The Fiat 500e: A Fun and Charming All-Electric Car That Deserves More Attention
The Fiat 500e is a truly remarkable electric car that unfortunately remains a rare sight in most parts of the U.S. Being a “compliance car,” it is only offered in California and Oregon, making it inaccessible to many American small-car shoppers. It’s a shame because the Fiat 500e ranks as one of the most enjoyable, money-saving, and charming electric cars on the market. Our editors are no strangers to the 500e, having driven it multiple times in different cars and covering several hundred all-electric miles. Every time, we have been thoroughly impressed with its performance, finding it to be a well-engineered, predictably performing electric car that is both quick and quiet, consistently exceeding our expectations.
In a recent comparison between the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio and the Fiat 500e, we concluded that the 500e is simply the better car. While neither of the two-door Fiat 500 models is ideal for families or active couples, the 500e excels in meeting the needs of a city car, making it the clear winner in this category.
Before passing judgment, let’s explore six reasons why the Fiat 500e is the superior choice:
1. Above-and-beyond engineering: The 500e is not just an electric conversion of the Fiat 500. Fiat went the extra mile to adapt the 500 lineup for the U.S. market, adding extensive engineering enhancements to the 500e. The suspension was retuned and adapted, the battery serves to stiffen the body, and engineers spent 400 additional hours in the wind tunnel to reduce aerodynamic drag by an impressive 13% compared to the gasoline versions. This saves the equivalent of about 5 miles per gallon in energy efficiency. Chief engineer Brett Giem’s goal from the beginning was to create an exceptional car that happens to be electric. Although there are some drawbacks, such as the lack of fast-charging capabilities, the 500e delivers on most other fronts.
2. Excellent balance and agility: The 500e is a champion of great electric car dynamics, and its lively off-the-line performance is just one aspect of its appeal. The handling is nimble and well-balanced, surpassing even the standard 500 and competing favorably with the Abarth model. With the battery located underneath the floor, towards the rear wheels, the 500e achieves a lower center of mass, adding to its stability. It also improves the weight distribution, shifting it from a front-heavy 63/37 split in the gasoline versions to a more evenly distributed 53/47 split. Below 40 mph, the 500e feels just as quick as the Abarth, and even in the hands of a skilled professional driver, the Abarth can only manage a slight performance advantage to 30 mph.
3. Shedding the boy-racer persona: While the 500 Abarth’s aggressive exhaust note may be appealing to driving enthusiasts, it can be a bit much for those who aren’t in love with the loud, tuner-car sound. The 500e, in contrast, remains quiet at all times, allowing you to navigate through traffic without drawing unnecessary attention from passengers or bystanders. This subtle feature gives the 500e the advantage for those seeking a refined and discreet driving experience.
4. The wicked-great display: The gauges and displays in the gasoline versions of the Fiat 500 are decent, but once you glance at the bright and colorful display in the 500e, it’s hard to look back. Battery levels and charge status are easily visible at a glance. The display for remaining range is reliable and steady, while additional features for scheduled charging and vehicle settings are tucked away in intuitive menus. The efficiency briefing when turning off the ignition is informative yet uncluttered when driving.
5. Ample range for city driving: Let’s be honest, how often do you drive more than 70 or 80 miles per trip in a car like the Fiat 500? With the 500e, we have achieved over 70 miles on a single charge while utilizing the climate control and taking full advantage of its lively characteristics. On a recent drive, we easily covered 100 miles without climate control, driving normally. The front seats in the Fiat 500 lineup aren’t particularly comfortable for long journeys, so the 500e is best suited as a second or third car for shorter trips. You’ll be delighted by its swift acceleration, cleanliness, and quietness.
6. Money-saving every step of the way: The Fiat 500 Abarth achieves an EPA combined rating of 30 miles per gallon, while the 500e achieves an impressive 116 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). Although this might be challenging to comprehend, what’s clear-cut is the cost of charging the 500e’s 24-kWh battery. It only amounts to around $2.75 under the national-average utility rates, allowing you to travel an EPA-rated 87 miles. If you take advantage of the federal tax credit, you can bring the upfront price of the 500e closer to that of the Abarth. Furthermore, a $199 lease on the 500e makes it an absolute no-brainer if you’re looking to save money. Additionally, there’s no need to worry about resale value, which is not a strong suit for the Abarth.
In conclusion, the Fiat 500e is an exceptional electric car that deserves more attention. Its fun-to-drive nature, cost-savings, and unique features set it apart from its gasoline-powered counterparts. While it may not be accessible to all American small-car shoppers due to its limited availability, those who have the chance to experience the 500e will be rewarded with a truly delightful electric car that stands out for all the right reasons.
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