New Fiat 500 vs Peugeot e-208
The Fiat 500 city car has entered an exciting new era by going fully electric. But how does it stack up against the highly accomplished Peugeot e-208?...
NEW Fiat 500 42kWh Icon
List price £27,995*
Target Price £27,995*
All-new electric version of the Italian style icon is relatively well priced and has a decent official range of 199 miles
Peugeot e-208 50kWh 136 Allure Premium
List price £31,025*
Target Price £31,025*
With a 210-mile official range, the e-208 has already seen off the Renault Zoe and Mini Electric; can it continue its unbeaten run?
*Not including £2500 government grant
And if you’re assuming that Fiat has just shoehorned a battery and electric motor into the same 500 that’s been around since 2007, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That old model remains on sale and looks very similar, but it’s been rebranded as the ‘500 Hybrid’ and runs on petrol. This ‘New 500’ is completely, well, new and has been designed from the outset to run on the same stuff as your toaster.
The 500 isn’t the first small car to go electric, though. These days you can buy an electric version of the equally retro Mini, while the Honda E has just as much ‘want one’ factor. The trouble is, both of those rivals have feeble ranges; you’ll barely manage 100 miles in real-world driving before they need charging. So, to find out how good the new 500 is, we’re lining it up against the rather less hamstrung Peugeot e-208.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
When we said ‘imagine a baby Tesla’, we weren’t referring to performance; neither car exactly throws you back in your seat and makes you feel giddy when you put your foot down. That said, compared with most petrol-powered alternatives, both the 500 and e-208 are surprisingly nippy.
Acceleration is particularly strong away from the mark, because there’s a surge of power the instant you squeeze your right foot. It tails off noticeably above 50mph, but the e-208 still manages 0-60mph in 7.5sec, with the 500 only just behind with a time of 8.0sec.
Both cars will also happily cruise at motorway speeds, even if you’re on the hilly sections of the M6 with several passengers on board. Doing these sorts of speeds uses up the battery very quickly, though, so if you want to maximise your range, you’ll need to keep your speed down and avoid hard acceleration.
In our real-world test, which simulates a mix of town, rural and motorway driving, both cars averaged an identical 3.4 miles per kWh. That gives the 500, with its smaller battery, a theoretical maximum range of 126 miles and the e-208 153 miles, although the mercury was hovering around 5deg C on the day of our test. In summer weather, expect to get 150 miles from the 500 and 170 from the e-208 without trying too hard.
There are various driving modes to choose from in the 500, including a Sherpa mode that attempts to maximise range by limiting power output, shutting off the air-con and activating a one-pedal driving function. The latter, in effect, just switches the regenerative braking system to its most extreme setting, meaning more energy is put back into the battery whenever you lift off the accelerator, with the side effect that the car slows down abruptly.
There isn’t such a strong setting in the e-208, even though nudging the gear selector into ‘B’ mode increases the effect to a degree. As a result, you inevitably need to use the e-208’s brake pedal more often – something you won’t enjoy doing. Apply pressure and there’s an unnerving amount of travel before the brakes bite suddenly, a combination that makes it hard to slow down smoothly. The 500’s brake pedal, when you do need to use it, is much firmer and more confidence-inspiring.
Around town is where the 500 feels most at home. Its light steering and tight turning circle are great assets, and there’s plenty of grip without much body lean when you’re negotiating tight roundabouts and winding your way up multi-storey car parks. It doesn’t feel out of its depth on faster country roads, although there you might want a bit more steering weight.
The e-208 feels more composed at higher speeds and its steering gives a better sense of connection with the road, even though there’s more body sway through bends and nosedive under braking than in the 500.
Ride comfort is a mixed bag in both. The 500 has firmer suspension, and that delivers a ride that’s probably best described as ‘choppy’. But while the e-208’s more supple setup is better at ironing out minor imperfections, it can struggle to cope with nasty obstacles such as potholes and drain covers, which sometimes send jolts through the car.
There’s no question which car is quieter, though – and it isn’t the 500. The e-208 does a much better job of keeping road and, particularly, wind noise where it’s supposed to be: outside the car.
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