2021 Fiat 500e first drive — Could this Italian icon tempt you to go electric?

It’s fair to say that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) hasn’t been the fastest off the mark when it comes to electric cars. With the lead-footedness displayed across all its brands — Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram — you could be forgiven for thinking that the Italian-American multinational simply isn’t interested in having an electric future. Or a future at all.

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Perhaps though, the thaw has started, and perhaps it’s the impending merger with the PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall) that will spark FCA into life. The fine print indicates that effectively, the more progressive PSA is acquiring FCA. In the new group, to be known as Stellantis, it looks like an electrification is core to the strategy of CEO Carlos Tavares, Carlos Ghosn’s former protege at Renault.

If you live in California, you may well have caught sight of the compliance version of the Fiat 500e on the streets of San Francisco, but this version is the real deal, and we were really quite taken by it. We took it out under overcast skies, but couldn’t stop smiling throughout. The “rose gold” cabriolet is by any standards an aesthetic treat, its compactness is appealing to us, as smaller cars emit less carbon over their life cycle. Although we appreciate not everyone looks at EVs through that lens.

This mass-manufacturable car is made in Turin, and certainly has an Italian style to it. The car itself is well-made, with wonderful attention to detail, but spacious it is not, and you will struggle for storage. What’s more, if you have passengers, they need to be very small ones. It’s easy to use, has great tech, and the instrumentation is clear and accurate. Above all, we particularly appreciated the strong regenerative braking, and the super-practical “sherpa” mode that ekes out every last kilowatt.

The 42 kWh battery capacity offers a WLTP range of 199 miles, but as ever to avoid disappointment, we would prefer to advertise the real-world range of 155 miles as listed on the EV-Database. It accelerates from 0-62 mph in a less than scintillating 9.0 seconds, and it tops out at 93 mph, so it certainly can’t be classed as an Italian “sports car” even with the cabriolet’s soft-top down. However, it can rapid charge at 85 kW on CCS if occasion requires. Most eye-catching of all, though, the 500e starts from £23,945 in the UK, making it much cheaper than the Honda e, but with a significantly greater range. That alone could give interested parties quite the dilemma. 

In fact, we’re struggling to think of a cuter electric car on the market, and we can see it dominating the narrow European streets. We can also imagine a renaissance in California too, but could the average American consumer learn to love this little beauty? We certainly hope so.

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