The New Fiat 500 Goes All Electric!
Fiat first launched the 500, or Cinquecento as it was called in Italy, in Turin in July 1957. The popular, little city car was produced for 18 years, and the Italians sold just under 4 million of the model across Europe throughout this time. The model name remained non-existent in the years that followed, until 2007, when Fiat reintroduced the 500, as an updated, modern day city car. Fast forward 14 years to the present day, and one in four city cars purchased in the UK is a Fiat, and this number is increasing!
For the 2021 model year, Fiat have made a bold move and delved into the realm of zero emissions, launching an all-electric model. This EV platform is longer, wider and gets bigger wheels too, but still incorporates the small physique of the original 500. We were lucky enough to be invited to try out the new EV on the UK launch drive in Cambridge.
The revised looks of the new 500 make the car look so much more modern in my opinion. You can almost tell it’s an EV, from the new mesh grille in the lower fascia of the front bumper, above which holds the number plate, which shows of the EV ‘green plates’ that we have here in the UK. The Fiat front badge has been replaced by a ‘500’ badge, which Fiat have been clever with, as it hides the radar for the adaptive cruise control and lane assist systems. The headlights have a clever new design too. The main headlight is housed beneath the bonnet, with an LED line on the outer edge. This LED is mirrored onto the bonnet, giving the headlight a style that almost looks like an eyebrow to an eye. The two lights are separated when the bonnet is opened too, a very stylish feature!
Moving to the side profile of the city car, the all-electric 500 now sits on 17” wheels, which is huge for such a little car. My first car was a Fiat 500 (Sport, I must add), and this came on 14” wheels. The original 500 even had 12” wheels! So 17” is a real step upwards for this car. A line of chrome continues the bonnet line to the back of the car, and Fiat have added some rather nice new door handles, that remain flush with the body of the car. The rear window gets a bit of trim that signifies the car’s trimline, Action, Passion, Icon or La Prima, but more on those later. Your roofline depends on the spec also, with panoramic rooves and convertibles both on the options list.
The rear of the car gets a proper Fiat badge, unlike the front. Although there is a 500 badge in the usual place at the bottom of the rear door. The boot lid spoiler design is retained from the previous model, but the tail lights are now E-shaped LEDs, with the rear fog light and reversing lights having been relocated to the bottom of the back bumper.
The 4-seater city car gets a very minimalist feel inside, with Fiat badges embroidered onto the leather seats. As it’s an EV, Fiat have eliminated the central console that would normally house your gear stick or transmission control. This space is now left empty, giving you the impression that you could walk through the little car from the driver to the passenger seat, and makes the two seats feel like one bench seat, a rather nice little feature. The two spoke steering wheel houses controls for the cruise control and mobile phone features, behind which sits paddles that instead of changing gears, they are now home to your volume controls. This was a feature I rather liked and a good idea on the EV.
The driver gets a nice, digital dashboard, which shows your speed, remaining range and if your car is charging or using the power, depending on your driving mode. The central infotainment system was a 10.25 inch display on my test car. This was touch screen, with buttons beneath it for the climate control. The touch screen even had an Alexa feature, something I’ve been longing for on new cars for many years. Beneath the infotainment system and climate control, there was a wireless charging area, which even charges larger phones! I don’t how many readers out there have the same problem as me when it comes to wireless charging and big mobile phones. I have never found a wireless charger that works, until I drove the new 500. The charging area features the outline of the buildings of Turin too, which is nice to see that Fiat are sticking to their roots.
Each 500 EV has three driving modes. Normal, Range, which engages your 1-pedal mode and regenerative braking, and finally Sherpa mode, which turns off all auxiliaries to ensure the highest possible range. Looking at the different trim lines. Action is your base model, starting from £20,495, leading onto Passion, where you can choose a convertible model. Icon is further premium still, adding your 10.25 inch touchscreen, whilst the highest specification, La Prima, adds every option as standard. There’s also two types of battery options with the new 500. City Range gives you a 24KWh battery, that offers 118 miles of range and 98HP output. whilst Long Range offers you a 42KWh battery and 199 miles of range, with 118HP. Fiat claim that both options will charge from 0-80% in 35 mins on a 50kW charger, but we didn’t get to experience this on the day of testing.
So What’s It Like To Drive?
Stepping into the new 500 for the first time was refreshing. I loved the new steering wheel, and the panoramic roof that came with my test car. As can be expected with any EV, there was instant torque and for when you’re using the cruise control, it’s semi-autonomous too. I was really impressed with how far the technology has come with the little Fiat. The range might not be huge vs. some other EVs on the market, but when faced with a starting price of under £21k, and when you consider that most ‘city’ drives are less than 30 miles, than the new 500 is actually good value. You normally find that the ride is compromised with EVs, because of the weight of the batteries, which are located beneath the driver. I didn’t find this a problem with the 500 either, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting you were driving an EV at times. Fiat have even done away with door handles on the inside, instead replacing them with buttons to release the doors.
The new 500 EV is a fantastic little city car, that packs a bunch of new technology that is a welcome step forward for the 500 range. The design and style of the new model makes it look incredibly modern, something I think will appeal to new buyers. I feel that this will entice more buyers to EVs in the future, given the attractive starting price of the 500 too. It’s range may hinder the car a little bit, but the 500 was never designed for long journeys. The new EV is a brilliant effort from the Italian manufacturer, one which embraces modern technologies, but still retains the character and styling from the original 500 from back in 1957.
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