Fiat has sold shedloads of its 500 supermini EV and, after spending some time pootling around in the mid-tier Icon model, it’s easy to see why. It takes the fun factor of the petrol-powered version, majorly overhauls it with the latest tech, and makes the driving experience that little bit more enjoyable thanks to a peppy electric motor.
It’s amazingly agile and works perfectly around busy city streets, with an unmatched ability to get in and out of tight spots with seemingly no effort at all. However, the Fiat 500 electric is also a whizz if you’re going farther afield. We clocked up a few longish runs in the little runabout over the course of a week and it fared surprisingly well. The Fiat 500 is such a fun car to drive you tend to forgive it for any anxiety created by the official 199 mile range (which is more like 160 on a good day).
There’s good news on that front too, as the New 500 Icon’s 42kW battery can be charged surprisingly quickly, so it’s never long before you’re on your way again. It actually fares better than comparable EVs like the Honda e or Mini Electric.
Our car didn’t have the beefy 320-watt JBL audio system, which comes as standard on the recently-launched 500 La Prima by Bocelli model. If you’re into quality in-car audio it makes this hugely popular little city runabout even more appealing – but even without it our car was still a blast to drive.
The fun starts before you even get into the Fiat 500. Although this all-electric model follows the same theme as earlier petrol-engined editions, and captures the essence of the dinky original, it’s been specifically designed around the EV architecture. So from the outside there are the usual cool curves, funky design features like flushed LED headlights and perky little taillights. Only some subtle tweaks here and there give you an inkling of its all-electric properties, with a front grille that really looks the part and neat gloss back alloys providing the icing on the cake.
On the inside, there’s a simple and very practical design layout with two no-nonsense, but surprisingly comfy seats in the front and space for two in the back. It’s strictly a two door (at least here in the UK), with the front seats moving forward to let you into the rear. The brilliant thing about this car is that, although it’s small on the outside, it feels really roomy on the inside. That goes for anyone who has to sit in the back too, with the plethora of glass making it feel light and airy. The rear parcel shelf, incidentally, has to be one of the smallest that ever existed. Very cute.
The retro metal dashboard panel was colour-coded to the metallic Glacier Blue exterior paint of our car, but this can be customised to suit your taste. Meanwhile, the various buttons are easy to get your head around. Being an EV though, the speedo has been overhauled to put charging information and remaining battery front-and-centre of the dashboard.
There’s a 10.25in touchscreen sitting in the middle of the dash and this contains all of the usual options, including a very serviceable sat nav. Voice control options are included and we had the wireless mobile charging option installed too.
Down to the left of the driver’s seat, under the infotainment screen are physical buttons too, for things like the heater and AC controls primarily. Under that are drive select buttons, so push D once for drive, N for neutral and so on. Between the seats, next to a rollable volume button for adjusting the radio/audio volume there’s a tab for selecting your preferred drive mode. Choose from Normal, Range and, interestingly, Sherpa for when battery levels need to be conserved.
While we loved the look of the New 500 Icon model things got even better when we hopped in and took it for a spin. This is a fun car to drive without doubt. It’s short and stubby, narrow and nimble, but with the added bonus of having the battery pack sitting in the floorplan of the car. This makes the EV even more fun to get around town than the petrol as it sticks to the road like glue, aided by the grippy front-wheel drive. To look at, you think the car is going to roll all over the place, but it doesn’t. Navigating tight roundabouts is such a blast that it’s tempting to go round again, just for the hell of it.
Considering the New 500 Icon model is aimed at metropolitan motoring needs the little car fares surprisingly well out on the motorway too. We took a trip to Stansted airport and back, using the likes of the M3 and M25 and the little car holds its own. In fact, the drive is effortless. There’s enough oomph from the battery and motor combination to deliver a decent power surge to get past other vehicles when you’re changing lanes. The speed tops out at 93mph, while 0-62 takes 9 seconds. It’s all perfectly fine for the sort of car that this is. Along the way, you can take advantage of the driver aids, which can be switched off if preferred. We liked the dong, dong of the speed camera warning chime, though some folks might find this incredibly annoying.
The New 500 Icon model is such a blast to drive though that you feel yourself relaxing and barely flinching when the range starts to drop. It’s the sort of car that’s well suited to quick top ups if you see a vacant charger, so if you’re in need of the loo, a cup of coffee or indeed both, then 30 minutes gets the car up to acceptable levels again.
The 10.25in touchscreen is really impressive and we were also pretty pleased with the way the voice activated controls worked too. The 7in TFT digital instrument cluster is simple but effective, showing you a quick overview of what’s going on with the battery and your range next to a cool speedo that also displays when you’re tapping into power or putting the goodness back via regeneration. This works to best effect in the Range drive mode.
The smartphone wireless charging pad got put to good use, as did the Android Auto. While the app selection seems fairly basic, the little car has got most everyday things you’ll need. We found the driver aids useful too, with the Hillholder option proving handy along the way. A couple of USB ports round out the functionality goodies nicely.
The car we tried had passive entry and keyless Go functionality too, which is undeniably handy if you’re walking up to the car with a bagful of shopping. The horn beep when you lock it properly was mildly annoying – but a quick rummage in the settings menus silenced it.
Fiat 500 Electric verdict
The New 500 Electric Icon 87kW 118HP model that we drove came with an optional winter pack, plus the wireless mobile charging panel and electric adjustable door mirrors. That gave it an on the road price of £30,175. You get an awful lot of fun and enjoyment for that amount, plus the added benefit of ending your dependency on petrol power. The EV aspect of this car makes it even more appealing than before, especially with the way the car sits so nicely on the road as you chunter silently along.
We clocked up a decent amount of miles in this car over the space of a week and it never disappointed. It’s a great runabout for just jumping in and nipping down to the shops. Alternatively, take it out to the country and you’ll have a right old wheeze bundling down country lanes. The regenerative braking is good on this model too, allowing you to barely use the brake pedal once you’ve settled into the groove.
As an EV that sits at the lower end of the pricing spectrum we’d say it has to be one of the best there is. It’s more than enough for most modern motoring needs.
The universally popular Fiat 500 is even better in this all-electric incarnation providing fun and driving thrills in spades.
Fiat 500 technical details
|Front-mounted asynchronous electric
|199 miles (official) 150 miles (average)