Plug-In Subcompact Comparison: Chevrolet Spark EV Vs Fiat 500e
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.
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
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
EV RANGE, EFFICIENCY AND CAPABILITIES
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
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.
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?