Plug-In Subcompact Comparison: Chevrolet Spark EV Vs Fiat 500e

4 years ago by Jay Cole 34

Chevrolet Priced The Spark EV As The Least Expensive 4 Seat EV

Chevrolet Priced The Spark EV As The Least Expensive 4 Seat EV

When Chevrolet priced the Spark EV recently at $27,495, natural comparisons and sales forecasts where made against the former lowest priced, all electric, family hauler, the 2013 Nissan LEAF S Model from $28,800.

And that is probably unfair. For all intents, they are in different classes…in a lot of ways. The Spark EV is a compact, 4 seat/4 door, tire burner aimed at the younger generation; while the Nissan LEAF is a purpose-built, near mid-size that boasts 5 seats and 24 cu.ft cargo space (largest in the mid-size segment). We doubt many future sales of either the Spark EV or Nissan LEAF will be made at each others expense.

But there is another car that will do a fierce battle with the Spark EV for the hearts of the US consumer, the Fiat 500e.

(full side by side spec sheet of both below)

And while the Fiat 500e is priced $5,000 more than the Spark EV at $32,500, Fiat has a lot more faith in the resale of its car, and has offered the 500e at an identical lease rate of $199/month with $999 down.

Given that about 75% of all electric vehicle purchases in the US (that don’t originate from Tesla) are leases, this makes these car identical from a cost point of view.

The Spark EV goes on sale this month, while the Fiat 500e is scheduled to arrive in July, but before then, lets do a little comparison shopping.

 

PERFORMANCE

Common Sight For Would-Be Fiat 500e Racers

Common Sight For Would-Be Fiat 500e Racers

Both cars are extremely quick and agile for their class, but no car outside the 60 kWh-$69,900 Model S is currently on sale that can beat the Spark EV with a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds.  The Fiat 500e still rings the bell in a very decent 9.1 seconds.

The Spark EV’s strong acceleration, especially at higher speeds when most other pure electrics (including the 500e) are starting to fail, can be attributed to an electric motor output of 402 lb-ft of torque (an exec talks to us about that here).

Advantage: Chevrolet Spark EV in a blowout

 

APPEARANCE AND INTERIOR

Enough Said

Enough Said

As easily as the Chevy can beat the 500e off the line, the Fiat destroys the Spark EV just as handily in appearance.  The 500e is a good looking car, and that is a hard feat to pull of in this class segment.

The Fiat 500 brand of cars is widely loved around the world, and the interior in the 500e holds nothing back in favor of trying to up-sell you into another car.

Sure we could describe in great deal all the way the Fiat 500e is sexy, and the Spark EV is not…but really, just have a look at the pictures for yourself.

Advantage: Fiat 500e running away

Fiat 500e and Chevrolet Spark EV Interiors

Fiat 500e and Chevrolet Spark EV Interiors

 

 

EV RANGE, EFFICIENCY AND CAPABILITIES

The Spark Will Offer The New SAE Standard In Fast Charging, The Fiat 500e Offers...Well, Have You Seen How The Fiat Looks?

The Spark Will Offer The New SAE Standard In Fast Charging, The Fiat 500e Offers…Well, Have You Seen How The Fiat Looks?

Here is where the waters start to get a little murky between the two.  The Spark EV has a lot of performance dialed in, yet still manages to have an EPA rating of 82 miles via a A123 sourced 21 kWh battery  The 500e on the other hand extracts 87 miles of range from a 24 kWh lithium pack.   “Fuel economy” efficiencies are almost identical as well, with the Spark EV at 119 MPGe, and the Fiat at 116 MPGe combined.

As far as charging goes, why the Spark EV does not feature 6.6 kW Level 2charging this late in the game is a real mystery.  A full charge in a Spark EV takes over 7 hours, while the Fiat is less than 4, and that is a big negative against the Chevy.  On the DC fast charging side of things, the battle is just as lop-sided in favor of the electric Spark…because the Fiat 500e doesn’t have any, while the Spark features the world’s first SAE combo charger.

Advantage:  We’ll call this a push

 

INTANGIBLES

Both cars feature some unique features, some individual accomplishments, and some definite low lights that we’ll lump into one section.

When into comes to the interior and driver comfort, the Fiat is clearly superior.  However, when it comes to the user interface and interactions with the car and its EV functions, GM has thought things through, while it seems Fiat as pretty much cobbled together extra bits lying around the office from to try and get things done.

The Spark EV’s two 7″ displays (including one with the MyLink system) have it over the 500e’s single similar sized, 7″ circular heads-up display by a long shot.   You want to know where you are going in the 500e?  Enjoy the 90s-style, top of the dash mounted Tom Tom navigation system.   No joke.  We should note the Spark EV’s BringGo “full-function” nav requires a smartphone (and a subsequent app purchase) to operate.

No, No, No...A Thousand Times No On The Dash Mounted Tom Tom Navigation

No, No, No…A Thousand Times No On The Dash Mounted Tom Tom Navigation

In a small car like the Spark or 500e, the option to add a sunroof is always a big plus, and the Fiat has that.

The sitting position and the seats themselves in the 500e are quite serviceable.  In fact, the seat finish is almost luxurious; while the Spark EV feels the pain of being based on GM’s entry level model in this regard.

Fiat has also decided to add an interesting feature that has nothing to do with the car.  Free car rentals under the “Fiat 500e Pass program.”  In co-operation with Enterprise Holdings (think Enterprise, Alamo and National car rentals), Fiat allows purchasers and leasees up to 12 days of “alternate transportation” each year, for the first three years of ownership.  Considering both the Fiat EV and the Spark EV are both targeting younger audiences who often only have one car, this is a biggie.  36 days of prepaid car rentals over 3 years is definitely going to come in handy.

Advantage:  Fiat 500e by a whisker

 

CONCLUSION:  And the winner is…

It is very close, so we will take the easy way out and leave that up to the individual consumer to choose.

For this writer, who is fully embracing his middle-agedness, the Fiat 500e would be the easy winner.   The Fiat’s more aesthetically pleasing exterior, along with the more comfortable interior, longer range and faster level 2 charging for days spent at the office, tips the scale away from the Spark.

However, if you asked the 21 year old version of myself, he would have taken the Spark EV; he would not have cared that people would see him riding around in what appears to be GM’s low-end, $12,000 offering, or spending his days in the spartan interior…all he would have cared about was the pure speed and driving pleasure of whipping an electric go-kart around the streets.  The Spark EV would have been a snap decision.

Which would you choose?

The Chevrolet Spark EV And Fiat 500e Lineup Well Against Each Other (click to enlarge)

The Chevrolet Spark EV And Fiat 500e Lineup Well Against Each Other (click to enlarge)

 

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34 responses to "Plug-In Subcompact Comparison: Chevrolet Spark EV Vs Fiat 500e"

  1. Josh says:

    I am voting with the 21 year old version of Statik. Also because it is the only one with a chance at making it to Texas.

  2. Warren says:

    I wish the Fiat was coming to Virginia. 🙁

  3. Taser54 says:

    While the FIat is a great looking car, I’d have to go with the Spark. Far better price, a usable back seat, and better performance (acceleration, turning radius, etc.).

    Did I mention that I like the look of the Fiat?

    1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Spark charge rate and battery suck. Gimme the Fiat’s battery and charger and the Spark’s motor in an Impala.

  4. miimura says:

    “Both cars are extremely quick and agile for their class, but no car outside the 60 kWh-$69,900 Model S is currently on sale that can beat the Spark EV with a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds. The Fiat 500e still rings the bell in a very decent 9.1 seconds.”

    According to Toyota, the RAV4 EV will accelerate to 60 in 7.0 seconds in Sport Mode.
    Maybe the sentence should be “… but only a car with a Tesla drivetrain can beat the Spark EV with a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds.”

    1. Jay Cole says:

      …well I did say no “car,” hehe, but I do catch your drift on that one.

      It is easy to forget the RAV4 EV’s sport mode, (= It is still definitely not as agile as the Spark EV though, lol. Good catch.

      1. scottf200 says:

        The RAV4 EV has a MUCH larger battery than the LEAF or Spark. Look at the speed differences even with the old Tesla 40, 60, 85 kWh cars (non-perf).

    2. Irv Muckler says:

      So true… My Rav ev will smoke the tires up and down the street, and then do 140 miles on a charge. 6.7 seconds is what I clock at 0-60.

  5. vdiv says:

    It seems to me that the Honda Fit EV is the closest competitor to the Spark EV. Did you guys compare the two?

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I have had a little seat time in the Fit EV, and it is actually very capable, a lot of (surprising) fun.

      It could very well be in the mix here against these two…but as there is only likely about 875-ish left to be sold, and there is now a lot of allocations now being made outside of California into other ARB states for the Fit EV, there is probably only 500 (ish) left to be moved in the Spark EV/Fiat 500e territory, so we omitted it from the mix on this one, (=

      1. Taser54 says:

        From all reports that Fit EV is a nice vehicle.

      2. evnow says:

        Irrespective of that – Fit EV is going to drown out Spark/Fiat compliance EV sales in the next few months. Currently it offers too good a value – unlimited miles, collision insurance and a home EVSE all thrown in for the low price. A co-worker just got a Leaf and he was unhappy that Fit EV is not being sold here in WA.

        I think Honda made a mistake in pricing here. Instead of lowering it a bit to sell about 50 a month, they can probably sell all they have quickly now.

        I do think for compliance cars – Active E/ Mini-E is the right approach. Get all the cars out quickly and study their usage.

  6. Open-Mind says:

    In Z-Spec trim, I think the Spark looks better than the Fiat:

    http://www.autoblog.com/photos/sema-2010-chevrolet-spark-z-spec/#photo-3532587

    But naturally the bureaucrats at GM have decided to take 400 exciting ft-lbs of torque and make it look even more dull than the regular Spark. No bright colors, only boring wheels, etc.

  7. scottf200 says:

    If most people only charge overnight then 4 or 7 hours doesn’t typically matter (I guess some TOU scenarios could).

  8. Brian says:

    I will never understand those of you who actually *like* the look of Fiats. I think they are ridiculous looking, and would rather be seen in the Spark. At least in that car, most others will be watching me peel away from them…

    1. evnow says:

      Let me guess, you think Hummer is a beautiful car 😉

    2. Taser54 says:

      I see a TON of the Fiats in the city and their clean lines simply do not offend. This model will age well, while I feel the Spark will look dated in 4-5 years. Likewise, the mini-cooper has aged well.

    3. Brian says:

      While I don’t personally like large cars / trucks / SUVs, I can at least understand why many people like the look of the Hummer (in the “I’m overcompensating for something” kind of way). I think it is ungodly, but yes, I think it looks better than a Fiat.

      It pains me to see the Fiat compared to a Mini Cooper. The Mini is a beautiful car, with a timeless element of class. Fiats are goofy looking. They look like they are wearing a cap, and got rear-ended.

      1. Taser54 says:

        See that’s why ice cream and cars come in different flavors.

        1. Brian says:

          Yum, Ice Cream 🙂

    4. EV says:

      lol you cant be serious the fiat looks good and normal, u own a leaf and are calling another car ridiculous looking? thats a first, why dont you open your garage door and look whats sitting inside, the ridiculous looking nissan leaf

  9. Scott says:

    Being of a utilitarian style minded person, the Spark EV is the only choice.

  10. Open-Mind says:

    In the case of the Spark, I think your comparison kind of glossed over the advantage of its more usable back seats. And you don’t have to be a contortionist to access them, nor do the front seat folks need to exit the vehicle so the fronts can be manipulated to allow ingress and egress. Coupe’s may look nice, but their back seats are a huge PITA.

  11. kdawg says:

    Spark EV has more interior room, and much better displays.
    I don’t like the “euro” look of the Fiat.
    I’ve seen a Fiat 500 and a Spark on the road (ICE versions). Both look small, but the Fiat looks like a toy car.

    as we say JMHO.

  12. Ben says:

    I’m a twenty-something and for me, I really want to purchase a Spark EV. I actually prefer the Spark’s styling as opposed to the Fiat’s. Plus, it’s got four doors instead of two, has better performance, and (this matters to me, probably not to many others though) it’s from an American car company (albeit, it’s basically a Daewoo, but still, it says Chevy).

    And you can’t beat the cheaper price. I just hope they offer it in the rest of the states sometime soon.

  13. Raymondjram says:

    I have sat in the gas version of both, and the Spark is the better of the two, and probably the best of the electric city cars. The gas Spark (at the GM dealer I visited) had racing stripes on two models at no cost (two black or white stripes from the nose to the trunk). A larger battery and a luxury interior does not make the Fiat better. Besides, it isn’t built in Italy (see the list above). The Spark is built at a GM plant in South Korea, but the money comes to America.

  14. Bill Howland says:

    Reviewers seem to be quizzical about the 3.3 kw spark ev charger, but its obvious this has been the worldwide standard GM is sticking to in all its ev’s, even VIA. What normal people like me keep saying is not so much we want bigger chargers, the vast majority of us dont care about the 3.3 kw charger, we want a much bigger battery even if we have to pay for it.

    The spark doesn’t seem that bad, its boxy shape being quite practical, and I’m not enamored of the fiat’s looks, even though I;’m supposed to guess that buying one will instantly make me attractive to international models.

  15. Bob says:

    Spark is attractive to my family as an 80-mile EV; its fast charger means we can drive Seattle to Portland using the Green Highway chargers on I-5. A 6.6ah charger would be a big plus, but it’s not a deal-breaker. As Volt owners, we don’t need another gas car, so Fiat’s free rentals don’t matter.

    Leaf is nice for what it is: a Japanese maker, building in USA with non-union. I personally prefer a US maker, building in Korea with union labor. Or a Fiat built in Mexico with union labor. Or a Ford or Volt built in USA with union labor. If Nissan’s US plant unionized, we might buy the leaf, but with so many good choices coming out of union plants, there’s not much point to consider it.

  16. pjkPA says:

    Put the same VAT tax the Italians put on the Volt and see how many Fiats sell here.

  17. shrink says:

    Both of these cars have a liquid-TMS to cool that battery, right? I’m in Phoenix and will be looking to replace my LEAF once its lease expires in 6/2014.

  18. Roy_H says:

    I suppose that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me the Spark is much more attractive. I guess I am old enough not to think the Fiat is cute or retro, just looks plain olde old to me.

    The Spark EV is much nicer on the inside too, with better features. The only thing the Fiat has going for it is the 6.6kw charger, but that is not so important as most people have 8 hours to charge at night anyways.

    I say the Spark is the winner by a mile. No contest.

  19. Ryan says:

    Where’s the sport model with double the performance? Big oil told GM no.

  20. Chris says:

    Interesting. The real problem is that both cars are unreliable. Not sure which gasser version is worse but assume some of the reliability problems outside of the engines would have creeped over to the electric version. I don’t care for the look of either car. The Spark looks like it has more utility but this may just be my impression. Personally, the Mini looks better than either car but again, the Mini has reliability problems too. One of the reasons I won’t buy the Mitsubishi either.

    Can’t wait to hear real world durability of all of these cars. Wish the big automakers would design with electricity in mind similar to the Tesla S. Finding room for batteries in a gasser platform should have been left behind a few years ago. Frankly, almost all of these cars are overpriced. You can convert a gasser car for far less money than what these companies charge. Have a look on the Internet about conversions. Would really like to see a comp of a conversion vs. a big auto offering.

    A Saturnesque electric version with plastics outside and lightweight tubular frame with battery storage under the floorboards would be ideal. Through in the utility of something like the Mazda 5 or C-Max with 200 mile range and I am there. By the way, a rudimentary manual gear changing transmission would still improve mileage for highway driving as there would be less electrical draw at higher speeds…..

  21. Mr P says:

    Hands down, without a doubt, Chevy Spark EV for this middle aged guy. I fail to see much difference in looks: interior and exterior. Secondly Fiat, surely you jest.