The original Fiat 500 has to be one of the most recognisable shapes in the automotive spectrum and is the quintessential little city car, a spot we think it shares with the Mini. However, many decades have come and gone since then and those two have grown to become icons in their own right.
The Fiat 500 – now in its third generation – has been redesigned from the ground to be an electric vehicle. The company says that engineers of new 500 project started with a blank piece of paper and ended up the Italian-American brand’s first fully-electric production car. Further, they go on to say that it’s also the first convertible four-seater EV to go on sale. However, Fiat will still continue to offer hybrid and combustion engine variants as there is still a demand for it in certain markets.
While right-hand drive production has been confirmed for the model, it isn’t clear at the current moment if Australia will be receiving it any time soon, as UK launch has been slated for early 2021. The company has opened the order books for the 500 Convertible “La Prima” launch version – which is limited 500 units per market – priced from £29,000 or AU$57,800 Australian dollars.
The migration from fossil fuels to electricity in the Fiat 500e poses a couple key questions for future buyers, namely: range and charging times. As for that first one, a fully-juiced up 500e has a range of 320km when measured on the WLTP model, thanks to its 42kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
The electric motor on the other hand has an output of 87kW, which means it can accelerate from rest to 100 km/h in 9 seconds, but it can get to 50 km/h from standstill in just 3.1 seconds thanks to the beauty of instant torque from the electric motor. Top speed is claimed at 150 km/h.
In terms of charging that battery pack up, future owners can take comfort in the new 500e’s 85kW fast charge system which only takes five minutes to build up a sufficient charge to travel 48km. Using a fast charger can also power the battery to 80 percent in just 35 minutes. The Combo 2 socket, located on the rear right side panel of the car, can accept both AC and DC charging.
Of course, some owners would want home charging solutions and behold, the Launch Edition of the 500e comes with an Easy Wallbox home charging system that can be plugged into any home electrical socket – without the need for professional installation – which can deliver up to 3kW. The Easy Wallbox can be upgraded to 7.4kW, providing a full charge at home in just over six hours. The 500e is also supplied with a Mode 3 cable for charging at up to 11kW from a public charge point.
Drivers are presented with three driving modes in the Fiat 500e which include Normal, Range and Sherpa. The former mode is described by the automaker as being as close as possible to driving a vehicle with a normal combustion engine, while “Range” activates the “one-pedal-drive” function. Sherpa mode basically optimises economy and limits the top speed to 80 km/h and does away with air-conditioning and heated seats while reducing throttle pedal sensitivity.
Fiat says their new 500e isn’t just an electric city car with appeal but rather capable of much more. The brand has given it Level 2 autonomous driving capability and it’s also the first car in the segment to offer it (at press time). The system works using a front-facing camera with monitoring technology along with an intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) system that can brake or accelerate the 500e in response to anything on the road be it cyclists, pedestrians and other cars of course.
The new car also gets Intelligent Speed Assist which can read speed limit signboards and recommends applying them to your drive, while Urban Blind Spot uses ultrasonic sensors to monitor the blind spots and warn of any obstacles with a triangular warning light in the wing mirror. Then there’s Attention Assist, which shows you warnings on the display, recommending that you stop and take a break when it detects driver fatigue. Finally, the 360° sensors provides the driver with a birds-eye-view of the surrounding area to avoid any obstacles when parking or when manoeuvring in tight spaces.
Due to the way the batteries are laid out in the Fiat 500e, the interior has a flat floor which is great for cabin occupancy. The Italians say its completely new inside and achieves simplicity and clarity by distributing the bulk efficiently. Certain variants may have their seats upholstered with “Seaqual” which is a yarn derived from plastic recovered from the ocean along with vegan or eco leather.
The third-generation Fiat 500 is also the first FCA car equipped with the new UConnect 5 infotainment system. The system is also combined with Telematic Box Module which comes with features such as My Assistant, My Remote, My Car, My Navigation, My Wi-Fi and My Theft Assistance. Of course, the new 500 comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, all of which are displayed via the 10.25-inch HD touchscreen in 16:9 ratio.
The exterior of the new 500 looks a lot like the second-generation model however there are several differences. The lines are slightly sharper, the door handles now sit flush to the body and the headlights and tail lamps are LEDs and an evolution of the of the previous generation’s design. The new car also sits on 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. The 500e meanwhile gets a redesigned logo with a play of design and colour transforming the final zero into the letter “E”.
The La Prima launch edition will come in three colours, namely: Mineral Grey which is metallic, Ocean Green that’s pearlescent and a three-layer paintjob called Celestial Blue.
Finally, Fiat will also be auctioning off three one-off renditions of the 500 for charity. Giorgio Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell have all bestowed their bespoke style for a good cause.