We drove the new Fiat 500 electric…an icon with e-power.

The iconic Fiat 500 is entering into the electric era, and it is doing this very convincingly with superb technology and style.

It even has the panache to add a third door to its well-shaped body, to set it apart from the rest.

And indeed, apart from the rest it is. It has a whole new body, and is six centimeters longer and 3 cm taller than the “normal” Cinquecento, yet it retains fully its ideal and iconic proportions.

We drove the “prima” Cinquecento, sprayed in very pleasing Rose Gold, and we liked very much its performance, ride and style, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The New 500 3+1 “la Prima” has it all, and stands out with a range of exclusive details: full LED headlights with an ‘Infinity design”, two-tone 17” diamond-cut wheel rims and chrome-plated inserts on the windows and side panels.

In the interior, the pleasant ambiance continues: soft-touch seats studded with Fiat monograms, a two-tone steering wheel flattened at the bottom and an exclusive “la Prima” tag on the console. We also liked very much the finish of the dashboard panels on our test car.

Comfort is also paramount: six-way adjustable front seats, mats, an “electro chrome” internal rearview mirror and 360° ‘drone view’ parking sensors. The steering wheel is also adjustable in height and length over a wide range, so an ideal seating position is soon found. Add to this the spacious glove box, the wide door bins and trays on the center console, and you notice that this New Electric 500 is geared to make your daily life a lot rosier.

“Zen” electric driving is addictive…

But let’s turn now to driving this Torino-built electric icon of style. It is not only constantly pleasing to the eye, it is also a soothing, relaxing experience to move it from A to B.

Even if you are driving with kind smoothness, only caressing the right pedal, you feel its whispering power. All 118 HP or 87 kW of it, with 220 Nm of instant torque. Technically very refined, motor and drivetrain being vibrationless and totally inaudible over the whole speed range.

Zesty it is indeed. It will whisk you from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 9 seconds. And when pulling away from standstill, you reach 50 km/h in just 3.1 seconds. But it is the “Zen” character of e-driving which gets you sold, and puts a broad smile on your face.

No frantic revving, no jolts from clumsy gearchanges, just a smooth, utterly silent, silk smooth flow of power. You can fully concentrate on the traffic and everything around you, undisturbed, enjoying the purity and elegance of your progress. Only e-power can convey this feeling, and we have to admit it, it is addictive.

We caught ourselves cruising on urban boulevards even below the 50 km/h speed limit, just to enjoy the ride. Urban driving at the corresponding lower speeds delivers of course also excellent economy, and throughout our test the consumption was a very reasonable 8.1 km/kWh. We have to admit that we drove this “Elettrica” very smooth indeed. On a fully loaded battery, which has a capacity of 42 kWh, the TFT 7 inch instrument panel indicated a 260 km range, which is totally adequate for our country. The 500 Electric can be charged with a fast 85 kW charger, so you can recharge from a flat battery to 80% range in 35 minutes, or to 50 km – the average daily distance driven – in around 5 minutes.

We used the 11 kW standard charger, getting from 40 % to 80 % charge in about 3 hours. In our neighborhood, with only two charging points for a few thousand inhabitants, we are allowed to stay maximum 3,5 hours at the charging point, but this was luckily enough for us.

As everyone knows, the charging infrastructure in Belgium is completely below any standard, and will very probably remain so for considerable time to come. It is therefore almost essential in our country to have a private home and/or garage/driveway, if you want to call an fully electric car your own and use it regularly.

The electric 500 is about 300 kg heavier than its petrol engined counterpart, so the suspension setup is somewhat stiffer, without being uncomfortable however. Despite its 1,3 tons weight, the car still feels quite nimble and agile, and the excellent 9,7 m turning circle and super light steering make it your ideal partner in town.

On the open road, the electric 500 stands very well its own, with a regulated maximum speed of 150 km/h. It doesn’t feel fussy at all when driving at the legal maximum motorway speeds. Of course, look out for fast(er) charging points and plan your trip carefully…

One word about the driving modes. In the “normal” driving mode, the car will coast essentially when you lift the throttle, retaining the kinetic energy for you to use. In the “range” mode, the electric motor will use this kinetic energy to charge the battery, allowing you to use a “one pedal” driving style with ease, as the braking effect of the motor is quite marked. Last but not least there is the “sherpa” mode, where motor and battery are carefully governed to allow you to squeeze a maximum distance out of the remaining battery charge.

Infotainment and driving aids…

“La Prima” is equipped with the most advanced ADAS systems available:

What to think of Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) and Lane Centering, Traffic Sign Recognition, Autonomous Emergency Brake with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, Intelligent Speed Assistant, Lane Control, High-resolution rear camera with dynamic grid, 360° parking and urban blind spot sensors, Automatic twilight and dazzle sensors, Emergency call and Electronic parking brake?

Last but not least it features automatic air conditioning…need we say more?

Connectivity is also hardly neglected.

This electric 500 has the new UConnect 5 infotainment system, which means a 7″ TFT Display, a 10.25″ Touch Screen With navigation, an excellent DAB Radio, Wireless CarPlay / Android Auto, the Uconnect Box (a telematic box enabling the connected services) and a wireless smartphone charger.

We were very impressed by the functionality and computing power of the central touchscreen, with excellent and fast graphics.

Practical

The third door, which can only be opened when the corresponding front door is opened, proved very practical, and allowed much easier access to the rear seats. The rear accommodation is essentially meant for kids or (very) small grown-ups. In a 500, noblesse oblige… this is a car with style. Nevertheless, it has a standard boot space of 185 liters, and of course the backrests of the rear seats can be folded.

Conclusion

The Cinquecento is alive more than ever, and the transplant with an electronic heart has succeeded masterfully. It was a very wise decision – also technically necessary of course to house the batteries in the chassis floor – to build an entirely new body for this car, and it was even more judicious to retain faithfully its iconic proportions too.

Technically, the car is totally mature, providing premium character smooth transport, assisted by driving aids and made to measure top notch infotainment.

If you are looking for attractively priced (urban) electric transport with iconic panache and style, take a long hard look at this car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographer’s notes: for the photos of this test, we took our recently acquired Fujifilm X-A5 through its paces. We like the excellent contrast and contour sharpness of the Fujinon Apherical Zoom lens, delivering the fine definition you see here on these images. We used the TV or shutter priority mode set at 1/125 s, to avoid any eventual motion blur. We found the autofocus a bit on the slow side compared to our Nikon DSLR, but this was not much of an issue as the car was stationary anyway.

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