Fiat 500e Icon review: baby, where did our plug go?

David Linklater
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Fiat 500e


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  • Stunning design inside and out
  • Finally, a 500 with modern tech
  • Still lots of fun to drive
  • Still quite flimsy in places
  • Painted-metal seatbacks
  • Strange door-locking protocol

Yes, it really is a completely new Fiat 500 and yes, it really is completely electric. There you go, we've just answered the two questions any driver of the new 500e will get asked incessantly. Maybe get it on a t-shirt; a Kiton t-shirt.

The cuter-than-cute 500e is Fiat NZ’s first foray into pure-electric motoring (not the first electric 500 though) and while it’s clearly a classic Cinquecento to the casual observer, it shares absolutely nothing with the relatively ancient, albeit still cute, 500 internal combustion engine (ICE) model. Which is still on sale, by the way.

It’s a city car, but the 500e isn’t cheap. The entry Pop model is $59,900, so that’s already twice the price of the $25k 500 ICE. Our 500e Icon test car has a bit more bling and is $64,990, despite being absolutely tiny (3.6m long) and offering a modest 320km WLTP range.

So yes, there are bigger battery electric vehicles (BEVs) out there with bigger ranges and smaller pricetags. And as with the rival Mini Electric, if that’s your headspace when considering the 500e, you’re probably in the wrong place.

It’s very chuckable, because Italians understand that every roundabout is taken at terminal velocity in a small car.

This is a retro-futuristic delight and given its dual design/eco-credentials, it’s as much a fashion-accessory as a mode of transport. And we mean that in a really good way. It’s sustainable-cool.


For car-people, it’s also fun. Modestly powered, with 87kW/220Nm and 0-100km/h in 9 seconds, but perky off the line in a way that only BEVs can be. And still super-refined around town.

We have to dispute that 320km range, even though it’s all WLTP-official and everything.

You can motor in Normal, Range (which introduces one-pedal driving with extra regen) or the beautifully named Sherpa mode, which goes for maximum distance-to-flat (less performance, less air-con). You know, to get you to your destination. It all takes a long press on the mode switch, mind, but you get there in the end.

It’s a very chuckable car too, partly because it’s so small and partly because the steering and chassis are the product of Italians who understand that every roundabout is taken at terminal velocity in a small car. Love it.

But we have to dispute that 320km range, even though it’s all WLTP-official and everything. We never saw a range starting with a “3” and in fact 250km is a more accurate real-word estimate; maybe 280km if you’re willing to go Sherpa. And that’s okay for a city car; still around 100km more than the rival Mini.

The design is gorgeous inside and out, but it’s still pretty cheap and cheerful – lovely shapes, but plenty of hard plastics. Look under the bonnet (no frunk, by the way) and there are wires hanging in a worryingly haphazard way; open the tailgate and you’ll see that the seatbacks are painted metal rather than trimmed in fabric. 

The cabin is great place to be though, with a small but nicely laid-out infotainment screen with wireless phone projection/charging and a cool two-spoke steering wheel. You get proper switches for the climate control, although in true Fiat tradition the actual air-con is pretty hopeless. There’s no gearlever, just a row of pushbuttons on the dashboard.

It’s not a massive leap up from Pop to Icon, and definitely worth it. Only the Icon gets the full suite of Level 2 driver-assistance features, including intelligent adaptive cruise (which is always so well suited to a BEV), Blind Spot Monitor and 360-degree parking sensors. That high-end active safety tech is a really big leap over the previous model – which had basically none.

Both models are keyless; while the release is fine (grab the doorhandle), the locking is a bit weird, with a small button in the recess that you have to hold for quite a while. And when the electric locks do engage, they’re pretty much silent and all you get is a flash of the indicators. Being unfamiliar with the car, we kept checking… and of course the doors unlock again as soon as you grasp the handle. Rookie mistake, but how about a lock-tone, Fiat? Or automatic lock/unlock like other Stellantis small cars (Opel, Peugeot).

The Icon also gets bigger/fancier wheels, LED headlights with auto high-beam, extra chrome, glass roof, different dashboard trim, a bi-colour steering wheel (swoon) and auto-dimming mirror. It’s also supposed to have “Ice beige eco-leather” upholstery, although our car had Seaqual fabric (made partly from marine waste) which is just as nice. Or nicer. An early car with a bit of mix-and-match spec, apparently.

Fiat has even been inspired by other Stellantis brands Jeep and Opel to create at least one Easter egg in the 500e: the rubber lining at the bottom of the interior door pull (which you really can't see) has a graphic of the original 500 and a "Made in Torino" stamp.

The 500e will likely be a niche model in New Zealand, but it’s a pretty big hit in Europe: a top-10 seller among BEVs for the year-to-date, behind Tesla Model 3/Y and Volkswagen’s ID models, but ahead of the e-208 from sister Stellantis-brand Peugeot and the new MG4.

In a Kiwi context, it doesn’t necessarily stack up on precious metal for your money, but the 500e provides plenty of evidence that zero-emissions cars can still have soul.

Hotter Abarth 500e (complete with OTT sound generator) is on the way.

Now, let’s have a go in the Abarth version (on its way to NZ later in the year). See you soon.

ENGINE: 42kWh battery with single electric motor
POWER: 87kW/220Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD
0-100KM/H: 9.0sec
RANGE: 320km (WLTP), maximum charge rate 85kW
PRICE: $64,990

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