Review: Fiat 500e Electric


If I were in the market for an electric car, I would definitely get this Fiat 500-based runabout. It is quick, easy-to-park, practical, good looking, and relatively inexpensive. But at the end of the day, the limited range means we (my wife and I) are most likely going to opt for the gasoline powered Fiat 500 Turbo. I must emphasize how close that decision is– it is a near toss-up.


About a year ago, my wife and I went to test drive some Fiats. The regular 500 and the 500 Turbo, to be precise. We found the normally aspirated version to be too slow and the Turbo to be just right. We decided that when something catastrophic happened to her 2004 Honda Civic– whether it be mechanical failure, crash, or act of God– we would get the Turbo.

Fast forward one year, and her Honda is still running like new. So no 500 Turbo, yet. Then, this 500e showed up at our door.


As with all electric cars, the instantaneous torque and linear acceleration made the 500e fun to drive around town. In fact, it felt quicker than the Turbo. To 60 miles per hour, the 500e is about a second behind the Turbo.

Though this is definitely a small car, it is quite roomy for the front occupants. This is especially so in the example I drove, as the large sunroof and tastefully executed white interior tricked my mind into thinking I was in an airy, open topped car.

Dynamically, the additional weight of the 600-pound battery is arguably canceled out by the 500e’s superior (read: lower) center of gravity and better fore-aft weight distribution, vis-a-vis the non-electric models.


The biggest issue for this car, inevitably, is the range. On a full charge, the Fiat’s display predicts 80+ miles of range. That is plenty for 95% of our needs. My wife’s commute to work and back is 30 miles. Even if she stops off at the market to pick up a few grocery items for dinner on her way home, just two miles are added. My commute is similar, on a normal day.


However, on the fourth day of my week with the 500e, I had an abnormal day. In addition to my commute to the office, I had two meetings in opposite directions with clients and two errands to run in another two opposite directions. Although none of these segments were more than 15 or 20 miles each, when added up, I would run out of juice before my final errand. What was I supposed to do? I drove a gasoline powered car that day instead.


Granted, there were caveats. The 80+ mile range that was indicated was very conservative. If you watched your acceleration, coasting, and braking patterns, you could extend the range by 10 to 20 miles. Leaving the heater on sucks 10 miles out of your range. Plus, if you live in an urban area, there are plenty of charge points to take advantage of. If I really put in an effort, I could have run that final errand and arrived home in one piece, with the car. However, with enough on our minds already in our hectic lives, mentally adding up anticipated miles every morning before we even open the garage door is simply too much to ask. It sounds lazy. And it probably is.

Some of this range anxiety is alleviated with the Fiat 500e Pass program. Every year, for three years, a 500e owner or lessee is entitled to 12 days of free car rental from Enterprise, National, or Alamo. This program ends in May.


There were three things I did not like about the car. First, in order to make the car as efficient and as aerodynamic as possible, spoilers and other accoutrement were added to the body and wheels. This includes a front chin spoiler that is impractically low. It scraped my driveway every time, no matter the angle I approached it.


Second, the detachable TomTom navigation system sits right in front of my field of vision. It is an annoyance and an obstruction. After my first day of driving the car, I took it off and stowed it in the glove box.


Finally, the front seatbelts are positioned at an odd and hard-to-reach angle. This is an issue with all the 500s, really. I strained my out-of-shape back and shoulder at least three times, trying to grab the buckle behind me. But all in all, these demerits are relatively minor compared to the joy of driving the 500e. 


Finally, the price. The base 500 starts at $16,195, the Turbo starts at $19,500, the Abarth starts at $22,095. This 500e? It starts at $31,800. However, with federal, state, and local tax credits, or in the alternative, with a very competitively priced lease, you pay a negligible premium for the “e” in the 500e.

Disclosure: Fiat lent me the car (with nearly a fully charged battery) for a week.

Images source: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here