By on March 4, 2020

fca

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.

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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.

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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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17 Comments on “Next-generation Fiat 500: *Not* the Same As It Ever Was...”


  • avatar
    Steve203

    Given that 3 of the 4 existing Fiat stores around Detroit have zero 2020 model year Fiats in hand, and only a few remaining 2019s, smells like their plan is to blow out the last few, then drop the brand. Not hard to understand as, on top of the established downward trajectory of Fiat sales, and FCA zeroing out the US Fiat advertising budget a year ago, then FCA dropping the 500, which accounted for about a third of US Fiat sales, it’s probably very hard for a dealer to justify bothering with Fiat at all.

    So, the chances of ever seeing the new gen 500 in these parts is slim to none, and slim just left town.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Fiat, especially the 500, never made sense in the US. These vehicles should have been branded as Dodge to leverage the established dealer network. Building stand alone stores to sell a Miata clone, a tiny city car and Jeep clone makes zero sense. Whoever pitched this must be the Picasso of PowerPoint.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>These vehicles should have been branded as Dodge to leverage the established dealer network.<<

        The thought crossed my mind that Fiat was being used as a stalking horse to get the stand alone "studios" set up, so that they could be used for Alfa, when the Giulia and Stelvio were ready. I don't think it was pure coincidence that FCA dropped the requirement for Fiat to have the dedicated "studios" in 2017, the same year as the Giulia became available in the US.

        The irony is, two of the four combined Fiat/Alfa stores in metro Detroit have gone toes up in the last few weeks. Both the Toledo and Ann Arbor stores have closed, with the Alfa dealerships dropped and Fiat moved into the same owner's Mopar store.

        When the Toledo Alfa store closed, the owner said out-of-warranty Alfas could be serviced at his Mopar store, while he would take it upon himself to shuttle in-warranty cars to the Alfa dealer in Birmingham, some 85 miles away.

        The Ann Arbor Alfa store closure has been kept very quiet. I have searched on line repeatedly for a news item about the Alfa dealership being dropped and found nothing. I went to the website of the company that owns the Ann Arbor operations and asked their web site "chat professional" where someone in Ann Arbor would take their Alfa for service. Even the outfit that runs that chat application had not been informed of the store closure.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          and all the profits earned on Jeeps and RAMS paid for that

          FIAT and Alfa are beyond dead brands in the US, stop the waste

        • 0 avatar
          here4aSammich

          What makes these Detroit/Toledo area closures even more interesting is that the area is full of FCA employees, family, and friends. The Toledo dealer always had employee deals on their website, never really advertised to the general public. But even employees weren’t biting on heavily subsidized leases. No wonder they sold less than 1 car a week here in Toledo.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>The Toledo dealer always had employee deals on their website, never really advertised to the general public.<<

            Same thing with the big three dealers around Motown: always advertise the A Plan price. I seem to be one of very few Wayne Country residents that doesn't get A Plan from someone.

            Yark said they only sold 48 Alfas last year. I was impressed with what he said he would do to take care of his existing Alfa customers.

            After seeing nothing in the media or on their web site wrt the Ann Arbor Alfa dealer closing, I e-mailed the store asking where a person should take his car for service, to see if the AA store would do the same thing as Yark. The reply I received was to take it to an Alfa dealer, without any offer to do scheduled maintenance or work on cars out of warranty. While courteously worded, the reply to my inquiry about Alfa service was essentially "talk to someone who cares", as they don't seem to be interested in ever seeing another Alfa in their shop.

            I would expect that, as they have apparently thrown their Alfa customers under the bus, their Fiat customers will probably receive the same treatment as soon as they dump that dealership.

        • 0 avatar
          dividebytube

          The local Alfa dealer still has 2018 models – new! – with some pretty stiff cuts to the cost.

          Tempting…

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            I see plenty of Stelvios and Giulias in the NYC metro area. Either there’s good deals on them which is most likely or people want something other than the other luxury brands.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Wow, just what Fiat dealers don`t want – another version of a car way past its` best by date. And when they tell FCA to give them the Panda or the Strada mini-pickup they get crickets.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is the right car at the wrong time.

    You can bet it would cost ~$30k+ stateside, which would be the 999th cut in Fiat’s death by 1000 cuts.

  • avatar
    RHD

    To successfully sell an electric car, it’s got to have incredible range, even though it would be used only for around town driving. Range anxiety is the main hindrance to market acceptance.
    In Europe, you could drive all over your country and never run out of juice. Not so in Texas.
    The best electric car for the future would have a tiny ICE of maybe 50HP, with a massive-capacity generator that could keep up with traffic in town or cruise the car at 65MPH while recharging the battery. The gas tank would only need to hold two or three gallons.

  • avatar
    TheMrFreeze

    FIAT as a brand in the US is dead but this car needs to make it stateside. FCA needs to get its CAFE numbers up so they don’t have to buy carbon credits from Tesla each year and an electric car is one way to make that happen.

    Simple solution (which some may consider heresy) is to rebrand this as a Chrysler so it can be sold through normal FCA dealerships. I’m sure it’ll be the first of many rebrandings we’ll see from the combined Peugeot-FCA company. With 100 years of history they can recycle an existing, appropriate name for it.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The “A” in CAFE still stands for “average”. An EV doesn’t help if it doesn’t sell.

    • 0 avatar
      stuckonthetrain

      It really isn’t about the sales channel branding, it’s more about the support.

      Unless gas goes back to $4.50+/gallon, that seems pretty unlikely. And even then, FIATs are niche enough that most Mopar dealers (already burned) wouldn’t want to invest more money supporting them. I’m a 500 Abarth owner and Ramsey (1 of big 2 pasta dealers in the NYC metro area) basically has 1 tech for FIAT and Alfa… guess how long the service waiting list is?

      Also, most independent shops don’t want to work on the current-gen MultiAirs because you need a specific tool for the MA unit, and they just don’t see enough of those to merit it. I can only imagine their reluctance for a Fiat EV.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    The problem is that they gave us 500-everything, as opposed to bringing over interesting vehicles like the Qubo, Panda, or even the Tipo.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    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.)

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