The U.S. is in dire need of electric cars that are affordable to everyday consumers. Right now, if you pick a new EV at random, it’s likely to cost upwards of $50,000. And that just isn’t realistic for most people—especially those taking the plunge into an unfamiliar technology.
Good news: A new, relatively accessible option will arrive early next year in the form of the 2024 Fiat 500e. The iconic Italian city car is returning stateside after a brief hiatus, and Fiat unveiled it to the world on Tuesday. It went on sale in Europe in 2020.
The (500e)RED edition, the first model available, will start at $32,500 plus a $1,595 destination fee. While that isn't exactly cheap, it's a lot less than the average going price for an EV, which was $51,762 in October, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Fiat plans to “drop” future variants in limited quantities, as fashion brands do. While I’m not sure people will line up for the latest Fiat colorway like they do for Supreme hoodies, Fiat thinks there’s something to the strategy.
Just like its predecessor, the new 500e sports two doors, four seats, retro-inspired flair, and a tiny footprint meant for squeezing into the tightest of parking spots. In a time when automakers keep doubling down on bulky electric pickups and SUVs, some buyers may appreciate a legitimately compact and energy-efficient option. Plus, Fiat says the updated model is both longer and wider than before, yielding more interior space.
The (500e)RED’s funky cabin features lots of red accents, a rounded gauge cluster, and a red dashboard insert made of shiny plastic. Alongside the 7-inch driver-facing display is a 10.25-inch center touchscreen equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Gallery: 2024 Fiat 500e North American Launch
149 miles of range, with a Level 2 charger included
Now for the really important stuff: range and charging. Fiat estimates the 500e’s range at 149 miles, which is roughly what you’d expect from such a small car with a consequently tiny 42-kilowatt-hour battery pack.
Interestingly, the 500e will be sold with a Level 2 charger that buyers can have installed in their garage or driveway. When plugged into a Level 2 connection (faster than a regular wall outlet, not as fast as DC public fast-charging), the hatchback can top up its battery in four hours and 15 minutes, Fiat says.
Using a DC fast charger (the more powerful kind found at highway rest stops and Tesla Supercharger locations), the 500e can recharge from empty to 80% in 35 minutes, according to Fiat. The 500e maxes out at a charging rate of 85 kW, slower than most other EVs. But it all balances out, since the car’s small battery pack doesn’t need much time to charge anyway.
A car with 118 horsepower that “sings”
The car’s 118 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque propel it to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, Fiat says. There are three drive modes. “Normal” is, well, normal. “Range” intensifies regenerative braking to slow the car down harder and send more power to the battery pack under braking. The oddly named “Sherpa” mode maximizes the remaining range by capping the 500e’s power output and top speed.
In somewhat gimmicky news, at low speeds, the 500e doesn’t just emit the typical drone required of EVs for pedestrian awareness. It “sings.”
From Fiat: “The Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) ‘sings’ to pedestrians with a song titled ‘The sound of 500,’ authored by Flavio Ibba-Marco Gualdi. The exclusive melody gives a taste of Italian culture during the first moments of every drive.” That doesn’t sound annoying at all. Nope.
So, is the 500e a good buy? That depends on what you’re after. Rivals include the Mini Electric, which is in the same ballpark as the 500e cost-wise but delivers only 114 miles of range. Then there’s the stalwart Nissan Leaf, which starts at around $25,000 (after a $3,750 federal tax credit) for a model with 149 miles of range. A 259-mile Chevrolet Bolt can be had for roughly $20,000, including a $7,500 kickback from the federal government.
For buyers who don’t need road-tripping range and want something they can park anywhere, the 500e may be just the ticket.