New Fiat 500 Almost Makes You Wish It Was Still Sold In America
The latest modern-age 500 appears massively better in every way (and it's bigger!).
It wasn't too long ago that we were mourning the departure of the Fiat 500 from our shores, so the sudden appearance of an all-new third-generation 500, designed from the ground up as an EV, is a bit of salt in the wound. But let's not begrudge our European friends the ability to enjoy what appears to be a fascinating little city car to complement (not supplant, at least for the near future) the existing second-generation 500.
Fiat is making sure that nobody mistakes the new 500 as anything other than a descendent of the original Cinquecento; spiritually if not physically. It has signed on unmistakably Italian brands to customize the new 500 in special one-off models, such as Armani, Bvlgari, and Kartell. Fiat even brought Leonardo DiCaprio on board for an ad campaign highlighting its green credentials. Heck, the new 500 will even play the theme song from a classic Fellini film, Amarcord, as a low-speed pedestrian warning sound. That is as Italian as it gets.
And while the new car's shape is smoother and more modern, the "la Prima" launch edition version evokes the minuscule original even more than the second-generation 500. The greenhouse is more baroque, there is more of a little bustle on the rear decklid, and even the front clamshell hood's shape is more akin to its classic forebear. There are some distinct signs of modernity, however, like the "eyelash" floating above the hood cutline, the quadrangle-dimpled grille, the new "500" logo that cleverly transforms the final zero into an "e". That new logo, incidentally, completely replaces any Fiat logo upfront, taking a very prominent place on the nose where a typical upper grille would be. That's a departure from any previous 500, which all feature a Fiat badge between the headlights.
The new 500 debuts as a convertible, although it's the classic roll-back style that leaves the side pillars and glass in place. It will still allow for plenty of light and air to enter the sleek interior, which in the la Prima edition includes eco-leather seating stitched with a "FIAT" pattern and a textured dash insert material that highlights the brand-new Uconnect 5 infotainment interface's 10.3-inch high-definition display. Uconnect 5 runs on the Android operating system, and the new 500 is one of the first applications within the broader FCA group, having debuted on the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica in Chicago. It has support for wireless Apple CarPlay at launch and should support wireless Android Auto in the future. Overall, it strikes us as a major leap forward.
It's what's under the floorboards that makes this new 500 so interesting: 42 kWh worth of batteries—a smidge more than what a regular Nissan Leaf offers, but a bit less than the 62-kWh pack of the Plus variant. The European WLTP testing cycle rates the new 500 at roughly 198 miles of range, and since we're not getting this 500 in the States what it might get in EPA testing is irrelevant. Compare this to the zippy old 500e, which packed just 24 kWh of juice for 84 miles of EPA-rated range.
The 500's motor is an 87-kW unit that makes roughly 118 horsepower (and an unspecified amount of torque) and will scoot the little EV to 62 mph in about 9 seconds. It can dish out power via three drive modes: Normal, Range, and … Sherpa. FCA chose the latter because Sherpas traditionally act as mountaineering guides and choosing the car's Sherpa mode adjusts its driving parameters to make sure you get to your ultimate destination, limiting the 500's maximum speed to 50 mph in the process. Normal attempts to make the driving experience as similar to a gas-powered vehicle as possible, and Range activates a mostly one-pedal driving mode.
Charging options are myriad. Hook it up to a fast charger system, and it'll suck enough juice in five minutes to travel 31 miles, or charge to 80 percent in just 35 minutes. At home, the basic 3.0 kW wall charger included with the la Prima Edition can be upgraded to a 7.4 kW unit, which allows for a full charge at home in six hours. If a particular trip will exceed the 500's capabilities, or an owner just wants a change, buying any new electric 500 allows the owner to participate in the company's new "My Dream Garage" mobility service, which affords the option to swap into various other FCA vehicles. More details on this service are to come.
Fiat is also quite proud of the Level 2 driver assistance features that it includes, such as adaptive cruise control, lane centering, sign-reading speed limit assist, blind-spot warning, and driver attention assist. Additionally, a smartphone app allows for the sort of remote monitoring and interactivity we've come to expect from modern cars. Finally, the launch edition cars come with a natural speech recognition interface, which could certainly be native Alexa support (since FCA has already announced that Uconnect 5 will support this function).
For everyone outside of America, the la Prima version will be limited to 500 units per major country. List price is €37,900 ($42,200 at today's exchange rates) before incentives, and the online ordering system is now open to take your €500 deposit.