Brand-New Electric City Car Coming in 2024
Residents of California, and deep-seated automotive enthusiasts, may remember that Fiat briefly sold its popular 500 city car in an electric version on the west coast, if only for a very short time. Economical of price but also very short on range, the original Fiat 500e was a compromised car, but also a tool to test the waters for a more capable, more robust model. At the recent Los Angeles auto show, Fiat announced the next-generation 500e – which will only be available as a full-electric car.
Fiat says that the new 500e is more than just a car. The company thinks its friendly-looking design icon is just what America needs to embrace sustainable mobility in large numbers. Small in size, unintimidating in stature, but also very high-tech, the new 500e is irresistibly cool and very Italian – an awesome fashion accessory as well as a fun commuter car.
As if to emphasize that message, Fiat showed off three “designer” 500e models on its display in Los Angeles, styled by Armani, Kartell, and Bulgari – reflecting Italian craftsmanship, creativity and sophistication. Armani is an iconic name in the fashion world, and its 500e features engraved surfaces that evoke the fabric of a fine piece of clothing. Kartell, a leader in industrial design, uses plastics in innovative ways, and its 500e has numerous unique recycled-plastic trim pieces as well as matte-blue paint. And the Bulgari edition is bejeweled with saffron paint laced with gold powder, diamond-encrusted logos, and more.
Already a Best-Seller in Europe
Introduced in early 2022, the latest-generation 500e is already the best-selling electric vehicle in Italy and Germany, while it is a top-three seller in France and Spain as well. It’s proven popular because of its accessible price and its compact size – perfect for European cities where space is at a premium. The 500e packs four seats into a tiny footprint, and it has really appealing styling inside and out.
On the European WTLP testing cycle, the new 500e is estimated at 320 km, or 198 miles of range, with a 42-kWh battery. Expect the EPA rating to be a little lower, as it tends to be for most electric vehicles. The 500e can fast charge at 85 kW, which is par for the course for a city car, but much slower than best in class; its small battery still means it can charge to 80% in just 35 minutes.
Three driving modes – normal, range, and sherpa – adapt the car’s systems to suit the driver’s needs, with sherpa mode maximizing range by deactivating the climate control system, heated seats, and other power-sucking functions. The 500e’s top speed is limited to just under 100 mph, and it can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 9 seconds.
High Tech in a Small Package
Just because the 500e is small doesn’t mean that it’s basic. In Europe, it is the first car in its segment to offer level 2 autonomous driving functions. A front-facing camera monitors the area in front of the car, while the adaptive cruise control system brakes or accelerates in response to other cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Lane centering keeps the vehicle in the center of the lane when the markings are correctly identified. Ultrasonic sensors monitor the car’s blind spots and warn of any obstacles, and attention assist recommends when you should stop and take a break when you are tired.
The 500e also features the latest UConnect 5 infotainment system, which lets users configure how functions and apps are displayed. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available wirelessly. A 10.25-inch touchscreen is integrated into the top of the dashboard. Also available is a natural-language interface system with advanced voice recognition, letting drivers talk to the car to operate the climate control, choose their favorite music, and other functions.
All of this tech is wrapped up in a recognizable and iconic Fiat 500 shape – just quieter, cleaner and crisper. The front is vertical as in the 1957 original, while the friendly headlights are slightly more elliptical and modern, with a high-tech look. Despite being a couple of inches longer and wider than the previous-generation 500, the new 500e is still a tiny car, and unbelievably easy to maneuver and park.
More Details to Come
The first 500e models aren’t due to hit American shores until early 2024, and Fiat says that it will announce final pricing and specifications in late 2023. However, the 500e is already on sale in Europe, and we can assume much of the content of the U.S. model will be similar.