The Fiat 500e is an electric-powered version of the Fiat 500 hatchback and represents a stylish entry in the growing electric car field. While the 500e's price is considerably higher than that of the standard 500, Fiat has tried to build value into it, making most of the regular-grade 500's optional features standard and dressing up the body with aerodynamic enhancements. Plus, when you add up all the possible federal, state and local tax incentives, the actual purchase price of a new Fiat 500e gets closer to that of a comparably equipped gasoline Fiat 500.
One other major drawback involves the packaging of the battery and electrical systems, which gobbles up rear seat and cargo space and leaves the 500e with one of the smallest rear seats in existence. Even so, the Fiat 500e is an appealing choice for an electric car. For the moment, you'll need to dwell in California if you want to buy one, as Fiat has not announced plans to sell the 500e outside the Golden State.
Current Fiat 500e Specs
The subcompact 500e debuted as a new model for 2013, and comes only as a two-door hatchback in a single, well-equipped trim level. The front wheels are powered by an 83-kilowatt electric motor generating 111 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque, with juice provided by a 24kWh lithium-ion battery. The EPA gives the Fiat 500e an energy consumption estimate of 29 kWh per 100 miles (the lower the kWh number, the better here), which translates to MPGe figures of 122 mpg city/108 mpg highway and 116 MPGe combined. Estimated range is a livable 87 miles, according to the EPA.
Despite being much heavier than the standard 500, its more powerful electric powertrain hustles the 500e to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, according to Fiat. That's quicker than the gas-powered 500 and similar to the acceleration of other similarly priced electric cars. The automaker also says the 500e can fully recharge in less than 4 hours on a 240-volt outlet. If you have to plug into a 120-volt circuit, though, estimated charging time shoots up to "less than 24 hours."
Compared to the gasoline-powered 500, the 500e wears unique front and rear fascias, wide side sills, smooth underbody panels, a rear spoiler and aero-tuned 15-inch wheels. The Fiat 500e comes in silver, gray, black, white or orange, with black or white interior themes highlighted. An optional Nero exterior package adds even more zest to the 500e's already sporty look, while a "Steam" white interior package adds some serious Italian flair to the cabin. Whichever motif you choose, you had better like orange, because all Fiat 500e hatchbacks feature bright orange accents somewhere inside the car.
Standard features include keyless entry, climate control, power accessories, cruise control, heated front seats, leatherette/cloth upholstery with a gradient perforation pattern, and a unique 7-inch graphical gauge cluster. The electric Fiat 500 also features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, push-button transmission operation, split-folding rear seats, a trip computer, parking sensors, a TomTom navigation system (that can scan and request nearby charging stations in real time) and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with satellite radio, USB/iPod integration and an auxiliary audio input.
Thanks to the instantaneous torque of the 111-hp electric motor, the Fiat 500e gathers speed briskly, though acceleration drops off considerably once you reach highway speeds. The 500e's eye-catching aerodynamic enhancements not only reduce drag, but they help make it quiet at speed, too. Even the regenerative brakes feel very natural. The only major dynamic shortcoming is the 500e's overboosted steering, which offers little feedback and makes the car less fun to toss around corners than the regular 500. The Fiat 500e is otherwise enjoyable from behind the wheel thanks to its small dimensions, tightly tuned suspension and instant-on power.
Read the most recent 2014 FIAT 500e review.