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Proven, award-winning city car formula transitions well to electric.
We try the all-electric 500 in fleet-friendly Icon trim.
Driving mode selection, digital driver info display, 7in TFT display, adjustable door mirrors, height/rake-adjustable steering wheel, rear parking sensors, electric front windows. LED daytime running lights, radio and USB port, seven airbags.
Hard to believe, but the modern Fiat 500 turns 15 this year and despite the launch of this all-electric, all-new model last year, original ICE-powered versions remain on-sale, for now.
Outside, 500 fans will be pleased that the new model doesn't reinvent the still-stylish look of the modern original. Instead, it looks like a clever update. In pictures, the 500e looks a similar size, but in the metal, it's significantly bigger thanks to its all-new electric platform. In fact, it's 61mm longer, 56mm wider and 29mm taller. Despite these packaging changes, during the week we had the car, we still found it a tight fit for taller drivers in the front, especially with growing children in the back. Carrying two adults and two children is possible, but only for short distances in our opinion. 185 litres doesn't sound a lot either, but the 500e's boot is surprisingly practical in use.
The space issues are partly forgotten thanks to the 500e's attractive interior design, quality interior fabrics and good all-round vision. The dashboard design itself follows the original, but the instruments have been replaced by a 7in digital TFT screen, with another 10.25in touch screen taking care of the infotainment.
Our test car was fitted with the optional wireless charging pad, which is conveniently positioned in the centre console. Plus, if you're bored in traffic, you can spend your time searching out the 'easter eggs' or hidden detailing, celebrating the fact this model is built in Italy at the Mirafiori plant.
In use, we found some of the ergonomics, such as the controls for simple features like the windscreen wipers, confusing, plus the infotainment had too many menus and small buttons. We were not convinced by the buttons that replace interior door handles either and our car, which was fitted keyless, seemed to have a mind of its own with regards to locking. Finally, although the interior plastics look attractive, they are hard and appear to mark easily.
Our Icon grade car is one up from the entry-level Action and is expected to be the most popular trim for fleets. It is fitted with the bigger 42kWh battery, equalling a 199-mile range and 118hp. Of more interest to fleet buyers are the 1% BIK rating, plus the fact it can be fast charged to 80% in 30 minutes via an 85kW fast charger.
On the road, the 500e's small dimensions and light feel means it's quick straight of the mark. 62mph accelerations takes nine seconds - but on the road we'd say it feels keener than that. Top speed is 93mph, but after a couple of charges, the 199-mile official range seems about right. There are also three driving modes to change the character of this car. 'Normal' is where our car spent most of its time and feels closest to the performance of a combustion engine. 'Range' is great around town, where the more noticeable regenerative braking means you only really use the accelerator. Finally, 'Sherpa' is a get-you-home mode, making the most of any range left and directing you to the nearest charge point.
Along with the energetic performance, the tidy handling, precise steering and a comfortable ride, even on the optional 17in wheels, means the 500e is a fun and engaging drive. Although more feel from the steering would be welcome.
So, to sum up, despite the switch to electric power, the Fiat 500 remains as stylish inside and out. On top of this, it offers a decent range compared with rivals, with the option to fast-charge and is actually more fun to drive than its original ICE brother.