fiat 500e has some serious competition when it comes to retro-styled small EV’s with cult following. It all comes down to personal preferences when you choose any of these vehicles solely as lifestyle objects. Both competitors are quicker, but when it comes to objectively comparing them the Fiat offers better pricing and longer range, which are huge advantages in its favor.
Its first competitor is the Mini Cooper SE. It offers similar space inside and has similar dimensions. It loses a lot when it comes to range due to its smaller battery and ICE-derived platform and can be optioned to a more expensive level. That comes also with the benefit of much nicer interior, infotainment and quality of materials, as well as more useful back seats and a trunk that can fold fully flat.
The second rival is the Honda E, which is a really high-tech vehicle with extremely advanced infotainment, that takes the experience of driving to another level. Where the Honda fails to deliver is in terms of range and space inside the cabin. Even though it has back doors, it feels small out back, while the trunk is very small. It is also significantly more expensive than the 500e in base trim, but also offers much more equipment.
The Fiat 500e is a great little retro-styled car. It has all the capabilities to be a daily companion that brings a smile to both its driver and all bystanders with its cute distinctive looks. It is easy to drive and park and its sheer presence doesn’t bother or intimidate in any way. The 500e has perfectly captured the enigma of its predecessors and translates it great into the world of EV’s.
Overall, the Fiat 500e is a great addition to the segment of small retro-looking EV’s. It stands its own ground against the competition by being great to drive, with its long range and better price. The quality of materials is subpar, but they are very well put together in a solid overall package.
- Easy to drive and park.
- Retro styling.
- Compact on the outside, but roomy inside (for the front row).
- Great efficiency with solid city range.
- Controls on the steering wheel are intuitive and work perfectly.
- The gauge cluster is highly customizable and has a lot of features.
- Seats don’t fold flat.
- Material choice is not great.
- The infotainment can be a bit laggy at times.
- Seating in the back is not advised for adults.
- Heated seats are not standard in any of the trims.
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- 17 Jul 2023