16.2.2022Fiat 500C 42 kWh review NGC
Electric power and urban runabouts often combine brilliantly, with a responsive feature, no tailpipe emissions, and a short daily mileage required. In fact the Fiat 500 is one of the best cars in its class at the moment, partly because of that electric powertrain. But what if you regularly travel further than a cross-town run? Well, Fiat still has the answer with its longer range 500 42 kWh.
Review by Chris Lilly
FIAT 500C: PERFORMANCE
There are two powertrains on offer from Fiat - the City which uses a 24 kWh battery and the Long Range 42 kWh model tested here. As well as a larger battery, the Long Range gets a little more power too with an 87 kW motor compared to the 70 kW unit in the shorter range model. This allows for a 0-62mph sprint of 9.0 seconds, but feels quicker as is often the case with electric cars. That extra power, though slight, makes a difference at motorway speeds in particular, with the long range 500 feeling just that little it more comfortable at 70mph. The rest of the time, the motor has more than enough power for what might be needed, and it proves a genuinely nippy, fun to drive city car.
Urban driving is the Fiat 500’s bread-and-butter work, so it’s good news that the more to electric hasn’t ruined anything in terms of handling and driving dynamics. The new 500 feels a bit heavier than the old model, but the responsiveness of the electric motor helps negate this, as does the low centre of gravity from the battery in the car’s floor. All told, the 500 can crash a little over rough surfaces, but actually deals with town driving very well. It’s stiffly sprung for a non-sporting model, but this aids agility in tight spots. And Fiat’s reputation for providing fun to drive models continues with this latest 500. On the open road, the 500 drives nicely for a car with such a compact footprint, and proves great fun on a country road. On a motorway, the lack of length and compact size mean it will never be a natural cruiser, but it still performs well, comfortably good enough for occasional use. Light steering makes driving around built up areas a breeze, and car parks are a doddle thanks to a tight turning circle.
Fiat has tackled a tricky job excellently in my opinion, updating the 500 design, keeping it fresh, but making sure it’s still definitely a cinquecento. It ticks all the boxes, with sharper, more grown-up styling, yet still with a youthful character to it that attracts those without any interest in cars. It, along with the likes of the Mini and Honda e, are regularly caught-after models for this very reason, and the latest 500 hasn’t ruined a popular design, rather improve upon it. The overall shape hasn’t changed much, which means the 500 is still a squeeze for those in the back. A couple of adults can technically fit in the area seats, but they’d best be smaller of build, and lengthy of patience. Access to the rear is tight with the three-door only design, and there is little leg or head room. In fact, the point at where the boot-lid reaches the roof is very close to the top of the rear seats. However, keep the 500 as essentially a two-seater or fit child seats to the rear and there are no problems. Even a small boot should be expected from a car of this size.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Fiat 500’s cabin is extremely good, and has shifted from a relative weak point to a real strength. There’s a new, user-friendly touchscreen system installed, and the materials used throughout are of a very high quality. There are even recycled textiles and materials used on certain trim levels, and the whole feeling is one of a premium small car. There is no gearstick, rather a small drive selector, which frees up storage space in the front. Switchgear falls easily to hand, and the digital instrument panel works well - though could have more functionality I feel. There’s the slightest hint of retro design, mainly from the speedo, but this also comes from the nods to the Fiat 500’s past, such as the skyline of Turin and the original 500 laid out in panels. A clean and pleasant interior in which to sit.
FIAT 500C: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
This version of the Fiat 500 has a driving range of up to 199 miles on a charge - compared to the smaller battery model’s 118 miles. With almost 200 miles available, it’s a very useful range for a small EV, and will comfortably cover the needs of most drivers with no inconvenience at all. Remember that a quick rapid charge on what is now a relatively small battery (even for the Long Range model) will quickly add plenty more miles. In real world driving, the Fiat 500 Long Range performed well, and even exceeded the official range on occasion. After almost 500 miles with the 500, over a wide mixture of roads, the average efficiency rating was 5.2 miles per kWh, and was more than 6 m/kWh when sticking to town work. Even on longer, faster runs, the 500 will comfortably cover more than 150 miles on a charge.
Combining a decent electric range with fast charging is essential for those drivers wanting to venture further in their EV, and Fiat has designed the 500 well in this regard. Charged using a CCS inlet, the 500 can be topped-up at up to 11 kW AC, bringing recharging times to around four hours for most cases. Plugged into a rapid charger, the 500 can draw up to 85 kW DC, which brings recharging times down to half an hour or less. Fiat’s efficiency work is also well thought through, with a “one-pedal” driving system selectable. The settings are Normal for gentle brake regime, Range for strong brake energy recuperation to stand-still, and Sherpa for an Eco mode with the same regen as Range, but with reduced performance. Familiar connected car features are also fitted, such as pre-conditioning, charging timers, and battery check.
There are three trim levels available, plus two body styles - the hatchback, and convertible tested. Action is only available with the smaller battery, but there are also Passion and Icon trims available across both body styles. Fitted as standard to 500 C models are 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, 7-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Connect services, the convertible roof, 7-inch digital instrument cluster, driver assistance systems, and drive mode select. Icon trim tested adds keyless entry/start, 16-inch alloys, automatic wipers, eco-leather steering wheel, and 10.25-inch infotainment system with navigation.
FIAT 500C: MODEL SUMMARY
The Fiat 500 is not just a great electric city car, it’s a great city car full stop. There is little else available that is so well suited to urban driving, as well as capable on other routes. For most drivers, the 24 kWh model would be more than enough in terms of driving range, but the 42 kWh will be preferred by many buyers for the added safety net of the longer range, the higher levels of kit, plus the added extra power is welcome. It’s fun to drive, practical for one or two people, and an ideal compact runabout.
Model tested: Fiat 500 Convertible Icon
Body-style: Convertible city car
Engine / CO2: 87 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Passion and Icon
On-road price: from £ 23,995 (Long Range). As tested £30,645
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.5 Stars