Full 2014 FIAT 500e Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Fiat 500e carries over unchanged.
The prospect of avoiding gas stations can be an appealing one, especially if you live in a congested urban area. Just plug in your electric vehicle while you work or sleep and it'll be ready to drive the next time you are. The 2014 Fiat 500e hatchback satisfies this desire while offering all the style and personality of the regular, gasoline-powered Fiat 500.
Indeed, shoppers ready to embrace the inherent challenges of electric car ownership will likely find Fiat's EV quite enjoyable to drive. The 500e actually handles better than the gasoline-powered version, and its electric motor delivers immediate torque, which makes for noticeably quicker acceleration in any situation. What's more, the 2014 Fiat 500e can fully charge in four hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. Combine that with its above-average 87-mile rated range and it stacks up well against its all-electric rivals in the practicality department.
As much as we like driving the electric Fiat 500, the fact that it's only available to California residents is an obvious downside. And realistically, this two-door hatchback is only a two-passenger car. Yes, the 500e has four seats, but because of the intrusion of its battery pack, the rear seat isn't anywhere near as roomy or useful as the standard 500's backseat. And although the electric Fiat has cool, distinctive interior trim, it's still like the regular 500 in that there's an abundance of hard plastic, and the layout of the radio controls isn't exactly ergonomic.
Of course, there are now several choices for a small electric car, and we recommend checking out at least a couple of them (especially if you don't live in California). The 2014 Nissan Leaf has been around the longest, and that coupled with its low starting price and spacious interior makes it a solid pick for a small EV. It's quite a bit slower accelerating up to highway speeds, though. The nicely furnished 2014 Ford Focus Electric is the best option for buyers needing a true four-seater, though it, too, feels pokey compared with the 500e. The Chevrolet Spark EV is a relatively affordable choice for an electric car and it's even quicker than the Fiat, but its long recharging times (almost twice as long as the 500e's) are a potential hassle.
Within this group, the 2014 Fiat 500e is a good option if you're looking for an EV with sporty driving dynamics, respectable range and fairly rapid recharging times. It looks pretty good in orange, too.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The subcompact 500e is available as a two-door hatchback and is offered in a single, well-equipped trim level. It shares most of its exterior components with the standard, gasoline-powered 500, but wears unique front and rear fascias, wider side sills, smooth underbody components, a rear spoiler and distinct 15-inch alloy wheels, all tuned specifically for aerodynamics.
Standard features include heated mirrors, solar-tinted glass, keyless entry, automatic climate control, full power accessories, cruise control, manually adjustable heated front seats with driver-side height adjustment, vinyl (leatherette)/cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-adjustable steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 50/50 split-folding rear seats. The standard electronics array includes rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB/iPod integration, an auxiliary audio jack, a six-speaker Alpine audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, and a handheld TomTom navigation system with a 4.3-inch touchscreen that attaches to the 500e's dash (it can scan nearby charging stations and determine availability in real time).
A sunroof is optional, as is the e-Sport appearance package, which provides darkened exterior lamp bezels, orange exterior trim pieces and orange-accented wheels for a more customized look.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2014 Fiat 500e has an 83-kilowatt electric motor capable of 111 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. It's powered by a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
During Edmunds testing, the 2014 500e went from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds -- a quick time for an EV in this price range.
The 500e should make it 87 miles on a charge, according to the EPA, so it compares favorably with the Chevrolet Spark (82 miles), electric Ford Focus (76 miles) and Nissan Leaf (75 miles). Our best range during testing was over 109 miles. The EPA gives the Fiat 500e an energy consumption estimate of 29 kWh per 100 miles rating (the lower the kWh number, the better here), which is on par with the Chevy and Nissan.
Equally important, the EPA says the 500e can fully recharge in four hours on a 240-volt outlet, and we confirmed this in our testing. That's as quick as a Leaf (with a 6.6kW charger), but a bit longer than the Focus Electric. If you have to plug into a 120-volt circuit, though, estimated charging time goes up considerably.
The 2014 Fiat 500e comes standard with antilock brakes (four-wheel discs), stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and active front head restraints. Rear parking sensors are also standard.
In Edmunds testing the 500e came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet, which is average for small EVs.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Fiat 500e comes generously trimmed with perforated leatherette upholstery with a nifty retro-inspired contrasting gradient pattern. Orange accents abound, whether you choose the white or black primary color scheme, and a coordinated, matte-finished body-color dashboard panel is standard. All 500e models ordered with the white interior theme also wear white-accented front and rear fascias and a white rear spoiler. As nice as everything looks, closer inspection reveals plenty of hard plastic and some of the same fit-and-finish flaws we've noticed in the regular 500.
Drivers face a unique 7-inch circular instrument cluster displaying power output, driving range, energy use, the battery pack's state of charge, speed, gear selection, mobile phone connection status and more. The coolness of the instrument panel is tempered by the clunky, dated design of the audio controls, however.
Not surprisingly, the battery and associated electrical components take up valuable cabin space, which is already at a premium in the small Fiat. Rear legroom shrinks 4 inches compared with the standard 500, while total cargo space (with the rear seats folded) is down to 26.3 cubic feet from 30.2 cubes. While the 500e is technically a four-passenger car, it is truly comfortable for two passengers only.
Thanks to the instantaneous torque of its electric motor, the 500e feels quick from a stop and pulls briskly to highway speeds. Once you're on the highway, though, the rate of acceleration drops off considerably as you approach the car's top speed of 85 mph. The various aerodynamic aids reduce drag and contribute to a quiet cabin. The regenerative brakes feel very natural, which is a nice surprise because EVs often have odd braking characteristics.
Thanks to strategic packaging of its heavy battery pack, the extra weight is well distributed in the 2014 Fiat 500e and it goes around turns with much the same eagerness as the gas-powered 500. Although the steering can feel overly heavy when you have the car pointed straight, as soon as you start to turn, it lightens up and offers good feedback. Compared with other electric cars in this price range, the Fiat 500e stands apart for its sporty handling and fun-to-drive character.