Next-generation Fiat 500: *Not* the Same As It Ever Was
There’s no mistaking the vehicle you see here. It’s undoubtedly a Fiat 500, and a cursory glance leaves the impression that it hasn’t changed much.
It’s true, some things haven’t changed: the next-generation Fiat 500 is still small, still a two-door, still comes in hardtop or cabriolet form, and it still wears the overall design of the previous one, albeit with subtle alterations. And yet there’s a serious change afoot here, hiding beneath a vehicle that has, actually, grown a little.
Appearing for the 2021 model year, the new 500 is an all-electric proposition (Fiat actually calls the model the Nuova 500, or “New 500”). While the previous generation featured an EV variant (the seldom spotted 500e), this generation promises far greater range to go with its retro looks and park-anywhere footprint. Fiat claims a WLTP range of 199 miles, which translates into roughly 150-160 miles on the EPA cycle.
Previously, the 500e drew 83 miles from its diminutive 24 kWh battery pack. It seems bumping up the model’s capacity to 42 kWh, something you can do when you’re not just retrofitting an existing ICE car, paid off. For a European city car, this sounds fine, and it’s topped off with an 85 kW charger system that can dump 30 miles into the “tank” in 5 minutes, assuming you find the right kind of hookup.
To compensate for the additional weight, the model’s motor grows slightly to 87 kW (117 horsepower), affording a top speed of 93 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 9 seconds. Overall, the next-gen 500 stretches an extra 2.4 inches front to back and side to side, with its wheelbase and height growing by eight-tenths of an inch. Yours truly wonders if his head still touches the headliner. Time will tell.
Or perhaps not, as the 500 has not been confirmed for North American consumption. Fiat ditched the old generation, including the 500e, for the 2020 model year. While the brand itself is in dire straights in this market, with little word from FCA as to its future, Automotive News reports that Fiat brand head Olivier Francois said the pint-sized EV could make it stateside if demand proves sufficient.
If it doesn’t arrive here, eco-conscious American consumers will lose out on yet another bit of electrical whimsy, what with Honda choosing to keep its Honda E electric city car away from these shores. They’ll also lose out on an electric Fiat that’s hardly a bare-bones proposition. The new 500 boasts a 10.3-inch touchscreen, up-to-date Uconnect 5 infotainment system, and a host of driver-assist aids.
Three drive modes allow users to get the most from their ICE-free Fiat, including range. “Sherpa” mode is what you want when the battery runs low, with the vehicle’s top speed government to 50 mph, throttle response muted, and A/C shut off. You’ll want to select “range” mode for additional regenerative braking and Nissan Leaf-like one-pedal driving, while “normal” is exactly what it sounds like.
With a model as important to the Italian market as the 500, and so close to the hearts of many, FCA risked disease transmission by hosting a debut in Milan, not all that far from the now scuttled Geneva Motor Show.
[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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Pity...another hot hatch bites the dust in the US. The 500 Abarth was a hoot to drive. Probably should have gave it a solid front axle and a V8 and it would have been successful per most of the nonsense I read on these forums.
If FCA's plan for the US is giant trucks and SUVs as far as the eye can see, then it's got to meet CAFE somehow. The old 500e was here, leased at a fat loss, partly because it jacked up that average. If we're lucky, they'll use the same technique again. The one and only thing I didn't love about my 500e was the range was short and there was no fast-charging. I could just barely get to the next good-sized city in one direction, and not at all to the next one in the other. But with this much range and fast charging, it becomes a useful regional car instead of just a city car, getting you to your farm-country office on the other end of the county or whatnot. I'd go for a bargain lease on one of these in a heartbeat. (Although it looks like they've extended range partly by turning down the wick a bit; I'm pretty sure the old one dispatched 0-60 in a fair bit less than 9 seconds.)