Fiat Revives 500e As Limited Edition Luxury Item
Despite being pulled from our market in 2019, the Fiat 500e is coming back. Stellantis announced the model’s return in 2022 and has recently shared its specifications and pricing.
The vehicle remains a pint-sized runabout best suited for urban environments and short trips. But it is more useful than its predecessor with the 42-kWh battery pack yielding 149 miles between charges using the EPA’s testing protocols. That’s superior to the Mini Cooper SE and matches the Nissan Leaf S. Though the Fiat has additional tricks up its sleeve by way of faster charging options and liquid-cooled batteries that should (in theory) result in more consistent performance.
You might recall the little electric as the model the late Sergio Marchionne begged Americans not to buy back when Stellantis was still Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. He made it perfectly clear that the Fiat was a compliance vehicle designed to appease regulators.
“If you are considering buying a 500e I hope you don't buy it, because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000,” Marchionne said in 2014.
We don’t know how much (or even if) Fiat plans on losing with the models produced today. But it’s safe to assume Stellantis is trying to make the model make sense for its bottom line. The company also seems to be pushing electrification a lot harder than FCA was. Prior to the French investments that created Stellantis, Fiat Chrysler leadership was pretty clear that it was producing EVs under duress.
The current Fiat 500e seems to be targeting the electric Mini Cooper SE as its main competitor. Both vehicles are small and likely to cater to similar demographics, with the companies hell bent on accessorization to help pad the price. Though we wouldn’t call it a bargain at $32,500 plus a $1,595 destination fee.
While still far less than the $52,000 average people spend on all-electric vehicles, it would be hard to call the 500e a value proposition. It’s a few grand steeper than rival offerings. But it also offers faster charging if you have access to the relevant facilities and arguably looks better than its competitors.
Fiat’s introductory model will be the 500e RED, a special edition done in collaboration with a charity that raises money to combat AIDS. The automaker says a portion of every sale goes toward the program. However, this also means the first models will be available in singular color when they start arriving early in 2024. Anybody hoping to score a non-red 500e will likely have to wait a while. But even subsequent versions are still supposed to be released in limited quantities, encouraging customers to respond the way shoe fanatics do over limited edition sneakers.
CEO Olivier François has even stated that the car is designed to target wealthy, urban customers. We expect the brunt of those buyers will be situated along the coast and possess two x chromosomes, too.
“The 2024 500e is a modern, tech-forward take on a beloved classic, delivering a host of new safety features, while remaining fun to drive and true to its roots," François said in a statement. "Try not to smile when you drive this car.”
The 500e RED is said to be larger than its predecessor, while still being compact enough to park easily in dense urban areas. It’s also sold with a Level 2 charger that buyers can have installed at an owner’s home. Fait said the outlet should be enough to recharge the vehicle in a little over 4 hours, whereas finding a public charging station with DC fast charging should do the same job in under an hour.
With 118 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, Fait says the 500e should be capable of reaching 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. That’s perfectly serviceable for city use and sufficient to merge onto the expressway without causing trouble.
There are three drive modes. “Normal” is the default setting while “Range” amplifies regenerative braking to slow the car down harder and send more power back into the battery. There’s also a “Sherpa” mode that’s supposed to neuter the vehicle’s top speed and acceleration to preserve energy. Considering that two of the three modes are focused on energy conservation, we imagine the vehicle’s maximum range of 149 miles requires their help to be achieved.
The 500e is supposed to “sing” at low speeds, abandoning the usual roster of hums EVs emit to alert unaware pedestrians to their presence. Fait says the melody was created by Flavio Ibba-Marco Gualdi and is said to be inherently Italian in nature. That sounds like something not everyone is going to love. But we’ll reserve final judgements until we’ve actually heard it with our own ears.
Other features are less gimmicky. The 500e RED has the obligatory paint-matching interior, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment screen (Uconnect 5), wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic climate control, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
In addition to the RED, Fiat will also be auctioning off a trio of alternative 500e vehicles designed in collaboration with Italian brands Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell. Proceeds are supposed to go towards benefiting "environmentally-focused" nonprofits.
It’s probably not the vehicle you want to take on an extended road trip. But it might serve as an errands car for city dwellers wanting something unique. It doesn’t appear like the Fiat will be chasing volume on the 500e. While it still looks like an economy car to your author, the company seems to envision the model closer to a luxury handbag than a practical conveyance and will be marketing it accordingly.
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A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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