The Fiat 500 is an Italian style icon, and the all-new, all-electric 500e clearly continues that legacy. However, there are some impracticalities and a huge price tag for it to overcome.

While for many, Ferraris and Lamborghinis may be the first cars that come to mind when you think of Italy and its penchant for flair and style, I’d argue that the Fiat 500 is actually the quintessential Italian car. With iconic styling that transcends generations and the ability to look at home anywhere, it’s as Italian as a Mini Cooper is British.

Coincidentally, both the 500 and the Mini are tiny hatchbacks originally built with utilitarianism, practicality, and affordability in mind. Of equal coincidence is the fact both nameplates are now owned by automotive giants that have repositioned the newer iterations of these post-war runabouts as luxurious city chic accessories, with the growth in vehicle size over the years only being outdone by the rise in price.

The latest Cinquecento is the best example of this yet. Now called the 500e, or alternatively as the ‘New 500’, the little Fiat is now an electric-only model, which is at least fitting for a car focused on urban transportation. Even since the previous generation sold since 2007, let alone the 1957 original, it’s grown noticeably in size, with a 22mm wheelbase increase, 86mm extra length, 56mm additional width, and 39mm height – plus a good few hundred kilos weight thanks to the battery pack.

It’s also now a lot more expensive – and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. There’s only one trim level on offer from Fiat in Australia with the 500e La Prima coming in at a substantial $52,500 before on-road costs. However, there is still a hotted-up version available from Abarth, with the 500e Turismo starting at $58,900.

By comparison, the outgoing 2023 Fiat 500 Dolcevita could be had for just $27,220 before on-roads, while the manual 2023 Abarth 695 Competizione was a comparative bargain at $36,400. Over $20,000 difference between generations is a Grand Canyon-sized gap whichever way you look at it, even if it’s roughly on par with the soon-to-be-axed Mini Cooper SE.

At least the 500e’s looks will get you as many stares from onlookers as a car worth three or four times the price tag. Particularly in this absolutely stunning Celestial Blue hue with its golden undertones, you’ll regularly see pedestrians snapping their necks to get a glance at this beauty. There’s no denying that its timeless looks hold up today, and the fact it’s not a sports car means everyone will appreciate it – not just enthusiasts.

Given the old 500 never had a particularly large grille to begin with, shifting this new model to an electric-only platform was particularly seamless. Considering there’s still a smaller grille at the bottom of the front bumper, it doesn’t scream EV. However, this is precisely the sort of car I think works best as an EV – small and city-focused, it can get away with a smaller battery pack and more efficient, less-powerful motor.

Of course, if you’re buying a vehicle this size practicality will be of little concern, but it’s worth noting the 500e’s limitations. There’s plenty of room up front for you to get comfortable and find a good driving position, but the back seat is almost unusable for anyone but young children, or perhaps your dog if it’s small enough. Do note its four-star ANCAP safety rating, too.

The boot is also a miserly 185 litres, and the rear seats don’t fold flat, meaning fitting any sort of large objects in the back is off the cards. The trade-off, however, is that the 500e is perfectly sized for dealing with city traffic. Small parking spots and tight laneways are nothing to fear, and that in itself adds a different dimension of practicality into the mix.

Being a Stellantis product, the 500e benefits from the company’s Uconnect 5 infotainment system which is one of my personal favourites on the market. With wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, TomTom navigation, and a crystal-clear display, it’s a slick and intuitive system. The screen itself is 10.25 inches in size, but that’s more than big enough for the little Fiat. There’s also a 7.0-inch display ahead of the driver which is equally clear and well-proportioned.

Another sign of its potential impracticality, though, is the standard ‘Ice Beige’ eco-leather interior. While the extensive use of white makes the cabin feel light and inviting, particularly with the airiness of its panoramic sunroof factored in as well, and the ‘FIAT’ pattern embroidered into the seats adds a real touch of fun, there’s no denying that there’s the potential for this interior to get grubby over the years.

Of course, there are also a few modern touches such as buttons to change gears instead of a physical shifter, but on the whole I think the 500e’s interior actually works well for what this car is. Really, this car is all about form over function, and considering how stylish and fun it looks, I think there’s no issue with a few size-related drawbacks.

Although the very first Fiat 500 of the 1950s was rear-engined and rear-wheel drive, the brand has stuck with a front-engine, front-wheel drive layout for the 500e. There’s a single electric motor residing under its stubby bonnet which serves up just 87kW of power but a pokey 220Nm of torque. It’s backed by a 42kWh lithium-ion battery pack, although only 37.3kWh of that battery pack is usable, and Fiat claims 311km of range on the WLTP test cycle.

While the official 0-100km/h claim is 9.0 seconds and the top speed is limited to 150km/h, both acceptable figures for a city car if on the slower side, both numbers are largely irrelevant. On city streets, it’s the way the 500e gets from 0-50km/h which is most impressive, with its instantaneous torque delivery meaning it scampers ahead of traffic when the lights turn green. Expect it to take just over three seconds to hit the 50km/h mark, so it’s definitely spritely where it matters.

Thanks to its tight 9.7m turning circle, it feels extremely nimble as well, yet there’s still a decent weight to the steering, ensuring the tiller doesn’t feel entirely disconnected. Given the short but wide wheelbase, it’s a decent handler should you take it out of its comfort zone, with it holding its own on my usual Adelaide Hills test routes. It’s perhaps not the absolute tightest, but that’s what the Abarth is for.

This standard model still does a fine job through the corners as the ride is skewed slightly towards the stiffer side, mitigating most body roll. It’s comfortable enough for the most part, handling most bumps you’ll encounter on city streets well, but sharper hits such as the metal speed bumps you’ll find in some carparks can deliver a bit of a shunt.

At freeway speeds, the 500e still feels composed and doesn’t feel like it’ll get blown about as much as some other small cars on a windy day. However, it’s definitely not built for triple-digit speeds when you take the gearing into account, as the energy consumption skyrockets at such speeds. Over the course of my 425km of testing, it rounded out to 15.2kWh/100km, but expect closer to 20kWh/100km when sitting at 110km/h. At the rate I saw, expect real-world range of just 245km which is in-line with EV Database‘s 235km ‘Real Range’ claim.

If you live in a major city, that will be absolutely fine for commuting, but if you live in the countryside and commute to the city like myself, it effectively rules the 500e out practically-speaking – especially if you don’t have a home charging station. Fiat don’t supply a charger that can be plugged into a three-pin socket, so you’ll have to rely on public charging stations otherwise.

Disappointingly, the 500e’s warranty is on the shorter side at three years, albeit with unlimited kilometres, but the battery is warrantied for eight years/160,000km. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km with the first eight services capped at $250 each. What throws up some question marks here is the value proposition of rival EV hatchbacks. For instance, the MG4 offers more range, more practicality, and a longer warranty for a lot less – but its quirky looks hardly make it cross-shoppable for style-conscious buyers.

There’s no denying the 500e is a very expensive small car with questionable practicality and usability. However, there are still plenty of plus points. The styling is absolutely phenomenal, it’s hilariously fun to drive whether on city streets or winding backroads, and there is a feeling of European quality that does at least help it live up towards its price point.

At the end of the day, though, this is effectively an unrivalled car – at least until the next-gen Mini Electric comes along. I doubt many buyers of this will be put off by its impracticality, because I see an expensive small car like this being bought as a daily driver by those who have a garage full of other fun cars to use on the weekend, and to that sort of buyer the price tag won’t matter. It doesn’t exactly add up competitively on paper, but in the real world, the 500e is perfectly fit for purpose.

2024 Fiat 500e La Prima List Price: $52,500 | As Tested: $54,100
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 6.5/10
    Practicality - 6.5/10
  • 6/10
    Value for Money - 6/10

Pros: Head-turning good looks, slick infotainment system, punchy performance on city streets, tight turning circle
Cons: Very expensive for a micro hatch, short warranty, limited real-world driving range, small boot and back seat

In a nutshell: The Fiat 500 is an undeniable icon, and this new 500e only continues that legacy. With timeless styling and ideal driving characteristics for a city car, it’s as much fun as you can have at 50km/h. It’s a victim of the scoring system because of its extremely steep price tag, but for the right buyer this is a solid 10 out of 10.

Photography by Marcus Cardone.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Fiat Australia for one week. All charging expenses were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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