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First Drive

First Drive: Fiat 500 Electric

The story: Fiat’s iconic and important 500 city car goes all-electric for its new third-generation model, coming with a choice of two battery options for urban or longer-range operation
Category:City car
Key rival:Volkswagen Up
Efficiency:Range 186 miles
On sale:March 2021

 This is a big one for Fiat, and for electric vehicles as a whole. The new version of Fiat’s best-selling model, one of the most recognisable cars on the road, will arrive next March as only an electric car.

Well, two electric powertrains, because the company is offering “city range” and “long range” models – the former with a 24kWh battery, 95hp and official 115-mile range, the latter a 42kWh battery, 118hp and a range of up to 199 miles.

Entry level for the new 500, after the £3000 Government plug-in car grant, is a shade below £20,000, thanks to the 24kWh battery coming only in the entry-spec Action model. From there, all cars get the bigger battery and it’s a £3500 rise to the Passion model, plus another £2700 to go from hatchback to the 500 Convertible. The range-topping La Prima Convertible costs £32,995 before the grant.

First Drive- December 2020- Fiat 500 Electric- Image 2Fiat hasn’t strayed far from the winning styling formula that has made its current 500 such a runaway success over the past 13 years. The new 500 is clearly still a 500, although it has swapped Fiat badge for a simple 500 on the nose, and the lighting at the front has a more modern LED effect.

Performance is certainly pleasantly perky from the 87kW electric motor, giving the new 500 a sharp turn of speed. Luckily, the car isn’t unsettled by taking corners or roundabouts slightly faster than anticipated. The light and relatively uncommunicative steering does leave the driver a little unsure about how far the car is from its limits, but it has plenty in hand.

The electric car also rides significantly better than the previous 500. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly more than acceptable overall.

First Drive- December 2020- Fiat 500 Electric- Image 8The Fiat has three drive modes of Normal, Range – which increases the regeneration to become driveable on (and off) just the accelerator – and Sherpa, which is designed to maximise electric range using measures including cutting the power, limiting top speed to 50mph and disengaging the air-con, heated seats and heated mirrors.

The infotainment system is much-improved over the previous 500, at least above the Action entry model that gets a phone cradle rather than a touchscreen, but it’s not much of a search to find cheaper hard plastics in the cabin, although the large dashboard insert does lift the ambience, along with the dashboard ring encircling the main dash area.

However, the cabin is small, so one adult won’t easily sit behind another, and the boot is also rather compact, although matches the petrol version’s 185 litres.

paul barker

The verdict

A very likeable and good-to-drive little electric car. It’s not cheap for the version with the more usable range, but the cut-price urban-range model is a handy extra offering.