Battling it out against rivals such as the Honda E and Mini Cooper Electric in the city car sector, the Fiat 500 Electric was launched in the UK in 2021.
Available as a hatchback or convertible (badged 500C), the entry-level model comes with a small 24kW battery and a range of up to 115 miles, while other versions get the bigger 42kW battery pack, capable of up to 199 miles.
Interestingly, “city” driving range estimates of up to 160 and 287 miles respectively are also quoted by Fiat. These theoretical figures are possible because there are few opportunities for energy-sapping higher speeds in town, for instance.
Sold alongside the previous-generation petrol-powered 500 (now a mild hybrid), it’s clear that the new EV version has grown up in more ways than one. Not only is it packed with the latest tech, but it’s also a little bigger, while its retro-cool design stays true to the first two generations of this true people’s car.
The electric motor paired with the 42kWh battery generates 116bhp (92bhp for the smaller 24kW) and acceleration from 0-62mph takes nine seconds (9.5sec for the 24kW).
The new 500 isn’t as dinky as it was – growing in every direction – but it’s still compact and unmistakably a “cinquecento” with clever retro-modern touches inside and out.
You’ll notice the biggest change inside where the cabin is more spacious, especially for the driver and front seat passenger. It’s still too snug in the back for anyone other than small people, while the boot is rated at a modest 185-litres (expanding to 550 litres with the rear seats folded).
There’s a much cooler, minimalist look from the driver’s point of view with a large digital display up ahead, while the centre console is dominated by a 10.25-inch touchscreen.
Safety also takes a leap forward with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping and traffic sign recognition all standard, plus mod cons such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control available higher up the range.
The Fiat 500 Electric was also one of the first cars in its price bracket to include Level 2 autonomous driving. The system can keep you in your lane, brake if necessary, read road signs and adjust your speed.
Overall, the Fiat 500 Electric’s cabin is a pleasant place to be. My only gripes are that the driving position is a bit on the high side (for me) plus there isn’t anywhere to comfortably rest your left foot.
I tested the longer-range 42kWh battery version, which is smooth and refined on the road.
Accelerating from a standing start results in brisk rather than supercar-fast momentum but still enough to win a traffic light dash with ease.
There are three drive modes – Normal, Range and Sherpa, which work with the climate control, speed limiter, mobile charger and air conditioning to maximise efficiency and squeeze every last bit of range from the car.
Like most EVs, you can also choose the level of braking regeneration. Simply use your right-hand pedal both to accelerate and decelerate. Lifting off slows the car down, converting and recovering kinetic energy to generate electric power and recharge the battery.
The Fiat 500 Electric is ideal for urban driving and holds up well on faster, twisty roads, too, but it hasn’t got the go-kart handling of a Mini Electric, for instance.
That extra height means it is not quite as composed in more challenging corners – there’s a degree of body roll – but it’s still a fun and easy car to drive overall with decent traction.
As you’d expect in a city car, there’s a tight turning circle and the steering is light, though visibility isn’t best in class. Thankfully, rear parking sensors are standard.
The 42kWh Fiat 500 Electric has fast charging capabilities of up to 85kW, enabling it to add up to 30 miles of range in just five minutes. In other words, it can reach up to 80% of full battery charge in 35 minutes. It will also charge from 0-100% using an 11kW home charger in just over four hours.
The 24kW has a charge rate of up to 50kW and a 0-100% boost via an 11kW connection will take two hours and 30 minutes, while a 0-80% charge can take as little as 30 minutes.
After a week of mixed driving, the Fiat 500 Electric’s real-world range was around 160-170 miles, which isn’t far off the claimed 199 miles. What’s more, pootling around town should squeeze out closer to 200 miles.
Other small EV options include the ORA Funky Cat, Peugeot e-208, DS3 E-Tense, Vauxhall Corsa Electric and Renault Zoe.