It was revived in 2007 when the world suddenly caught on to the nostalgia aspect of motoring. It joined MINI and Beetle in a new wave of refreshed models and has been incredibly successful with 2.5m sold and still counting.
Now we have the electric version, the 500e. It won’t suit everyone, but it will surely find enough devotees who find the styling attractive and the range of 199 miles ample. Space is always a factor but if you’re happy with a car which is essentially a two-plus-two rather than a full four-seater, then this is worth a look.
It’s a city car, first and foremost but don’t be fooled. This car can hold its own on the motorway. It feels from the front seats like a substantial car. Ride and handling is assured.
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Like all electric models, range is key and will be until charging times are substantially reduced, which will happen in time. This model manages 199 miles, which means most commuters will be happy and even longer journeys are manageable.
It is a fairly well equipped model. It has a number of safety features such as “lane keep assist” to avoid wandering, an electronic stability programme, autonomous emergency braking and LED daytime running lights. It also has automatic air conditioning, cruise control, rain sensors and a system to read traffic signs for you, plus a 10.25in colour screen.
The co-driver pack reads the road signs for you and establishes a legal speed, and will also keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. It also has parking sensors and a blind spot monitor.
But the best technology is to do with its range. The 500 ensures drivers can put fears of range anxiety to the back of their minds thanks to new technology which conserves the vehicle’s battery power, reducing its overall consumption.
In a style similar to the low battery settings familiar to mobile phone users, the new 500 can automatically select its innovative, power-saving mode after detecting a low remaining driving range (around 30 miles). Ensuring smoother, more gradual acceleration and limiting top speed to 50mph, this mode guides drivers to their destination by correcting behaviours which can lead to excessive energy consumption.
The mode also encourages one-pedal driving, which contributes to a better use of the regenerative braking system on 500 – on an average urban drive, this feature can regenerate up to 30 per cent more energy than conventional braking.
The software further optimises the remaining battery capacity by deactivating the climate control system, including the heated seats, windscreen and mirrors.
The 500 has two additional driving modes: Normal and Range. All three can be accessed via the selector on the centre console and are designed to assist and enhance the driving experience.
Normal mode is as close as possible to the experience of driving a petrol or diesel vehicle, in this mode the driver will enjoy the full responsive acceleration of the car.
Range mode, meanwhile, offers a one-pedal driving experience combined with smoother acceleration, without limiting the top speed. In this mode, regenerative braking can be used to bring the car to a complete stop, helping to manage energy efficiency.
While the power saving mode automatically activates when the car’s battery levels are low, it can be used at any time to help conserve the battery and extend a journey. Drivers also have the option to override the technology and select an alternative driving mode, or they can firmly press on the accelerator to override the 50mph limit and automatically return to Normal mode.
When drivers reach their nearest charging destination, 500 requires only five minutes of charging to achieve a range of up to 30 miles, proving more than sufficient for the average commute in the UK. Those requiring more range can charge the battery to 80 per cent capacity in just 35 minutes.
Fiat is a serious player in the electric market. New 500X Hybrid and Tipo Hybrid have arrived, completing the electrification of its line-up. The brand’s electrification journey began with the 500 Hybrid and Panda Hybrid, and continued with the fully-electric new 500, tested here. Now comes the launch of the new 500X and Tipo, with a new 48-Volt hybrid engine. Fiat now offers at least one low-emissions version for each model.
The 500e breathes new life into an important model and gives Fiat an excellent set of eco-friendly models.
Fiat 500e Icon
Price: £32,873. Basic model is £27,995 but this model adds extra-cost options such as winter pack, panoramic sunroof, cable bag, wireless mobile charging and a co-driver pack
Engine: An electric motor generating 42kW and 118bhp
Performance: Top speed 93mph and 0 to 60mph in 9.0 seconds
Insurance: Group 15-18, depending on model
Range: Up to 199 miles
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles