Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If you want to keep things as cheap as possible, there's a Fiat 500 with a 24kWh battery and a 94bhp electric motor. It's not our favourite version, though; its official 0-62mph time of 9.6sec may be quicker than a Smart EQ ForTwo, but it's still relatively sluggish by modern electric car standards. And, more importantly, it has an official range of just 115 miles. Even the Honda E (138 miles) and Mini Electric (145 miles) can better that, and it’s worth noting that you’ll be lucky to get more than 80 miles of real-world driving out of a single charge. The 24kWh version is available only in hardtop form, so if you want the convertible (500C) you’ll need to upgrade to the larger 42kWh battery.
We’d recommend doing just that even if you want the hardtop, because for a reasonable price premium you get a much longer range between charges (officially between 186 and 199 miles depending on trim) along with nippier acceleration. In our tests, the more powerful 117bhp electric motor that' fitted to this version managed to get the 500 to 60mph from a standstill in 8.0sec, and thanks to that acceleration being so instant, it feels even faster than it actually is.
We’ve yet to put the 500 through our scientific Real Range tests but, based on our early drives, a range of 150 miles should possible as long as you take it easy.
The 500 is built primarily for the city, so it has a tight turning circle and is great for zipping along narrow streets or darting away from traffic lights. It doesn’t lean too much, even through tight turns, and has plenty of grip; just don’t expect a lot of feedback from its super-light steering.
The ride is fairly choppy but not uncomfortably so. And while softer rivals, including the Peugeot e-208, are calmer and more settled along faster roads, the 500 is upset less than most by potholes and expansion joints around town.
The 500 isn’t out of its depth on the motorway, though – handy because its healthy range between charges makes longer journeys a genuine possibility. Mind you, it's quite noisy at faster speeds, with lots of wind noise and far less sound-deadening material than in an e-208 or Honda E.
Unsurprisingly, the fabric-roofed 500C does an even worse job of isolating you from the outside world, although when you fold the roof down you aren’t blown around as much as you might imagine. That’s partly because it has an ‘air cap’ on the top of its windscreen, which diverts air over the heads of those sitting in the front.
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