Used 2016 FIAT 500e Hatchback Review

The 2016 Fiat 500e hatchback is fun and personable, just like the regular 500. You don't have to give up much to go electric.




what's new

The 2016 Fiat 500e has an updated infotainment system with navigation (it replaces the previous dash-mounted TomTom portable navigation device). Additionally, Fiat has discontinued the "ePass" program that previously provided 500e owners free rentals of gas-powered vehicles.

vehicle overview

People who drive electric cars usually love them, and it's easy to see why with the 2016 Fiat 500e. While it can go only an estimated 87 miles on a single charge, the Fiat 500e has plenty of range for a typical day's driving for most drivers. There are also the factors of a low operating cost (electricity's typically cheaper than gasoline, and maintenance on an EV is virtually nil) and the environmental benefits of driving a car with no tailpipe emissions. Above all that, though, this Fiat is surprisingly fun to drive. Its acceleration is nearly equal to the hopped-up Fiat 500 Abarth, and its petite size and low-slung battery pack allow the 500e to zip around turns with ease.

There are a few downsides, though. Because of its small size, the regular 500 is quite small on the inside, and the 500e is even more cramped because the battery and electric propulsion system eat up a lot of room. It's fair to say the 500e is just a two-person car, as the rear seats, which are already of limited value in the standard 500, become vestigial in the 500e. Also, Fiat currently sells the electric 500 in California and Oregon only. Some other rival EVs are sold nationwide.

Topping that list is the Nissan Leaf. It has better driving range (it's been upgraded for 2016), a usable backseat and years of proven reliability behind it. Another option is the Ford Focus Electric. It's also roomier, though, like the Leaf, its performance isn't quite as quick as the 500e's. We'd also recommend taking a look at the Volkswagen e-Golf and Kia Soul EV. But if you live in the right states and are thinking that an EV might be a good fit for your lifestyle and driving needs, the combination of decent driving range, entertaining performance and quick recharging makes the Fiat 500e a fine choice.

trim levels & features

The 2016 Fiat 500e is a two-door mini-compact hatchback sold in a single, well-equipped trim level. It shares most of its bodywork with the standard gasoline-powered Fiat 500, but has its own specific front and rear body panels, wider side sills, smooth underbody components, rear spoiler and 500e-specific 15-inch alloy wheels. The bodywork was designed to optimize aerodynamics, which helps boost that all-important driving range.

Standard features for the 500e include heated side mirrors, rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, full power accessories, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, manually adjustable heated front seats with driver-side height adjustment, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-adjustable steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 50/50-split folding rear seats. Standard technology features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a version of Chrysler's in-dash Uconnect system that includes a 5-inch touchscreen, navigation, voice commands and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.

The only options are a sunroof and the e-Sport appearance package that includes darkened exterior lamp bezels, orange exterior trim pieces and special 15-inch wheels for a more customized look.

performance & mpg

The 2016 Fiat 500e has an 83-kilowatt electric motor that develops 111 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque, channeled to the front wheels through a single-speed automatic transmission. A rechargeable 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack powers the motor.

During Edmunds testing, a 500e went from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, a quick time for an EV in this price range.

Determining "fuel economy" for an EV is markedly different than for conventional vehicles. According to the EPA, the Fiat 500e needs 29 kWh of electricity for 100 miles of driving (in this case, low kWh numbers are better than big ones). That amount of energy efficiency is in line with that of the BMW i3, Chevy Spark EV  and Nissan Leaf.

EPA estimates for the 2016 500e weren't published when this review was prepared (we will update when they are available). But with the same propulsion system and no material changes to the rest of the package, we expect the 2016 to echo the 2015 with a combined city/highway driving range rating of 87 miles. That's better than the similarly sized Spark EV's 82 miles and the Ford Focus Electric's 76 miles, though the Kia Soul EV and Nissan Leaf have higher estimates.

Fiat says the 500e, with its standard 6.6 kW charger, can fully recharge in four hours on a 240-volt outlet, an estimate confirmed in our testing. If your only available circuit is standard 120-volt household current, charging time increases considerably.

safety

The 2016 Fiat 500e comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and active front head restraints. Rear parking sensors also are standard, and a warning sound is emitted at low speeds to warn pedestrians of the near-silent 500e's presence.

In Edmunds testing, a 500e needed 129 feet to stop from 60 mph, average for small EVs.

driving

An electric motor can provide its full torque as soon as you ask for it (gasoline engines have to build up their engine rpm to achieve their maximum torque and power), so as with other EVs, the 500e accelerates briskly from a standstill. It also pulls steadily to higher speeds, although the acceleration tapers off as speeds approach the 500e's 85 mph maximum. All EVs are quiet, but the 500e's aerodynamic upgrades and a host of other sound-reducing measures make for an impressively tranquil cabin, even if you're moving at highway speed. The energy-saving regenerative braking feels pretty normal, essentially devoid of the somewhat grabby feel that many EVs' brakes exhibit.

Compared with other electric cars in its price range, the 2016 Fiat 500e stands apart for its sporty handling and fun-to-drive character. It feels nimble and quick to respond, and fitting into a tight parking slot or hitting a gap in traffic is a cinch. The generally light steering takes on more "weight" when cruising down highways, providing a confident, reassuring feel that's uncommon in such a small car.

interior

The interior of the 500e is a cheery place, where airy orange accents set off either white or black as the primary interior color. We wish the plastics looked and felt a little better, though, and that trim panels were fit with more precision. However, these conditions are no different from the conventionally powered Fiat 500.

An easy-to read, 7-inch circular instrument cluster is standard for the 500e, and its primary focus is on EV-specific data such as driving range, energy use and the battery pack's state of charge. Also provided are basic operational information such as speed and gear selection, as well as phone connection status. There are numerous ways in which to arrange the display to suit your preference. The new Uconnect infotainment system is integrated in the dash and gets rid of the tacky handheld navigation device that was affixed to the dash on an exposed external mount in previous model years.

There's ample room in the front seats for taller occupants, thanks in part to noticeably high seat cushions that optimize legroom. Be advised that the optional sunroof drastically cuts into your headroom, though. And because the battery pack and other electronics are situated rearward, rear seat legroom is pretty much nonexistent.

Luggage and cargo space also take a hit. With the rear seatbacks up, the 500e provides just 7.0 cubic feet of space (down from 9.5 cubic feet in the regular 500) and 26.3 cubic feet with the seats folded. Nonetheless, the 500e's cargo area compares reasonably well with the larger Leaf, which offers 30 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats down.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.