Abarth 500e review
In typical fashion, Abarth has added some poke and performance to the Fiat 500 – but it feels as if there’s more to come
- Reasonable value
- Fun to drive
- Sporty styling
- Could be quicker
- Range penalty
- Cramped inside
|Car type||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||150-164 miles||4hrs 15mins (0-100%, 11kW)||35mins (0-80%, 85kW)|
Abarth 500e verdict
The Abarth 500e has done enough to whet our appetite for what’s to come, showing us there is plenty for electric-sceptic performance fans to look forward to. It’s ultimately not as exciting as its petrol-powered predecessor; Abarth claims it’s faster in the real world – around town and out of tight bends, for example – but we felt it ran out of puff at the top end. But the steering, body control, and even the ride comfort show there’s plenty to really like about this pint-sized pocket rocket. The jury’s out on that bellowing sound generator, though.
Details, specs and alternative
For years, Abarth has been turning up the wick on the humble Fiat 500 – and that’s not about to change in the switch to electric. Three years after the city car launched here in the UK, Abarth has sprinkled some spice into the 500e recipe, adding extra power and performance parts. The result is one of the very first electric hot hatchbacks, and it’s here to steal sales from the popular MINI Electric.
Except with only 152bhp, the Abarth is down on power versus the sweet-handling MINI. What the 500e does have on its side is a plethora of performance parts; Abarth has ditched the standard car’s suspension, re-tuned the steering and fitted bigger brakes. It even gets a set of bespoke Bridgestone tyres.
On top of this, the Abarth is subtly styled with wider bumpers, side skirts and different wheels, plus every version gets scorpion badges with a new lightning bolt design. Underneath the car, Abarth has fitted a sound generator designed to mimic a petrol-powered Record Monza exhaust – it really does need to be heard to be believed.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the battery. The Abarth 500e uses the same 42kWh battery, though the myriad tweaks to the rest of the car mean range drops to between 150 and 164 miles (from the Fiat’s 199-mile maximum). It’ll still charge from 0-80% in around 35 minutes, though, thanks to the car’s 85kW rapid charge speed.
You can choose the hatchback or convertible, with the latter commanding a premium of £3,000 across both standard and Turismo trims. The base spec brings 17-inch wheels, LED lights, climate control and keyless go, plus a 10.25-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Turismo (again, £3k more than the base car) gets bigger wheels, Alcantara trim inside, plus wireless phone charging and a parking camera. A fixed glass roof is included on Turismo versions, too.
The 500e is currently the only electric Abarth on sale, though according to CEO Olivier Francois, further models are planned – including faster, lighter iterations of the 500, plus a tuned version of the upcoming Fiat 600 SUV.
Range, battery size & charging
|Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|150-164 miles||4hrs 15mins (0-100%, 11kW)||35mins (0-80%, 85kW)|
While Abarth has swapped out plenty of the Fiat 500’s core components for uprated performance parts – suspension, brakes, etc – it has left the battery well alone. That means every version uses the same 42kWh battery, which here is good for a claimed range of between 150 and 164 miles – the lower of those two figures relates to the top-spec convertible on the biggest 18-inch wheels.
While that’s more miles than the outgoing MINI Electric can muster, it’s some way shy of cars like the bigger Cupra Born – which in V1 trim doesn’t cost all that much more than a base Abarth. We found spirited high-speed driving doesn’t do the 500e’s range any favours, either; on a rainy day in Northern Italy, we were seeing just over 2.5mi/kWh – translating to a real-world range of just over 100 miles. However, the standard Fiat 500 is a frugal city car, so reign things in a bit and you should see that figure improve.
Charge times are unchanged too. The Abarth’s 85kW rapid charging speeds sit at the slower end of the spectrum, but it should be capable of a 0-80% top-up in just over half an hour when needs must. Abarth quotes home charge times via an 11kW wallbox, but you’ll need three-phase electricity to take advantage of that – add at least another couple of hours for a more common 7kW home setup.
Running costs & insurance
Ultimately, this is a small, electric city car. So, if you don’t drive everywhere flat out, then it shouldn’t be too expensive to run. The Abarth 500e sits in the very lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band, and it’s currently exempt from the London Congestion Charge and other low emission zones.
There’s no road tax to pay until at least 2025, either. But beware – top-spec convertible versions cost more than £40,000 so if plans go ahead to make EVs liable for the luxury car tax, you’ll pay a hefty premium in years two to six.
Regardless, you can have the Abarth looked after in the same way you would a Fiat 500e – via an identical dealer network and, we expect, with a similar range of service plans.
Abarth insurance groups haven’t been revealed just yet, but expect a small premium over the equivalent Fiat 500e thanks to the added poke and performance parts.
Performance, motor & drive
|0-62mph||Top speed||Driven wheels||Power|
Given the updates Abarth has made to the 500e in its transition from city car to hot hatch, you’d be right to expect a dramatically different driving experience. And actually, while it still feels like a nippy, fun-to-drive small car, it’s quite a bit more engaging on a twisty road.
It’s here where Abarth thinks its changes are most noticeable – and we’d agree. It claims the EV is a second faster from 25-37mph than its petrol counterpart – not a particularly conventional performance statistic, but one that demonstrates this car’s strengths. It feels quick out of bends, and while our first drive was in the pouring rain around Northern Italy, it certainly wasn’t lacking in this respect.
Where we’d perhaps like a bit more poke, is at the top end. Where the old petrol car continues to pull, the EV runs out of steam slightly at motorway speeds. If you intend to use your car solely around town and rarely breach 50mph, this won’t be an issue.
The changes detailed above regarding the suspension and dampers give the Abarth 500e a firm but controlled ride. The car is occasionally bouncy but never uncomfortable – something that couldn’t be said of this car’s predecessor. The uprated brakes are strong, and the one-pedal setup works as well here as it does in the Abarth’s Fiat donor car. The steering is another highlight – weighty enough to offer a sportier feel, but without making the 500e feel cumbersome in the city.
The only other thing to mention is the Abarth 500e’s sound generator. Consisting of a water and mud-proof external subwoofer, it mimics the sounds of an old Record Monza exhaust. It’s certainly distinctive, but we’re not convinced it’s the right solution. It’s fun at low speeds, and is almost entirely drowned out on the motorway. But at a steady 40-50mph we found the constant drone annoying. You can turn it off – but only at a standstill.
There are three different drive modes: Turismo, Scorpion Street and Scorpion Track. The first of those limits power and ramps up the regenerative braking, while the latter does the complete opposite – offering customers the full beans but without the energy-harvesting one-pedal driving. We drove the car in Scorpion Street most of the time, blending maximum power with high regen.
Interior, dashboard & infotainment
Being based on the Fiat 500 is no bad thing when it comes to the Abarth’s cabin. You no longer sit as comically high as you did in this car’s predecessor, with the lower driving position far more fitting for the Abarth’s sporting pretensions. The dashboard is well laid out, with all cars getting a large 10.25-inch infotainment display and digital instrument cluster.
All cars come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But the relatively intuitive nature of the standard system may surprise those who’ve experienced older Fiat and Abarth touchscreens. It’s a shame, therefore, that to turn the polarising sound generator on (or off) requires you to delve into the myriad sub-menus on the screen behind the steering wheel – and only when the car is stopped. We think a simple button on the dashboard would be preferable.
The seats are both supportive and comfortable, and the steering wheel is beautifully sculpted to fit your hands when driving quickly. There’s Alcantara on the dashboard, too, which not only looks great, but hides any cheaper plastics that may be noticeable to those sitting up front.
Boot space, seating & practicality
|Length||Width||Height||Boot space (seats up/down)|
You don’t buy an Abarth 500e if you want a spacious, practical or versatile family car – that much is a given. And yet the little pocket rocket is useful in its own way – compact dimensions make it a simple, user-friendly city car that makes driving on tight urban streets a doddle.
That usefulness extends to more than its outright size – plentiful power and torque means it’s easy to get out of sticky situations, while nipping away from traffic lights and seizing tight gaps has never been easier.
Space up front is generous, though, and you’re not presented with the annoying raised seating position that plagued the Abarth’s predecessor. The view out the front is great, and the short overhangs make the car easy to place when parking or manoeuvring.
The 500e is two-door only, however, and the rear seats aren’t particularly accommodating – for adults or children. You’ll struggle to post a baby or toddler through the tight opening between the door and front seat, and once they’re there things are quite claustrophobic. It’s probably best to use the Abarth as a two-seater with some extra luggage space in the back.
Speaking of luggage space, with just 185 litres, the 500e has one of the smallest boots in its class – smaller even than a MINI Electric’s (211 litres). There’s no extra space to store the charging cables, either, so you’ll be forced to sacrifice some of the load bay just to keep your car topped up away from home.
Reliability & safety rating
Fiat and Abarth don’t have the best reputation for reliability. In fact, Fiat finished flat bottom (29th) in our manufacturer rundown in the 2022 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey – behind Mitsubishi, Dacia and MG.
It’s worth taking this with a small pinch of salt, however, as some of the biggest complaints were with regards to practicality and rear-seat legroom – but you won’t buy a 500e if space is a top priority. Fiat owners who responded to the survey also complained about connectivity and infotainment – something the maker has been working hard to improve. Every 500e comes with a 10.25-inch touchscreen and there’s loads of tech on board.
Safety shouldn’t be a cause for concern either. The Fiat on which the Abarth is based was awarded four stars out of five when it was tested by independent crash test body Euro NCAP in 2021. That’s not the maximum score available, but still a strong showing; adult and child occupancy scores of more than 70% are credible in this part of the market. All cars get a plethora of sensors and safety features as standard.