Fiat 500e, with its tiny size, zippy handling, and an EPA range of 84 miles, the 500e is a fine city car—as long as you don’t need to go anywhere else. The interior is cramped, with an awkward driving position and a rear seat that is best reserved for short people and short distances. On the upside, it is a bit snappier, smoother, and quieter than the gas-powered 500. In our testing, we saw fuel economy of 87 MPGe and went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. The 500e is sold only in California and Oregon.
Overview: The Fiat 500e is the black sheep of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family. Built to appease the state of California and its zero-emission mandates, the 500e electric car has been a thorn in FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s side.
“I hope you don’t buy [the 500e],” Marchionne famously told attendees at a 2014 conference, “because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.”
While the last three years probably have lowered the 500e’s production costs (batteries are becoming less expensive), the small electric hatchback, surely, still isn’t contributing to the Italian-American automaker’s profits. And like a parent embarrassed of their adult child’s life choices, FCA hides the 500e from the majority of U.S. consumers, offering the EV only in California and Oregon, the two states with the highest percentages of zero-emission-vehicle sales.
With a base price of $33,990 before federal or state tax credits, the Fiat 500e is costly compared with the gas-sipping Fiat 500, which starts at just $15,990. Most of the added cost can be attributed to its electric drive system: a 24.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers a front-mounted, 111-hp electric motor and provides the 500e with an EPA-rated range of 84 miles on a full charge. Recharging a fully depleted battery takes a relatively reasonable four hours when plugged into a 240-volt power source. Using a household 120-volt outlet takes a full day, though. Additional 500e enhancements include model-specific wheels, exterior trim, bumper covers, side skirts, and a rear wing.
The 500e comes in just one trim level that includes a navigation system, automatic climate control, and reverse parking sensors. Options are few and include a $795 sunroof and the $495 eSport package, which adds tinted headlight bezels, black and orange 15-inch wheels, and orange accents to the exterior mirrors and body sides.
What’s New: The Fiat 500e carried over to 2017 unchanged after undergoing an interior refresh last year. Along with a mildly revised dashboard, the 500e also welcomed a new multimedia system. Dubbed Uconnect 5.0, it uses a 5.0-inch touchscreen display for controlling the 500e’s various infotainment functions and is worlds better than the old push-button interface found in earlier models.
What We Like: The electric Fiat’s retro and chic design helps make it one of the market’s most attractive EVs. The 500e is also a hoot to drive. Credit the electric motor’s 147 lb-ft of torque that’s available the instant the go pedal is pushed, as well as the battery pack that’s mounted low in the body, keeping the center of gravity down—a boon to limiting body roll. Quick steering and a firm brake pedal are icing on the 500e’s dynamic cake.
What We Don’t Like: The 500e seems obsolete now that the $37,495 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which boasts 238 miles of range, is available. Styling aside, the Bolt is a better electric vehicle than the 500e not only due to its impressive driving range but also its more spacious interior. Speaking of space, the 500e’s tiny rear seating area is all but unusable because of the floor-mounted battery pack; legroom stands at a meager 27.6 inches—4.1 inches less than the standard 500’s already cramped rear seating compartment. Cargo capacity also is compromised, with the 500e offering just 7 cubic feet against the standard 500’s already meager 10 cubes.