It's the return of the Fiat 500 on American soil, but will it do any better the second time around?
The peppy Fiat 500e has officially launched in America as an electric-only city car, four years after the gas version departed America, leaving behind only the 500X crossover.
The 500e has the privilege of being Stellantis' first BEV sold in America (if you discount the 500e sold from 2013 to 2019 which Sergio Marchionne described as a money-losing exercise he hoped no one would buy). A 42 kWh battery powers the single electric motor, which produces 118 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque sent to the front wheels. It won't thrill speed seekers with a top speed of 94 mph, but the electric Fiat should be an enthusiastic city slicker. With a curb weight of 2,952 lbs, the little 500e can sprint to 60 mph in a respectable 8.5 seconds - quick enough for urban commuting.
With an EPA-estimated range of 149 miles, keeping the 500e confined to the city limits would be best. A long-distance tourer it is not. That said, it trounces its closest rival, the Mini Cooper Electric Hardtop, which has an official range of 114 miles. However, a replacement for the Mini is on the horizon. The 42 kWh battery can be recharged in four hours and 15 minutes if plugged into an 11 kW Level 2 charger.
When hooked up to an 85 kW DC fast charger, owners can glean 31 miles of range in just five minutes of charging. 0% - 80% takes around 35 minutes on a DC charger. It's worth noting that every 500e will come standard with a home charger box system or charging credits through the Free2Move Charge system. The 500e receives one-pedal driving as standard, allowing owners to recoup range when driving in stop-and-go traffic.
There are three driving modes: Normal, Range, and Sherpa. In 'Normal,' the vehicle retains "familiar" driving characteristics. In this mode, the car will coast along like an ICE-powered vehicle. In 'Range,' the one-pedal drive system with regenerative braking is activated.
Lastly, there's 'Sherpa.' This mode maximizes efficiency to ensure the driver reaches their destination safely. The top speed is limited to 50 mph, while power is restricted to 76 hp. However, total power is restored if the driver floors the throttle, for example, in an emergency.
To warn pedestrians of its presence, the 500e has an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) that "sings" a charming tune as it passes by. Created by Flavio Ibba-Marco Gualdi, "The sound of 500" is said to give a taste of Italian culture while you drive along.
One of the biggest selling points of the 500e is the delightful exterior styling. The retro design has held up remarkably well, and the little Fiat looks at home anywhere you park it. US-spec models receive LED lighting at the front and rear, flush-fitting "e-latch" door handles, and 17-inch diamond-cut wheels.
Just one trim level will be sold at launch: the (RED) Edition. Fiat has partnered with the charity to create a special edition that receives several unique touches, including special red paintwork, unique grille decals, and a red-painted dashboard, to name a few features. For every example sold, a small portion is donated to the global charity to help people and communities in need. Stellantis has teamed up with (RED) several times and recently introduced a special edition of the Ram 1500.
Measuring just 142.9 inches long, 66.3 inches tall, and 74.1 inches wide, the Fiat makes something like a Corolla Hatch look like an SUV in comparison.
Inside, the 500e pays tribute to the original 1957 500 with a two-spoke steering wheel and rounded instrument cluster. But make no mistake, the 500e is a modern city car with the expected amenities. This includes a 10.25-inch center screen with Uconnect 5 and a seven-inch fully digital driver's display. The 500e receives wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a built-in virtual assistant. Naturally, there's wireless smartphone charging and dual phone connectivity. The system can also receive over-the-air updates, meaning it's always kept up to date.
The driver receives six-way seat adjustability, while the front passenger makes do with four-way adjustments. Fiat notes the seats are made of recycled materials.
Safety features include Lane Keep Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Pedestrian Alert.
Pricing for the 500e (RED) Edition starts at $32,500 (excl. $1,595 destination fee). That is indeed steep, but Fiat's launch with a special edition gives us hope that a more affordable model (priced under $30,000) will be made available later. The 500e does not appear eligible for federal tax incentives, meaning there's no $7,500 discount (or part thereof) as you can get on the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Nissan Leaf, America's cheapest EVs.
If you're interested, the 500e will reach dealerships in the first quarter of next year as a MY2024. "Fiat is taking on BEVs in a way only the Italian brand can, combining [the] 'La Dolce Vita' spirit of an icon with a mission of sustainability and zero emissions. The 2024 500e is a modern, tech-forward take on a beloved classic, delivering new safety features while remaining fun to drive and true to its roots. Try not to smile when you drive this car."