Impressive first showing for new-era 500. Its fanbase will love it and even naysayers will respect how it drives
This new Fiat 500 looks fantastic, doesn’t it? It’s only the third ground-up 500 created by Fiat in 63 years, and the design team behind it deserve as hearty a pat on the back as the team behind its 1957 and 2007 predecessors.Bellissimo, one might even say. Job done, others might, given how looks are the chief reason so many will purchase the 500 anyway. In its 13 years on sale, the second iteration has never sold more than in each of the past three years – remarkable, given how dated it has become to drive and feel inside.This time, though, it’s a very different 500, for it has gone electric. And wholly electric at that. There’s not a petrol or diesel engine, or even a hybrid powertrain, in sight. Unless, of course, you buy another car in Fiat’s showrooms called the 500, because the second-generation car will be sold alongside the third for a long while yet with no nomenclature differentiation. Which won’t at all be confusing.Here we’re driving the 500 for the first time (the new one, that is), where the cliché of ‘is it as good as it looks?’ is for once actually rather relevant. Although those looks are familiar, this is an all-new car from the ground up. Nothing is carried over at all, with the new 500 based around a new skateboard electric car architecture as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ first full-series production EV.The lithium ion battery pack mounted in the floor is 42kWh – good for just shy of 200 miles of range on a full charge. Direct drive to the front wheels is through a 117bhp, 162lb ft permanent-magnet electric motor. DC rapid-charging is standard, with a full charge coming in as little as 35min from an 85kW DC charger if you can find one. A time of 4hr 15min from an 11kW AC Type 2 charger is also quoted, alongside the full 15.5hr recharge from a three-pin plug in the unlikely event that you’d ever let the battery run completely flat.An impressive range, then, and considerably greater than those of the new 500’s most obvious rivals, the Mini Electric and Honda E, both of which offer little over half that in the real world.The 500 has grown in size, but the numbers on paper aren’t as great as your eyes would lead you to believe when looking at a second-generation 500 next to this new one. The length has increased by 61mm (22mm of that in the wheelbase) and the width by 56mm, while height is up 29mm. However, it’s the wider rear track and the fitment of larger (17in) alloy wheels that give the new 500 its more purposeful, ground-hugging stance.From the driver’s seat, though, it still feels a dinky car and the perfect foil for carving through city traffic.