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Fiat 500e 2024 review: long-term | Part 2

The 500e has automatically fallen into a role as a 'second car' - but is that enough? (Image: Tom White)

As the Fiat 500e falls into our daily routine, some pros and cons have made themselves apparent.

I’d love to tell you that a tiny electric car like this is all you really need in life. Our roads, lungs, and the planet would be much better off if we all drove smaller and more efficient vehicles, but one of the things that has become evident in our time with the 500e so far is that a model this small in a city like Sydney does come with some compromises.

Is the Fiat 500e big enough?

I regularly find myself making decisions. Do I need boot space on this trip? Is there a chance I’ll need to ferry more than one passenger? If the answer is even maybe yes, I’m more inclined to take another, larger vehicle just so I don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of the 500’s tight dimensions.

Maybe I’m just not European or Japanese enough. Maybe it’s decades of woeful urban planning that's made Sydney more suited to a larger vehicle. Either way, a car as small as a 500e is best suited for someone like me as a second vehicle, and I don’t even have kids unless you include my giant dog (who, by the way, hates the 500’s tiny back seat. She barely fits on it).

The 500e measures in at 3,632mm (Image: Tom White) The 500e measures in at 3,632mm (Image: Tom White)

Does the Fiat 500e have enough driving range?

Interestingly, one issue I haven’t run into is a lack of driving range. Not so long ago, the 311 kilometres of WLTP-certified driving range the 500e ships with was about the standard for an entry-level EV, but now it’s tiny, and the thing is, I don’t even notice it.

Part of this is it being primarily used as a second car. Compared to other vehicles in my stable, which routinely get to stretch their legs on intercity drives and the like, the 500e spends most of its time commuting around a 20km radius (shops, gym, etc.) with an occasional 80km round-trip to the in-laws about the longest it goes in one session on any given week.

Stay tuned for the final chapter for a range test.

The 500e has a WLTP-certified driving range of 311 km (Image: Tom White) The 500e has a WLTP-certified driving range of 311 km (Image: Tom White)

How much does the Fiat 500e cost to charge?

The other reason I’m not having range issues is because the 500e is well over-specified when it comes to charging. This makes it super convenient. Yes the battery is small (42kWh), but it charges so quickly on both AC and DC standards that if you make charging part of your weekly routine, you’ll never need to worry about range.

For example, after running the battery down to about 70km of range, I simply plugged it in to a free solar-powered AC 11kW unit at my local shops, and replenished it to about 75 per cent (~230km of range) in the time it took me to do a grocery shop and have a coffee. Bellissimo.

In fact, in the last month, thanks to more reliance on free AC charging (why not? It adds almost 100km of range an hour!) I've only DC charged the thing once at an ‘expensive’ 50kW unit. Total cost for this month? $12.30. Fair to say a combustion or hybrid can’t rival that at $2 a litre.

The 500e charges very quickly on both AC and DC standards (Image: Tom White) The 500e charges very quickly on both AC and DC standards (Image: Tom White)

Another charging advantage is how small the 500e is and how tiny the overhangs are. This means I have zero problems reaching charging ports on my adventures. This can’t be said for all EVs which have larger overhangs and charging ports located further along their bodies, like the Mustang Mach-E which I had to drive dangerously close to bollards or park at an angle to get heavy water-cooled DC charging cables to reach.

What is the Fiat 500e like to drive?

Brilliant. Despite its bubbly casual look, the 500e is not boring to drive at all. It really lives up to the promise of an Italian car, and has some surprising traits.

The steering is nicely tuned if a little more electrically assisted than my previous EV, the Mach-E, but proves a brilliant tune for both tight city streets and out on the curvy stuff.

The ride is particularly impressive. I feared the worst given the previous petrol-powered 500 had a rough ride at the best of times, and this new 500e has to also deal with the weight of 42kWh worth of batteries under the floor.

The steering is nicely tuned (Image: Tom White) The steering is nicely tuned (Image: Tom White)

But the result is excellent and the ride for this new 500e is superb. Fiat has clearly started from scratch on the suspension despite the 500e’s Frankenstein SCCS (Small Common Component Systems) platform which dates back to the 2005 Fiat Punto.

It handles bumps in its stride despite minimal wheel travel (which keeps it nice and tidy in the corners) and the relatively huge wheels it rides on.

The electric motor doesn’t leave you wanting for power at 87kW/220Nm, but it’s also not overwhelming. It doesn’t really provide enough instant oomph to spin the front wheels, but it does roll a solid amount of power on nicely. Certainly, it’s much better than the combustion 500, which in its current form offers a lacklustre 51kW/102Nm from its 1.2-litre engine, mated to a clumsy five-speed automated manual.

The electric motor produces 87kW/220Nm (Image: Tom White) The electric motor produces 87kW/220Nm (Image: Tom White)

It maintains the fun of the older, more powerful 500 range, while bringing a very welcome dose of refinement to the formula. The other big boost to driveability is the single-pedal driving mode, which makes it a breeze in stop-start traffic, although it can occasionally be a little fiddly when it switches between motor and brakes on a steep hill, with the brakes biting a bit suddenly when the car wants to stop.

Like most small cars, freeway performance is less impressive, with the 500e having noticeably less puff available to it above the 90km/h mark for overtaking. It also becomes noisier at this point, and starts to chew through a lot more energy without the benefit of regen braking to help its small battery out.

We’ll see what effect this has over longer distances in a more formal range test next month, but one 130km round-trip I took in this car drained about 60 per cent of its battery (from 80 per cent to about 20 per cent) leaving me with a double-digit range remaining displayed. What should have taken 130km in fact trimmed about 180km of the range, which doesn’t bode well for freeway trips.

The 500e handles bumps in its stride (Image: Tom White) The 500e handles bumps in its stride (Image: Tom White)

Any other Fiat 500e issues?

I’ve noticed a few other small things about this car. Weirdly, you have to hold down the start button for a long time to get the car to actually go into ‘ready-to-drive’ mode as opposed to accessory mode. Why?

Not only are the huge doors a bit of an issue in tight parking spaces (kind of undoes the whole point of being able to get into them in the first place), but they also make the seatbelt hinges very far back, so they can be frustrating to reach. Weird problem, I know, but one that is consistently an issue.

The software is great. I’ve had some issues with this suite, dubbed ‘Uconnect’ in the past, primarily because it’s hard to find things buried in its many menus, particularly for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEVs.

The huge doors a bit of an issue in tight parking spaces (Image: Tom White) The huge doors a bit of an issue in tight parking spaces (Image: Tom White)

This is not the case in the 500e, which has a relatively pared-back interpretation of this suite. It’s fast, simple to navigate, and shows the information you want easily.

I haven’t had a single issue with its wireless Apple CarPlay, and even the wireless phone charger works flawlessly.

Fiat has wisely installed a bar of toggles for the climate controls below the main panel to save you the pain of having to negotiate with air conditioning via the touchscreen.

Climate control toggle bar pictured (Image: Tom White) Climate control toggle bar pictured (Image: Tom White)

How energy efficient is the Fiat 500e?

It’s much more efficient than earlier EVs, but in the context of other larger and heavier vehicles it starts to look less impressive. The official consumption is 14.3kWh/100km and after our freeway adventure this month, that’s exactly what the trip computer is telling me it’s climbed to from last month’s 14.1kWh/100km achieved with primarily city driving.

Our summary for the last four or so weeks? This has been a super affordable month for our little 500e if you’re conscious of where you charge it, and it’s fallen into a comfortable niche as a ‘second vehicle’ - whether that will be the same case for you will be largely down to where you live and your lifestyle.

Tune in to our final chapter for the range test and video farewell review.

  • The official consumption is 14.3kWh/100km (Image: Tom White) The official consumption is 14.3kWh/100km (Image: Tom White)
  • The ride for this new 500e is superb (Image: Tom White) The ride for this new 500e is superb (Image: Tom White)

Acquired: March 2024

Distance travelled this month: 1021km

Odometer: 5775km

Average energy consumption this month: 14.3kWh/100km

$52,500

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS
Price Guide

$52,500

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.