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Fiat 500e EV is finally here! But can it compete with BYD Atto 3, MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf electric cars?

Fiat says the 500e will initially only be offered in a well-equipped 'La Prima' grade, though other versions are expected later.

Fiat has finally revealed pricing of its highly-acclaimed 500e electric vehicle (EV), undercutting obvious rivals like the Mini Cooper SE.

Out in July, nearly three-and-a-half years after it initially broke cover in Europe, the 332-series New 500 (as it’s officially called) will start from $52,500 before on-road costs (BOC), and in a single yet highly-specified La Prima (‘The First) three-door hatch edition for the time being.

Other grades including the recently-revealed Abarth 500e hot hatch flagship, are expected to follow at a later date, while the Cabriolet version’s future in Australia remains up in the air.

While somewhat beyond the mid-$40,000 pricing that's been previously speculated, the 500e La Prima grade still manages to duck in $3150 under the British Cooper SE Classic Electric from $55,650 BOC, and it is only slightly more expensive than the costlier of the popular two BYD Atto 3 grades from China, the Extended Range from $51,011 BOC.

However, there-in lies the rub for the Italian retro EV from Turin, since it arrives with a small 42kWh lithium-ion battery pack with a WLTP range of just 320km (based on overseas figures), yet is coming up against bigger and roomier EVs with much larger battery packs offering usefully greater range.

That’s especially true for the Atto 3, that begins with a $48,011 BOC Standard range offering a 50kWh battery for 345km WLTP range, while the Extended’s 60kWh battery is good for 420km WLTP.

The Fiat is designed to use a lighter and smaller battery, to maximise efficiency and minimise charging times.

Plus, the 500e’s single electric motor only delivers 87kW of power to the front wheels, against 135kW in the Mini equivalent and a heady 150kW in the much larger Atto 3.

That said, the 500e has a number of plus points underneath its classic-looking body – which, by the way, is 60mm longer and 60mm wider, as well as 20mm longer in wheelbase, than the continuing, older-generation petrol-powered 500 built in Poland. They share nothing other than the badge.

For starters, being city-sized and thus weighing hundreds of kilograms less than most other EVs, the Fiat is designed to use a lighter and smaller battery, to maximise efficiency and minimise charging times. To that end, an 85kW fast charging system is set to be made available, which can top up 50km of range in five minutes and 80 per cent in 35 minutes.

The 500e is 60mm longer and 60mm wider, as well as 20mm longer in wheelbase, than the continuing, older-generation petrol-powered 500 built in Poland.

Secondly, La Prima’s interior features premium design finishes inside to give it a surprisingly upmarket look and feel, while espousing up-to-date 10.25-inch multimedia and touchscreen technology with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is nothing like other 500s on the road.

Other standard gear includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a glass roof with a curtain, 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, a wireless charging pad, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, six-speaker audio, LED headlights, climate control and a pair of USB ports.

Advanced driver-assist safety is also expected to form part of the Fiat’s specification rollcall, with Level 2 autonomous driving tech that takes in adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and surround-view cameras. 

Note, though, that the 500e’s Euro NCAP crash result, tested back in 2021, is four stars.

La Prima’s interior features premium design finishes that gives it a surprisingly upmarket look and feel.

Is evocative design, city-friendly proportions, quick charging and a sumptuous cabin enough to help consumers consider Fiat’s first-ever EV for Australia?

Overseas reviews have been glowing, especially in larger and more congested European centres like London, Paris and Rome, where the 500e’s built-in agility and practicality aspects are obvious virtues.

However, cheaper grades like the Icon variant are offered elsewhere, boosting the European buyer’s case for the all-electric Fiat.

UPDATED FROM 01/02/23

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC...
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