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2024 Fiat 500e first drive review: Ignore the specs and enjoy the drive

After a multiyear North American hiatus, the Fiat 500 is back, and this time the fabled Italian city car is all-electric, all the time. The redesigned 2024 Fiat 500e offers the style and sophistication of a far more expensive vehicle with agility and affordability that practically rival a golf cart. These attributes are perfect for buzzing conurbations like Miami, Florida, where this electric hatchback was tested.

When redesigning a legendary nameplate treading lightly is a must because buyers have certain expectations. Fortunately, Fiat didn’t screw things up; this new model looks like a 500 should and feels better than ever.

A fashion-forward EV, the new 500e is built on the STLA City architecture for small vehicles. Despite its more modern underpinnings, the car still resembles a Hershey’s Kiss when viewed in profile, even if the wheelbase (91.4 inches) and overall length (143 inches) have grown slightly. The 500e’s bodywork is chic and sophisticated, the 17-inch diamond-cut wheels look great and those recessed e-latch door handles are easy to use and help improve aerodynamics.

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The new 500e is ideal for congested cities. Photo credit: Fiat

Matching the effervescent-but-tasteful exterior design, the 500e’s cabin is beautifully styled, highly functional and well built. Yes, there’s lots of hard plastic inside, but nothing looks or feels low rent. The textures are attractive, the painted dashboard trim looks great and the door latch buttons are a nice touch, ditto for the pulls, which feature an outline of an original 500 at the bottom along with “Made in Torino.” If there’s any doubt about this car’s provenance, final assembly is completed in Fiat’s hometown of Turin, Italy.

Ahead of the driver is a two-spoke steering wheel, just like in the original 500, though the 2024 model’s is meatier to hold and offers far more functionality. Additionally, there’s an easy-to-read 7-inch digital instrument cluster.

The center of the dashboard is home to a lovely 10.25-inch touch screen, the same display used in the Alfa Romeo Tonale SUV. This panel is home to an Android-based Uconnect 5 infotainment system that’s highly responsive and quite easy to use.

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This car’s interior offers a lot for the money. Photo credit: Fiat

The 500e has room for four, though comfort is a mixed bag. The front chairs are excellent, both supportive and relatively tall, which provides good outward visibility. Not surprisingly, the back seats are a tight squeeze for adult-sized passengers. Headroom is in short supply and you may have to turn to the side to keep your knees from jamming into the front backrests.

Luggage space isn’t great, either, but what can you expect for a car with such trim dimensions? There’s no front trunk, though you do get 7.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Unfortunately, no figure is listed for when you drop the split backrest down. Doing so provides much more space, though the surface is dramatically sloped.

The 2024 Fiat 500e features a single permanent-magnet electric motor that drives the front wheels. This dynamo delivers a modest 117 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, enough for the car to hit 60 mph in around 8.5 seconds, an adequate if hardly a thrilling performance. More oomph would certainly be appreciated, but in tight urban conditions, this gets the job done, especially since the 500e feels punchier from 0 to 30 mph than the numbers suggest. Pounce on the accelerator and this hatchback scoots off the line quickly enough to surprise drivers in adjacent lanes and give you the upper hand in heavy traffic.

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The new 500e still looks like a 500, and that’s important. Photo credit: Fiat

Providing some customizability, this car offers three selectable drive modes, which you can cycle through using a small dial on the center console. Normal is intended for everyday use; Range activates one-pedal driving, which smoothly slows the car down to a stop when you lift off the accelerator; and lastly, Sherpa limits the top speed to 50 mph and reduces motor output to just 76 hp in a bid to maximize range, so you don’t get stranded.

And that last setting may be particularly valuable because the new 500e does not offer much range. The car has a 42-kilowatt-hour (gross capacity) lithium-ion battery pack with a nickel manganese cobalt chemistry. This electron reservoir provides an EPA-estimated range of just 149 miles with a full charge. That’s the same as a base Nissan Leaf and around 100 fewer miles than a Kia Niro EV offers, two of this affordable Fiat’s primary rivals in the U.S. Company representatives did say, however, that the 500e can drive around 162 miles when used exclusively in the city where stop-and-go conditions allow energy to be recuperated.

Just like acceleration and range, this electric Fiat’s DC fast charging performance is, on paper, at least, disappointing. In an age where 200 kilowatts is just about the industry standard, the 500e tops out at just 85. But once again, there’s nuance here that’s lost in the specs. This car’s battery pack is small, which allows it to charge from 0 to 80% in about 35 minutes, which is not bad at all. Of course, if Fiat listed a more conventional 10-to-80% time like practically every other automaker does – and it’s curious why they didn’t – the 500e’s charging performance would be even more impressive.

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It’s hard to argue with these 17-inch wheels. Photo credit: Fiat

When it’s time for some sweet DC power, make sure to find a cabinet with a CCS connector. The 500e does not support the North American Charging Standard (or SAE J3400 if you prefer) and Fiat has no plans to offer an adapter, even if NACS is on their radar and will be implemented on future Stellantis EVs.

The 500e is the perfect size for scything through the chaos that is Miami traffic. This hatchback’s small dimensions make it a snap to maneuver, and the steering is quick and nicely weighted, enhancing the 500e’s feeling of light-footed agility.

Similarly, the ride quality is impressively refined. Even though the car’s suspension is about as basic as they come these days, consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a decidedly old-school torsion beam at the rear, this Fiat absorbs and digests roadway imperfections with ease, transmitting minimal harshness or grittiness to the cabin. Unlike many vehicles with short wheelbases, this one exhibits almost no teeter-tottering over bumps and undulations; the body seems to remain on an even keel at all times. Overall, the 500e rides impressively well for something that weighs around 3,000 pounds.

Enhancing safety, there’s a good smattering of standard driver aids. Lane-keeping assist, pedestrian alert, automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and blind spot monitoring are all included at no extra cost on the 500e. A 360-degree camera system is also standard on Inspired By models.

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The 2024 Fiat 500e should be arriving at dealerships right now. Photo credit: Fiat

This fashionable all-electric runabout starts at $34,095 including $1,595 in destination fees, which makes the 500e one of the most affordable EVs available in the U.S. today. And yes, you read that correctly; the car should be arriving at dealerships very soon if it hasn’t already.

Despite its effervescent personality, the new 500e will be a hard sell to many Americans, though this has nothing to do with the product itself. The car is ideal for drivers that live in densely populated urban areas and would rather own their own vehicle than rely on public transport or ride-sharing services. For zipping around town, the range, maneuverability and even charging performance are perfectly fine. Outside use cases like this, however, and the 500e is more difficult to recommend. Think of this Fiat as a master of one that’s ideal for certain drivers rather than a Jack of all trades that meets the needs of a diversity of motorists.

The reborn Fiat 500e is a bubbly little hatchback that’s enjoyable to drive and feels like more than the sum of its price-conscious parts. If you’re shopping for one of these EVs, don’t get hung up on the specs sheet because the car is far better than many of the numbers suggest.

At a glance

  • Year: 2024
  • Make: Fiat
  • Model: 500e
  • Trim: (Red) Edition
  • Type: All-electric two-door hatchback
  • Horsepower: 117
  • Torque: 162
  • Range: 149 miles
  • Pros: High-quality interior, comfortable front seats, excellent Uconnect 5 infotainment system, crisp steering feel, refined ride quality
  • Cons: Limited range, tight back seat, DC fast charging performance could be better, a bit more punch would be appreciated
  • Estimated Base price: $34,095 including $1,595 in destination fees

Watch our first drive video

Written by Craig Cole

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