In-depth reviews

Fiat 500 electric review

The iconic Fiat 500 city car has gone electric-only in its latest incarnation – and it's better than its petrol predecessor in every way

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Price
£22,714 - £29,714
Fuel Type:
Electric

Pros

  • Fun to drive
  • Decent real-world range
  • Good value mid-range models

Cons

  • Patchy interior quality
  • Convertible lacks refinement
  • No touchscreen on basic models
Battery sizeRangeWallbox charge timeRapid charge time
24kWh115 miles2hrs 30mins (0-100%, 11kW)30mins (10-80%, 50kW)
42kWh199 miles4hrs 15mins (0-100%, 11kW)35mins (10-80%, 85kW)

Much like the similarly retro-styled MINI, the Fiat 500 was reinvented for the 21st century when the first modern reincarnation of the small Italian car was launched back in 2007. Now, the latest generation of Fiat’s iconic city car is available exclusively with electric power. The electric 500 aims to undercut rivals like the MINI Electric and Honda e in several ways. But the key to the new 500’s appeal is its price: just over £20,000 after the plug-in car grant (PiCG) has been deducted.

For that, you get a small 24kWh battery, a 115-mile range and a 92bhp electric motor that provides enough power to make the entry-level electric 500 just as nippy as its petrol-powered predecessor. But if you’ve got a bit more to spend, there are bigger batteries and plusher specs on offer, as well as a folding fabric roof. These higher-spec models not only get a bump in power to 116bhp, they also come with a larger battery for a near-200-mile range – a much higher figure than either of its rivals from Honda or MINI can manage.

But Fiat hasn’t simply stuck an electric motor into its dinky city car and called it a day. The electric 500 is actually 60mm longer and wider than the old car, and up front there's an elegant line splitting the headlights in two. The switch to electric power also allows a nod to the classic 500's smooth front end, as the rear-engined original didn't need a grille at the front, either.

The elegant design continues inside, with a slim two-spoke steering wheel, a circular instrument pod containing a high-resolution seven-inch digital display that's fitted to all models as standard. However, while well equipped models get a seven-inch, or even 10.25-inch, infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dash, entry-level cars get a smartphone cradle, so you need to use your own device for music and navigation. This version also doesn’t come with a reversing camera, but given the excellent all-round visibility and ultra-compact proportions of the baby Fiat, it’s not something you'll miss.

Thankfully, the third-generation 500 also has more space up front than its predecessor, thanks to being wider and offering more headroom. Good news for front-seat occupants, then, but it's still a tight squeeze for anyone bigger than a toddler in the back, and the boot remains very small at just 185 litres. However, the 500’s steering is still light, and with that superb visibility, it remains an excellent city car.

Its electric motor produces 220Nm of torque, all of which is available in an instant. The regenerative braking system is fairly aggressive in Range mode, but if you switch to Normal mode the car will coast more – ideal for those who haven’t driven electric before. Once you get used to it, though, you’ll be able to enjoy one-pedal driving in the 500 around town like in the MINI or Honda e.

The 500's ride does become slightly busy at low speeds when you encounter potholes and bumps, but it’s still fun to drive, with its low centre of gravity thanks to its battery providing good stability. You also get rapid charging as standard, which is a welcome bonus if you go for the 115-mile range version and need to cover longer distances on occasion.

The Fiat 500 is one of the most exciting and accomplished electric cars available right now. As a runabout for those based in the city, or as a second vehicle for a suburban family, the 500 electric comes close to ticking all the boxes. For a more detailed look at the car, read on for the rest of our in-depth review…

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