The all-electric new Fiat 500 aims to re-invent and re-define what this iconic model should be in this new era of electric motoring. Although it may look the very similar, everything is different - not least the fact that you can only have battery power. It's stylish, bold and best of all, the electric driving range is class-leading for a small EV. In short, if it suits your needs, there's lots to like.
The Fiat 500 Electric range has increased in price. The 24kWh ‘Red’ trim is up to £1899 Advance Payment (was £0), or it's £2099 for the longer-range version. (section updated October 2023).
A new Fiat 500 is a big deal. We had the cute original in 1957. The New Millennium model that saved Fiat as a car maker, launched in 2007. And this car, introduced in early 2020. It's only offered in full-electric form (which is why the old petrol mild hybrid model carries on for now). And that's part of the reason development of this MK3 model has been so lengthy. Fiat wanted to wait for battery technology to mature a bit before launching this car - and that's paid off, allowing the brand to engineer in a much longer EV driving range than close rivals, the MINI Electric and the Honda e.
"It doesn't feel time to be timid", says Fiat boss Oliver Francois. "This car isn't just for now, it's for the next decade. So it's built new from the ground up and it's all-electric and only electric from day one". But the exterior look is very recognisable, as is the hatch and convertible body style choice.
This new 500 model's 42kWh battery pack is mated to an 87kW (118hp) motor and is fitted across the range, including the Convertible variants. This is good for 186-199 miles and the car manages the 0-62mph time in 9 seconds. Like all EV's, this one feels even quicker off the mark than that figure suggests (30mph can be reached from rest in just 3.1s), though Fiat has tried to make power delivery quite linear so that you don't use up all your battery charge at once. Maximum speed is restricted though - to just 93mph. Various types of automated driving technology are available, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and intelligent speed limit assist.
There's lots here that owners of previous 500 models will recognise - the high-ish seating position and manoeuvrability for instance; there's a tight 9.6-metre turning circle. You also get the previous model's rather brittle low speed ride quality, though it copes with poorer pot holes and speed humps quite well and anyway, things smooth out quite a lot once you get out of town. When you might discover that this Fiat actually handles quite well, despite having to carry around 350kgs more weight around than the MK2 mild hybrid petrol model. All the weight of the mattress-shaped Samsung battery has been positioned well down, compensating for the extra bulk with a lower centre of gravity, hence the well-controlled body roll at speed through the corners, though the effect is somewhat masked by the rather anaesthetised electric steering.
A series of drive modes are available that will enable you to maximise your driving range. There are three settings - 'Normal', 'Range' and the curiously named 'Sherpa', with the last of these being focused on getting the maximum from the battery, including a navigation program that will limit maximum speed to 50mph and restrict acceleration. The 'Range' mode maximises brake regeneration, meaning that you'll normally only have to drive with one pedal, so great will be the deceleration when you lift off the throttle. But most of the time, you'll be leaving in this car in its 'Normal' setting, in which form it won't require too much acclimatisation over a conventionally-engined supermini.
Don't be deceived by the familiar looks; everything is new here - including the fresh architecture that this car sits upon. That's allowed for a subtle increase in size, both fixed-top and convertible versions of this third generation model being 3.36m long and 1.69m wide, an increase of 6cm in both length and width. The 1.53m height means it's 4cm taller too. Fiat has deliberately made exterior look an evolution of this car's predecessor - specifically in the light and bumper designs. Look more closely though and you'll spot sharper lines and flush door handles, plus the adoption of full-LED headlights.
For existing owners, much less will be recognisable inside, where the dashboard is much wider and now topped by a big 10.25-inch touchscreen housing the brand's latest U connect 5 media system. This can deliver navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay. Out back, the 2cm wheelbase increase means that things aren't quite as cramped as before: indeed, Fiat markets the drop-top version of this car (which retains folding fabric sunroof-style top) as 'the world's first 4-seat convertible EV'. The company also reckons that the floor-mounted battery pack won't reduce luggage capacity.
If you choose the 500 Cabrio, as with the old 500C there's no proper convertible top; just what amounts to a fabric folding sunroof, though it electrically retracts right back to give a decent wind-in-the-hair feel.
So how much is Fiat's latest EV technology going to cost Motability customers? Well, Advance Payment prices at the time of writing look very reasonable to us.
Across the model range, you get the brand's 'U connect 5' 10.25-inch centre-dash infotainment screen, which is fully connected and based on the Android operating system. It includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone-mirroring. The 'La Prima'-spec model comes with a panoramic glass roof, full-LED headlights, 17-inch diamond-cut wheels and chrome-plated side panel inserts. It will be offered with three exclusive paint shades. Inside, there's eco-leather upholstery for the dashboard and the seats.
Safety kit includes big car-style features like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and a 360-degree parking assist system. As an option, Fiat is offering an intelligent adaptive cruise control system, which combines automatic lane keeping and a feature that will keep you a predefined distance from the vehicle ahead.
The new 500 features an 85kW DC rapid charging system that can recharge the 42kWh battery from empty to 80% capacity in just 35 minutes and can provide the car with 31 miles of driving range in just 5 minutes.
The important driving range figure is quoted at 186-199 miles on the WLTP cycle - which is close to the 211 mile EV driving figure you'll get from an EV supermini in the next class up, like a Peugeot e-208 or a Vauxhall Corsa-e.
What else might you need to know? Well, servicing intervals are every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Drivers can keep up to date with their car's maintenance schedule via the 'My Car' section of that 'My E-Charge' Fiat app, which briefs you on the time of your next service and various maintenance issues.
So is this new EV-era 500 worth aspiring to? We think many loyal (mainly female) drivers will think so. It's just as stylish as its MINI Electric and Honda e rivals and set a new high bar in terms of driving range for a tiny EV that embarrasses both of them.
People with a disability and carers who choose a new Fiat 500 Electric through Motability will receive a brand new car, delivered by a Motability Specialist at a local Fiat dealership, complete with insurance, servicing and maintenance, full breakdown assistance, replacement tyre cover, windscreen repair or replacement cover plus a mileage allowance of 60,000 miles over three years.
This month, these FIAT 500 Electric models can be ordered through the Motability Scheme: