Fiat 500e Review βˆ’


100% Electric Vehicles

Published on May 18th, 2016 | by Zach

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Fiat 500e Review

I finally got behind the wheel of a Fiat 500e while I was in Los Angeles for the Tesla Model 3 unveiling. I had heard wonderful things about the car, but naturally wanted to test it out for myself and compare it to the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Up!, Renault Zoe & Twizy, etc. Here’s my take.

Fiat 500e grey 1 enhanced

116 MPGe 4 (tight) seats
87 miles (140 km) 100% electric
$32,300 ($24,800), but with some superb lease offers 0–60 mph in 8.7 seconds

First of all, yes, the 500e is spunky — or “torquey” as Kyle likes to say and I think should be a mainstream term as well. It’s got pretty fun acceleration and can peel out pretty nicely if you want. Though, it doesn’t compare to the BMW i3 in that regard — neither in quickness or handling. Like the LEAF, if you step on it quickly (especially while turning), handling is a bit wobbly. Still, the Fiat 500e beats the pants off of a gasmobile anywhere near it in price.

Fiat 500eFiat 500e grey 2 enhanced Fiat 500e grey 3 enhanced

Unfortunately, Fiat didn’t do much to take advantage of the potential for one-pedal driving via regenerative braking. It’s similar to the LEAF in that regard again, and maybe even worse. The BMW i3 still offers the pinnacle of regenerative braking, imho, and I know that comes from its experience learning from customers through its ActiveE program — great work by BMW in that regard, but disappointing that other automakers didn’t pick up on this big benefit to EV driving and do more to maximize battery regeneration and ease of driving via stronger regen.

Fiat 500e white 2 enhanced Fiat 500e white enhanced

Style is always a subjective matter, but for my part, I’ll say that I love the cute look of the Fiat 500e. And I think the mix of cute and sporty make the 500e a great buy for the more masculine or feminine types.

The 500e’s weakest point is pretty obviously its interior space. The back seat is tight … really tight. The front seats are okay, but certainly more on the cozy side of things. And the trunk is tiny. This pretty much eliminates the 500e as a family car in my book. I think it’s an excellent car for a childless bachelor or bachelorette. I think it could even the best option for a young college kid — quite affordable (lease prices go down to $69/month! or $169/month with $0 down), a lot of fun, stylish (if you are on my side with that), and cheap to operate; just not a lot of space, which most college kids don’t need. We were told at the dealership we visited that individual weekends with good deals on offer saw sales of 40+ cars! Understandable, imho.

Fiat 500e interior enhanced Fiat 500e trunk 2 enhanced Fiat 500e trunk 3 enhanced Fiat 500e trunk enhanced


 

The navigation system on the 500e is a bit old school. As you’ll see if you watch the review video, passenger and fellow visitor Lesly and I were laughing that it reminded us of the original Super Mario Bros. or something from that era. Ain’t no Tesla. Still, it gets the job done, and I guess that’s the general story with the Fiat 500e (+ a some fun spunk) … unless the job entails regularly transporting more than 1 other person and/or a bit of cargo.

Of course, another big downside of the 500e is no DC fast charging. It’s not even an option, let alone Supercharging!

Overall, it seems that the pros and cons of the Fiat in my eyes are as follows:

Pros

  • Fun and quick, especially for the price.
  • Cute & stylish.
  • Cozy … if you like cozy and prefer the term over cramped.
  • Super affordable, especially when good deals are on offer.

Cons

  • Not spacious … at all.
  • Handling isn’t superb, but what can you expect at that price point?
  • Tech isn’t cutting edge.
  • It’s a Fiat … which would mean supporting EV-bashing Sergio Marchionne.

If I were in the market for this price range, I’d go for a LEAF or e-Golf over the 500e, but if I were younger and childless, I’d probably be debating the 500e vs the LEAF or e-Golf (presuming I lived in a place that offered the 500e and the e-Golf — which would basically mean the US West Coast).

Your thoughts on the intro EV from this Italian auto giant?

Photos by Kyle Field, edited by Zach Shahan, for EVObsession.com | CleanTechnica.com | CleanTechnica.pics


 

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Garrick Staples

    The 500e design team had a specific goal of making it behave like a regular automatic, so there goes one- pedal behavior.

    I bought a 500e specifically because of the style, fun of driving, and I don’t have kids. With only 87 miles of range, I think DC fast charge is a bit of a waste. It gets me around LA just fine and I love it (until I get my model 3).

    • 1) Ha, didn’t know that.

      2) Seems like a perfect use case. πŸ˜€ It is definitely fun and I love the style. Agreed that DC fast charging does really offer much with that range. Maybe once in awhile in certain perfect circumstances. My mom uses it in the LEAF when going to a city ~1 hr away to give acupuncture treatments.

    • William

      With only 87 miles of range, I think DC fast charge is a bit of a waste.

      I don’t follow the logic. It seems to me that, the shorter the range, the more important DCFC is, because you’re that much more likely to need to recharge during the day.

    • Like EV having “full tank of fuel” in the morning, DCFC is something you have to experience yourself to understand. There’s just no way to convey what it’s like to not worry about range, and giving the finger to those who claim EV is only good for short distance by driving several hundred miles a day.

      One would think that DCFC is painful and would rather take the gas car, but once you go EV, you make every excuse to avoid gas car. Again, that’s hard to convey in words and needs personal experience to understand.

  • Eletruk

    There’s more to the regenerative braking story. The 500e is 100% regenerative down to 8MPH where the physical brakes kick in, or in cases of panic braking, The 500e can regenerate up to 65KW, and their engineers claim up to 80% recovery, far better than other EVs. https://youtu.be/XCYyDUejDMY?t=423

    • SparkEV regenerative braking is conservatively estimated at 75% in my experiment. Accuracy suffers due to lack of equipment, but it’s ball-park figure. If Fiat500e only regenerates upon accelerator release like SparkEV, and not use the brakes or the battery power to slow down, experiment I describe can be done. If you want to run similar experiment on your EV, you can read what I did in my blog “Regenerative braking efficiency”

      http://sparkev.blogspot.com/2016/05/regenerative-braking-efficiency.html

    • OK, well, must be regen on the pedal, which the driver still has to actively get going. I’m referring to the car braking by itself when I take my foot off the pedal, which it hardly does.

  • 500e is quicker to 30 MPH than i3. In fact, I read some complaints about i3 “sluggish” launch, so I’m surprised to read your take that i3 is quicker. I sat in the back seat, and if you bend down, you can fit πŸ˜‰ If not for lack of DCFC and idiot of a CEO, it’d be a great car.

    As for one pedal driving, I think that’s fine IF it doesn’t use power from the batteries to slow down. I read that i3 uses power from the battery to allow 1 pedal driving, which is a NO-NO.

    • Wow, yeah, that’s hard to believe — the i3 feels a lot quicker. Where did you get the numbers?

      Not sure at what stage the i3 would use power from the battery for regen. The whole point of regen is to put power back in the battery.

      • I “raced” a 500e and LOST with my SparkEV so it’s at least quicker than SparkEV to 30, though I passed her after about 45 MPH. Then I read about i3 sluggish launch in various forum comments. The actual comparison is from here.

        http://insideevs.com/plug-vehicle-cross-section-acceleration-30-mph-60-mph-ev-mode

        Quick 0-30 means 30-60 is going to be slow. At about 2.8 seconds to 30 and 8.7 seconds to 60, that means about 6 seconds from 30 to 60. SparkEV would do that in about 4.5 seconds and i3 would do in 3.5.

        But 6 seconds is still better than Leaf at almost 7 seconds, and 2.8 sec to 30 is better than Chevy’s preliminary spec on Bolt (2.9).

  • William

    Actually, Sergio claims that he loses ~$14K on every sale, and asks that you not buy the 500e. So sticking it to him is one of the “Pros”. πŸ˜‰

    • William

      (Assuming he’s not just using reverse psychology there.)

      • Yeah, he’s being an ass, from what I can tell. It costs a lot to develop a new car, and especially a new type of car. The more of the vehicle you sell, though, the more you can recoup those initial investments. So, if Fiat sold enough, it could make a profit on the model.

        BUT, Sergio knows (and has stated) that EVs present an existential threat to Fiat’s gasmobile vehicles, so he is not eager to see the technology get popular.

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