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Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e: performance and handling

The Honda and Fiat are better suited to city-car life, but the MINI offers the best driving experience of the three

Honda e

While all three of the cars tested here have fully electric powertrains, there are some differences in how they drive. The Fiat 500’s drivetrain is quiet and smooth, which is very confidence-inspiring when you’re navigating through city traffic or manoeuvring into tight parking spaces.

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The 500's minute turning circle also helps it in these situations; it’s tighter than the MINI’s, but can’t match the Honda’s remarkable 8.6-metre turning circle, which is nearly as good as a London black cab’s. The Fiat's ride is softest at higher speeds, where only wind noise goes against what's otherwise a much better motorway cruiser than the car’s compact size suggests.

But when it comes to sheer acceleration, and the ability to put a smile on your face while driving, the MINI trumps its competition. Of the three cars here, it feels the most agile and playful, and has the best body control – which you’ll appreciate when driving in spirited fashion. Its steering is also quick and responsive, but somewhat numb. 

Acceleration feels hot-hatch quick in the MINI, as it’s capable of going from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds. The Honda is a second slower to 62mph, while the Fiat takes an additional 1.7 seconds to get there. The MINI also has the most power of the three, with 181bhp on tap. The Fiat produces just 116bhp, while the Honda makes 152bhp – however the Honda is the only rear-wheel-drive car here. 

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The MINI we drove benefited from having 16-inch wheels, as opposed to the 17-inch rims of the Honda and Fiat. The larger sidewall of the MINI’s tires really improves ride comfort at low speeds; whereas both the 500 and the e feel slightly fidgety, the smallest imperfections in the road are filtered out from the MINI’s cabin. We’d recommend opting for 16-inch wheels on the Fiat to improve the ride – and to save £500 on the list price.

However, the MINI isn't the car we’d pick for town or city driving, not only due to its wider turning circle, but also due to the fact that in the basic Level 1 trim of our test car, it doesn't have either a reversing camera or rear parking sensors.

The Honda is the best suited to city driving of the three, not only because of its tight turning circle, but also because replacing the door mirrors with cameras has shaved a couple of inches off of the car’s width. The little Japanese car also grips well, and feels stable at motorway speeds. On the downside, its ride is slightly firmer than the Fiat’s and bumps in the road unsettle it more than they do the MINI.

The Honda also has the best regenerative braking of the trio; it's adjustable between four modes that you can choose using steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The system feels very intuitive, and there’s a separate button that allows you to select one-pedal driving, where you only need to ease off the accelerator to slow the car. The Fiat is also capable of one-pedal driving, but only in its Range and Sherpa modes. In Normal mode, regenerative braking provides a mild deceleration effect only.

The MINI’s regenerative braking is somewhat frustrating. There are two modes to choose from, the strongest of which certainly provides heavy regeneration, but it may not suit everyone. The problem is the MINI defaults to that mode every time you switch it on – rather than staying in the mode you selected last or prefer to use.

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Richard is editor of DrivingElectric, as well as sister site Carbuyer.co.uk, and a regular contributor to Auto Express. An electric and hybrid car advocate, he spent more than five years working on the news and reviews desk at Auto Express and has driven almost every new car currently on sale.

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