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Fiat 500e 2024 review: long-term | Part 3


It’s our final month with the Fiat 500e, and despite its controversial pink paint and occasionally limiting dimensions, I must say I’ll miss this charming little car.

It’s one of those vehicles which grows on you, and not an instant hit like some others I’ve had in the past.

I’ll reiterate, though. This is a car for people who know what they’re getting into. At a whopping $52,500, before on-road costs (and state-based EV discounts), the 500e doesn’t make a lot of financial sense, even though its running costs are super low.

In the three months and roughly 2250km we’ve driven, the 500e has cost me about $12-$14 a month to run thanks to a blend of its relatively small battery, efficient motor and ample charging capabilities.

This makes it an easy urban companion, especially in the heart of Sydney where charging infrastructure is much better. Despite its seemingly limited 311km WLTP-certified driving range, I didn’t experience range anxiety once in the entire three months when it came to daily duties.

At least, until I got stuck into a range test.

  • The Fiat 500e comes in at a whopping $52,500, before on-road costs (and state-based EV discounts) (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e comes in at a whopping $52,500, before on-road costs (and state-based EV discounts) (Image: Tom White)
  • The Fiat 500e is an easy urban companion (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e is an easy urban companion (Image: Tom White)

Does the Fiat 500e have enough range in Australia?

Here’s the thing, while you won’t experience range anxiety in an environment of plentiful charging, on a routine Australian weekend trip it becomes a very different story.

We took our car on a 218km return trip up to the NSW central coast and back, a usual weekend experience for Sydneysiders.

Despite starting with an 81 per cent charge and 195km of range shown on the dash (the range calculation seems to be exceedingly pessimistic - taking the official numbers we should be seeing 252km), the car could not make the entire trip on a single charge, falling well short of the expected distance.

By the time we had arrived at our destination we had travelled 105km, with 39 per cent and 86km displayed on the dash. To return, we would need to cover an additional 113km, so it looked like we’d need to charge.

The Fiat 500e features a relatively small battery, efficient motor and ample charging capabilities (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e features a relatively small battery, efficient motor and ample charging capabilities (Image: Tom White)

Interestingly, the car’s computer was estimating an average consumption of just 13.7kWh/100km, less than the official number. So, where did the range go?

My theory is the small 42kWh battery simply couldn’t take the massive hits it took to climb hills at freeway speed on the way up. While regen on the way back down from said hills will return some range to the battery, it’s not enough to make up for the losses spread over such a relatively short battery life.

As a contrast, I didn’t see the same percentage of range drop from my similar range tests of the Kia EV6 or Ford Mustang Mach-E, both of which proved fairly accurate over a longer distance. Fascinating!

It’s bad news for the Fiat, though, as at this point it became evident freeway range would fall short of expectations.

The Fiat 500e features a small 42kWh battery (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e features a small 42kWh battery (Image: Tom White)

Proving this point further was the return journey. We took an alternate route, staying just above sea level along the coast and battling suburban roads rather than climb back up onto the slightly more inland plateau where the freeway is located.

As a result, the range dropped significantly less over the next 40km it took us to return to a charger in Gosford. The estimated range dropped just 30km from the drive.

Knowing we’d need to do a steep climb back onto the freeway, then deal with another steep climb up into Sydney (on which I almost became stranded testing an MG ZS EV two years ago) I made the decision to charge.

Sitting on a fast (150kW) charger for about 15 minutes returned the 500e to 63 per cent, with 150km of estimated range displayed on the dash.

Over the 218km journey, our Fiat consumed a total of 84 per cent of its battery capacity (Image: Tom White) Over the 218km journey, our Fiat consumed a total of 84 per cent of its battery capacity (Image: Tom White)

I felt I was right to charge. The topography changes at freeway speed were harsh on the battery, and the final 70km leg of the journey reduced the battery back down to just 35 per cent, with 81km of range displayed on the dash.

So where does this leave us? Over the 218km journey, our Fiat consumed a total of 84 per cent of its battery capacity, which on the official numbers should be 261km worth of range.

Our Fiat, then, despite maintaining a consumption less than that of the official number, overshot its consumption (and therefore fell short on range) by about 43km. 

On these numbers, the absolute maximum cruising range (100 per cent to zero) would be about 268km in the as-tested conditions.

  • Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White)
  • Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White)
  • Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e driving pictured (Image: Tom White)

It must be said the 500e was quite a comfortable companion on this journey. Freeway speeds are not its strong suit in terms of dynamics, but it has a more than competent adaptive cruise system, as well as mercifully lenient lane assist and traffic sign recognition systems which aren’t consistent pests.

So, if you do need to do a weekend trip at a pinch, the 500e is technically capable of it in relative comfort. It just might be more reassuring to look at the percentage of battery remaining rather than the estimated range.

And, at 268km of estimated total range at freeway speeds, it is still within the two hour ‘stop revive survive’ window in which you should be taking a break, anyway. The main detractor is the limited charge network on Australia’s freeway system, but this will change in time.

  • Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White)
  • Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White)
  • Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White)
  • Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White) Fiat 500e interior pictured (Image: Tom White)

Which should I buy: The Fiat 500e, or the Abarth?

All this reinforces my view that the 500e is ideal in a role as a ‘second vehicle’. Perhaps not one which you take on those big inter-city freeway journeys, but what if you wanted something a bit more fun for your daily commute?

Well, the regular 500e LaPrima I’ve been driving was recently joined by its hot-rod alternative, the Abarth 500e. Which I was able to swap into for a few days for the sake of comparison.

Looking (and feeling) like something from the Hot Wheels catalogue, the Abarth’s ridiculous over-the-top styling is joined by a more powerful electric motor with additional drive modes, firmer suspension and a tighter steering tune, as well as a ‘driving sound’.

It all sounds like fun, and it is in its own way, but you’ll also deal with an even more limited driving range (253km on the WLTP cycle) and the sound, which appears to be some unholy artificial blend of an angry four-cylinder idling and a high voltage overhead transmission line is ridiculous to the point where it starts to grate after about 10 or 20 minutes behind the wheel.

  • The regular 500e LaPrima joined by its hot-rod alternative, the Abarth 500e. (Image: Tom White) The regular 500e LaPrima joined by its hot-rod alternative, the Abarth 500e. (Image: Tom White)
  • The Abarth has a ridiculous over-the-top styling (Image: Tom White) The Abarth has a ridiculous over-the-top styling (Image: Tom White)

I like how planted it is in the corners and its more keen steering tune, but your curvy roads will have to be nearby as the limited range (combined with my range test experience) says bad things.

It also somehow wasn’t as fun as the standard 500e. The regular car feels over-the-top when you drive it in anger, you can plant your foot to the floor and the limited power combines with the sensible traction control to keep it all tidy, but it feels like you’re driving it at 150 per cent.

A distant high-pitched whine works its way into the cabin from punishing the tiny electric motor, and the car’s forgiving suspension tips into corners with just the right amount of play to put a smile on your face.

This is especially true when you’re going slowly. It’s just like the old combustion 500! It has the capability to make the everyday commute at least a bit exciting.

The Abarth 500e has an even more limited driving range of 253km on the WLTP cycle (Image: Tom White) The Abarth 500e has an even more limited driving range of 253km on the WLTP cycle (Image: Tom White)

The Abarth meanwhile feels like it’s trying too hard in most situations, and its additional power tips the scales to the point where you need a properly good road to have fun with it.

You might also love the styling in the pics or at a distance, but the massive Abarth logo (the scorpion's as big as my hand) looks a bit crass up close in my opinion, making the little Abarth almost a parody of itself.

In comparison, the clever limited application of chrome highlights down the sides and in the face of the 500e make it feel just right, a tasteful modern take on this car’s rich history, even with the slightly cutesy take on the light signatures.

The only thing I don’t like about its exterior design is the 500 logo replacing the old Fiat badge right in the middle of its face. Can’t have everything I suppose.

The Fiat 500e has a tasteful modern take on this car’s rich history (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e has a tasteful modern take on this car’s rich history (Image: Tom White)

Are there any alternatives to the Fiat 500e?

One of the 500e’s biggest advantages right now is it’s a unique choice in the market.

Unless you can find an example of its historic rival, the Mini Cooper SE three-door (the new one isn’t set to arrive until closer to the end of 2024), which leaves you with the choice of the much more affordable GWM Ora which is a fair bit larger or the BYD Dolphin, neither of which carry the same provenance or iconic styling.

Having steered them all now, the 500e is better to drive than both Chinese options, but maybe not as good as the Cooper SE which I loved driving last year. It has the handling prowess of the Abarth 500e without as many drawbacks, a more honest design and a much better seating position.

Other potential options in the future include the new-generation Peugeot e-208 and perhaps in the more distant future, the equally iconic-looking Renault 5. Stay tuned for more on these new entrants to the Australian market.

The Abarth looks (and feels) like something from the Hot Wheels catalogue (Image: Tom White) The Abarth looks (and feels) like something from the Hot Wheels catalogue (Image: Tom White)

Any other final notes about the Fiat 500e?

Aside from our range test, the 500e continued its daily duties as normal but only for a few more kilometres before return time. I did make a point of properly trying out the back seat for myself. It was not impressive.

At 182cm tall, I was properly squashed behind my own driving position, but set to my partner’s driving position, I was just able to fit with my knees and my head hard up against the seat and roof, respectively.

The nice seat trim is about the only thing worth noting back there. You’re greeted with hard plastics on either side and no amenities like adjustable air vents or power outlets. It’s not a suitable place for ferrying adults.

The boot, at 185 litres of total space, is tiny. It won’t fit the largest CarsGuide case with the two rear seats up, and will only fit either the medium or small cases, but not both.

Our test car wears ‘Rose Gold’ paint (Image: Tom White) Our test car wears ‘Rose Gold’ paint (Image: Tom White)

Thankfully, it has a small under-floor compartment where you can keep your AC charging cable, something which is deleted in the Abarth 500e in favour of an additional speaker.

My partner will miss the 500e. She loves its supreme visibility for such a small car, owing to its strangely tall seating position, which is perfect for her to see over the bonnet, and how easy it was to dart about town and find a park while you’re at it.

She found the cutesy styling, ridiculous ‘Rose Gold’ paint, and FIAT-themed seats “a bit much” (interesting, because she loves the admittedly more traditional combustion version), but agreed it was comfortable and fun to drive, noting the software and driver assist features were much less “annoying” than some of our previous long-termers.

The Fiat 500e has an official energy consumption of 14.3kWh/100km (Image: Tom White) The Fiat 500e has an official energy consumption of 14.3kWh/100km (Image: Tom White)

How energy efficient is the Fiat 500e?

As I return the keys for the 500e, the trip computer tells me I’ve spent 2251km behind the wheel and in this time energy consumption totalled an average of 14.4kWh/100km. It crept up slightly from the previous running total of 14.3kWh/100km, possibly impacted by this month's range test.

This is pretty trim all things considered and it lands almost squarely on the official energy consumption of 14.3kWh/100km, although I must admit I was expecting better considering how small and light the 500e is.

For context, my previous long-termer, the Mustang Mach-E Select, which is much heavier and offers much higher performance, landed at just 16kWh/100km in my time with it, and this included much longer freeway stints.

As mentioned earlier in this chapter at the official consumption the 500e doesn’t lend itself to range anxiety if used in a city as intended.

Should you buy a Fiat 500e?

The answer to this is quite simple: If you’ve loved a Fiat 500 before, you’ll love this one. Electrification has only made the 500 formula better, and it makes more sense than ever to hop into an efficient small EV like this.

For some city-dwellers, it will make the perfect only car. These people will already know the downsides and what they’re getting into. For others, it will make an ideal step into electrification as a second vehicle, and this is how I came to use it for the most part.

For those who may be on the fence about it, be aware of the compromises. This is a charming and comfortable little car around town as well as one which is a joy to steer in the corners, but it is tiny on the inside, and hardly a confident inter-city tourer. My advice is to go a size up if your lifestyle requires a bit more.

Acquired: March 2024

Distance travelled this month: 451km

Distance travelled overall: 2251km

Odometer: 6226km

Average energy consumption overall: 14.4kWh/100km

$52,500

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Score

3.7/5
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.