I was surprised when I got the invitation to Miami. Generally, I can tell a lot about what a company wants to convey about a car based on where it chooses to host the first drive. BMW hosted its i5 launch in Portugal, near its largest software provider and some incredible roads. Rivian invited journalists to its crucial Normal, IL factory for the dual-motor R1. Those made sense. But I couldn't fathom why the new Fiat 500e launch was being held in Miami, Florida, home to boring roads, bad traffic and worse drivers.

There was a method here. Because while the previous-generation 500e was a solid backroad car with city-center sizing, the new one feels most at home darting around a South Florida city. But with premium pricing relative to its meager range, though, pleasant city manners may not be enough to make the Fiat 500e a hit. 

(Full Disclosure: Fiat flew me to Miami to drive the Fiat 500e. All lodging and flight accommodations were provided by Stellantis.)

2024 Fiat 500e Quick Stats
Output 118 HP/162 ft-lbs


42 kWh
Max Charging Speed (DC) 85 kW
Range 149 Miles
Base Price $34,095
As Tested Price $34,095

This Car Ain’t New

The Fiat 500e is not a new car. In fact, in the context of the rapidly improving EV market, it’s somewhat old. The car went on sale in much of Europe in the summer of 2020, after the final design was revealed in March of that year. It’s a follow-up, direct, fully electric replacement for the gas-powered Fiat 500 which finally exited production this month. However, whereas this is Europe’s first Fiat 500e, this is generation two for Americans. The first-generation Fiat 500e was built for America. It was so unprofitable that former CEO Sergio Marchionne infamously asked potential customers not to buy it.

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This car shouldn’t have that problem though. Fiat North America lead Aamir Ahmed has said in the past, that unlike the previous compliance car iteration, the imported 500e will be profitable at the price Fiat plans to sell the car. It’s not a converted gas-powered car with batteries thrown underneath seats, it’s a ground-up EV platform called STLA City. Fiat executives and engineers say it was one of the last projects completed before the FCA and PSA merger that created Stellantis. 

Fiat 500e 16

The alterations to create the U.S. version were fairly minor. Fiat engineers did a few under-the-skin tweaks to the crash structure, namely the A-pillar. The airbags had to be completely redone, and thus are different from the European model. The lighting has been updated to comply with U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That’s why there’s a new orange indicator near the front wheel, and the too-small turn signal once integrated under the hood shutline is now just a cute Italian flag motif encased in clear plastic. Other than that, Fiat’s engineers insist the US version is the same as what everyone else gets. 

Our U.S-spec 500e gets the same 118-horsepower, front-motor, front-wheel-drive design found in higher-trimmed models sold elsewhere. That motor is fed by a 42-kWh battery, good for 149 miles of EPA-rated range. DC fast charging is merely okay at 85 kW max, and its AC onboard charger is good for 11 kW. That means the car will recharge from 0-80% in as little as 35 minutes, or charge in six hours when connected to a Level 2 outlet that can output 11 kW. We weren't able to verify this on the first drive, so we'll have to take Fiat's word for it until we can get one for more in-depth testing. 

Fiat 500e 2

The last time I interacted with Ahmed, we bonded over our same-year, similarly equipped Fiat 500 Abarths. He wanted me to drive the 500e because he claimed that it was so much different than the last time we got any sort of Fiat 500. After driving the car around Miami for an hour or so, I told him I disagreed. It didn't feel like a new experience. He seemed disappointed.

That’s okay, though, because I liked the old one. I was worried that the shift to electrification and the larger dimensions of the new model would destroy the 500's charming driving experience. It didn’t. The new 500e has the same very upright, miss-muffet-sat-on-her-tuffet, eating-curds-and-whey driving position of the old car. Some may dislike this, but I think it’s ideal for a city car. A car like this will be primarily used for short journeys, where you'll be hopping in and out often. The extra dimensions of the 2024 model feel smartly used, too, and the car has far more hip, shoulder and headroom. It has grown bigger without losing sight of its mission as a small car. The car is petite but accessible. I could see older drivers, or drivers with mobility issues liking the Fiat 500e, whereas they might struggle with lower-slung EV shapes like the Mini Cooper SE.

Fiat 500e 14

The Fiat’s suspension is pretty uncomplicated, just a set of MacPherson struts up front, and a semi-independent torsion beam in the back. The steering is light, but the ratio itself is fairly speedy, making the car easy to maneuver in the city. The 500e corners fairly flatly, although we didn’t get a chance to test that too much on the flat streets of Miami. The good news is that it soaked up the big potholes and pockmarked roads like a much bigger car. 

The more interesting part of the Fiat 500e’s driving experience is its driving modes. There are three modes: Normal, Range, and Sherpa. In Normal mode, the 500e feels like any other ICE or electric vehicle. Range mode is like normal mode, but with one-pedal driving. Yet the most intriguing mode is Sherpa. In Sherpa mode, the accelerator pedal responsiveness is turned all the way down. One pedal regeneration is turned all the way up, and the car turns off any auxiliary accessories (aside from the radio and lights) not necessary for safe driving. Speed is also limited to 50 MPH, although that is easily overridden with a firm press of the pedal. When I initially read about it, I thought Sherpa mode would be too dull and unresponsive.

Behind the wheel, Sherpa mode felt like the most ideal use of the car. At 118 horsepower, and with a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds in normal mode, the Fiat feels swift but it’s not exactly drag-strip read. With Sherpa mode engaged, there wasn't a huge drop in everyday performance, but there was a tangible increase in the car’s projected range. If I owned the 500e, I’d likely leave it in Sherpa mode most of the time. 

Fiat 500e 23

I found the car's efficiency fairly impressive, despite its limited range. True, 149 miles of range isn’t a hell of a lot, and I wish we would have had more time with the car. But, after driving roughly 40 miles around Miami’s neighborhoods with the A/C on, I returned the car to Fiat with 80% battery life. Using our fuzzy math calculations, the 500e was averaging about 4.7-4.8 miles per kilowatt-hour and was on track to reach roughly 175-180 miles of range. That’s pretty substantially higher than the EPA’s rating, but do keep in mind this car was driven nearly entirely in the city. The EPA figure assumes 55 percent city driving and 45 percent highway driving, with EVs in general being less efficient on the highway. 

Fiat 500e 10

Who Is This Car For?

As pleasant as I found the Fiat 500e, I couldn’t ignore the huge caveats here. The car is nice and cute, but it’s obvious that Fiat’s giving us an older car here to keep its name relevant in the US. It feels like an upgraded version of the last car we got, but it also runs into the same roadblocks we ran into with the old 500 and 500e: This car feels just a little too expensive for what Fiat’s offering. 

It seems like the 500e was on track to beat its official range rating, but it still offers far less range than the average consumer wants. It falls well short of cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is cheaper, larger and can go up to 261 miles on a charge.

True, the interior is an upgrade compared to the old 500 and 500e, but the interior plastics, cloth seats and overall ambiance feel strikingly basic, and not like the true premium city car that Fiat wants the 500e to be. It's no Mini Cooper SE. Plus, it's missing some key features that have become common in EVs. The 500e does have a heat pump, but options like heated front seats or a heated steering wheel, are only available on the significantly more expensive Inspired by Beauty and Inspired by Music models. Without those, drivers have to use the regular heater alone, which saps more range. Cold weather can already zap a third of your range, so this car makes more sense in warmer climates.

Fiat 500e 26

It just feels like Fiat is trying to make an older car work in a market that has newer, more mature options. I don’t think the 500e is a bad car, but it’s just not quite enough. The current Mini Cooper SE can’t go as far, and can’t charge as quickly, but the Cooper SE feels like it’s in a class above the 500e, while being incrementally cheaper. The 2025 Mini Cooper Electric, with its hyper-customizable circular infotainment screen looks like a spaceship inside and out by comparison. The 500e's 5-inch U-Connect screen is very responsive, but how can Fiat expect to compete with what Mini's cooking up next?

Some of these qualms could be solved with the right price. But at $34,995 (including destination), the 500e feels like a terrible deal for a car that feels so basic and doesn’t go very far, no matter how cute or nice to drive it is. If Fiat somehow figured out how to make the car roughly $25,000, I’m sure some buyers could overlook the car’s shortcomings and end up happy Fiat 500e owners. 

Fiat 500e 1

Fiat Brand Lead Aamir Ahmed admitted that Fiat doesn’t see the 500e selling in extremely large numbers here. The 500e is a strong seller in Europe, and Fiat with its performance there. Here, however, it's arguably more important to the brand. Fiat doesn't sell anything else here, so it needs the 500e if it wants to continue having a U.S. presence. The design and history of the 500 are iconic, and Ahmed said that it was a shame that the brand hasn’t capitalized on it more in the U.S. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the new version will help Fiat realize that dream. 

Contact the author: kevin.williams@insideevs.com 

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