What Car? says...
If it’s retro charm you’re after, not many new cars come close to the chic Fiat 500. With looks harking back to the Fifties classic of the same name, this reimagining of the 500 (Cinquecento in Italy) turns heads like few other cars in its price bracket.
The electric 500 is available with an official range of up to 199 miles. Fiat also sells a more affordable version with a smaller battery, offering up to 118 miles of range for those who don’t plan to venture far from home in it. You can choose between the regular hardtop or the 500 Cabrio convertible, which has a retractable canvas roof.
So, what are the Fiat 500’s key rivals? Well, the Smart EQ Fortwo is definitely one, but the baby Fiat also has to hold its own against pricier and larger alternatives including the Honda e, the Mini Electric, the Peugeot e-208 and the Renault Zoe.
This review will tell you everything you need to know before you decide whether it’s right for you. And once you've decided what to buy, you can find the best deals by using our New Car Buying pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The cheapest 500 comes with a 24kWh battery and a 94bhp electric motor. It's not our favourite version, though – the official 0-62mph time of 9.5sec is quicker than the Smart EQ Fortwo but is relatively sluggish by modern electric car standards. While it’s quick and responsive enough in stop-start traffic, it runs out of puff once you head towards motorway speed limits.
More importantly, the 24kWh battery gives the car an official range of just 115 miles, and based on our drives of it so far, you're unlikely to get near that in real-world driving conditions. That said, despite the higher official figures of the Honda e (138 miles) and the Mini Electric (145 miles), all three cars struggle to cover much more than 100 miles.
All electric Fiat 500s come with a drive mode selector, allowing you to switch from a normal mode to Sherpa, which ekes out as much battery range as possible and limits the top speed to 50mph. You can only switch modes when the vehicle is stationary, which we find awkward.
The 24kWh version is available only in hardtop form, so if you want the 500 Cabrio, you’ll need to upgrade to the larger 42kWh battery.
Still, we’d recommend the larger battery even if you want a hardtop car because, for a reasonable price premium, you get a much longer official range between charges (186 to 199 miles depending on the trim) and zippier acceleration. In our tests, the more powerful 117bhp electric motor fitted to this version managed to get the car to 60mph from a standstill in 8.0sec, and the acceleration is instant, so it feels even faster than it actually is.
The 500 is built for the city, so it has a tight turning circle and is great for whizzing along narrow streets or darting away from traffic lights. It doesn’t lean much, even through tight turns, and has lots of grip. Don't expect a lot of feedback from its super-light steering, though.
The ride is fairly choppy but not uncomfortably so. While the Peugeot e-208 and other softer rivals feel calmer and more settled along faster roads, the 500 is upset less than most small cars by potholes and expansion joints.
The more powerful, 42kWh battery version of the car is a better companion on the motorway – which is handy because its range makes longer journeys a genuine possibility. Mind you, it's noisy at faster speeds, with lots of wind noise. The Honda e and the e-208 are much quieter.
Fabric-roofed Fiat 500s do an even worse job of isolating you from the outside world, although when you fold down the top, you're not blown around as much as you might imagine. That’s partly because of the ‘air cap’ at the top of the windscreen, which diverts air over occupants' heads.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You sit fairly high up in the Fiat 500, and certainly higher than in the Honda e and the Peugeot e-208. The driver's seat provides enough support in all the important places, but some people might struggle with the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel on lower-spec models.
There's not as much space to rest your left foot as there is in the Renault Zoe and you'll need to fork out for the Comfort Seats Pack (or go for range-topping La Prima trim) if you want seat-height adjustment and a central armrest.
You do get a good view of the road ahead and to the sides, though. Over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t brilliant, but all trims have rear parking sensors as standard, and the Eye Park Pack (standard on La Prima and optional on Icon) adds more sensors at the front and flanks, plus a rear-view camera.
Only the range-topping La Prima gets standard LED headlights for better visibility at night, and adding them to cheaper trim levels – as part of the optional Magic Eye Pack – isn’t cheap.
Given its retro exterior styling, you might be surprised by the relatively modern and conventional look of the Fiat 500's interior. The ergonomics are good, and while there are not as many upmarket, soft-touch materials as in the e-208, let alone the Mini Electric, everything feels solidly screwed together. In short, it doesn’t feel at all cheap inside.
The entry-level Action trim simply gets four speakers to play whatever's on your smartphone, once it’s hooked up to a USB port and attached to the cradle on the dashboard.
The optional Radio Pack adds a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system and DAB radio, but you’ll need to upgrade to Red trim for the larger 10.25in screen with navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Apart from one or two small icons on the main homepage, the infotainment interface is easy to use and the screen responds quickly when you press it. It's much better than the e-208's system.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You’ll have seen countless Fiat 500s on the road over the past few years so you’ll be well aware that this isn’t a big car. True, the latest electric version has grown slightly in all directions, but there are still no rear doors and even short adults won’t want to sit in the back for long.
If you view it as an occasional four-seater, though, the 500 is perfectly fit for purpose – both in hardtop and convertible forms.
Front stowage space is surprisingly good, with a large tray halfway up the dashboard that’s the perfect size to hold a phone. As you might expect, this is where Fiat has decided to install the wireless charging pad in the versions that have it.
If you want to keep valuables out of sight, there’s a long (but narrow) cubby between the front seats, which has a lid on versions with the Comfort Seats Pack. The door pockets are quite small, though.
If you go for the regular hardtop, the hatchback tailgate lifts to reveal a boot that’s larger than in the Honda e but smaller than in the Peugeot e-208. We managed to squeeze just three carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf (the Renault Zoe swallowed six cases).
Access to the boot is restricted in the convertible version because the boot lid is much smaller (more like a saloon car’s). This version could take only two carry-on cases. You get 50/50 split folding rear seats as standard on higher-spec Icon and La Prima.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The electric Fiat 500 is cheaper to buy than many key rivals, including the Honda e and the Mini Electric. Strong desirability means it’s predicted to hold its value well, although not quite as well as a Mazda MX-30. Monthly PCP deals are attractive compared with the Honda e, the Mini Electric and the Peugeot e-208, but the MX-30 will cost less in monthly repayments.
With the smaller 24kWh battery (standard with Action trim), your 500 will be able to accept a maximum charging rate of 50kW, meaning a 0-80% charge can take as little as 30 minutes. This matches the Mini Electric and is only fractionally slower than the Honda e. A full charge (0-100%) takes four hours from a standard 7kW home charging point.
The 42kWh battery (available with Red trim and above) allows you to top up the battery at charging speeds of up to 85kW. This means a 0-80% charge of the much larger battery takes barely any longer than it does in the 24kWh version. A full charge at home will take considerably longer – around six hours and 45 minutes.
Entry-level Action trim gets manual air-conditioning, which becomes climate control if you upgrade to Red. The slightly more expensive Icon trim makes the most sense, though, because of the infotainment goodies you get, as well as rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The electric Fiat 500 achieved an overall four-star safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2021, matching the Honda E, but with slightly better protection for front passengers in a frontal impact, despite the identical score. The Honda E fared a little better for child occupants in a frontal impact, though.
All Fiat 500s come with lane-keeping assistance, traffic-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking (AEB). Blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are standard only on range-topping La Prima trim, but are at least optional on the other, cheaper versions.
You have to pay extra for an alarm on all trim levels, which is a pity.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
We recommend the more powerful 87kW motor as it provides better all-round performance, especially at higher speeds, where the performance gives you much greater confidence in its ability to keep up with traffic. Our preferred trim level is Icon, which brings a generous kit list for the price.
The 500 received four stars out of five from the expert testers at Euro NCAP in 2021. That’s a strong score given the high standards of the new testing regime. All Fiat 500s come with lane-keeping assistance, traffic-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard, while higher-spec models get more driver assistance aids.
The 500’s boot has 185 litres of capacity, placing it between the Honda e (171 litres) and the Mini Electric (211 litres) for practicality. In real terms, the hard-top can take three carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, while the soft-top has a small, saloon-like opening and can only take two cases. With the back seats folded down, the 500 has a load space of 550 litres.
|RRP price range||£16,790 - £34,195|
|Number of trims (see all)||7|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||61.4 - 61.4|
|Available doors options||3|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£53 / £866|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£106 / £1,733|