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Emission Impossible – Fiat 500e Icon Review

It was only matter of time before Fiat gave us an all-electric 500. If any Italian city car/fashion item was to get the zero emission treatment, it was going to be this one. The 500 has always exhibited all the fundamentals which make for an ideal template for an urban electric run around. You only have to look at its cute and compact dimensions, stylish interior accoutrements and the fact it would make use of every ounce of the power available to make you giggle from A to B.

Having recently seen the latest Mission Impossible film which showcases Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell’s triumphant escape in Rome at the wheel of a converted electric original 500, this writer was dead keen to have an electric Fiat fix. However, does the new 500e live up to the hype?

Excluding the new electrifying hot Abarth, the 500e family consists of two spec levels, the Pop, which sits at $59,990 and Icon at $64,990. There is no difference in terms of electric grunt with either model as they both get the same 42kWh battery pack and 87kW/220Nm electric motor sending drive through the front wheels. WTLP stats give a claimed electric range of 320kms and plugging into an 85kW fast charger will give you around 80 per cent charge in half an hour.

Looks wise, it’s unmistakably Fiat 500. There are so many Cinqencento styling throwbacks while still giving a modern and contemporary look. The Icon featured here also gets 17-inch alloys over the Pop’s standard 16s and LED headlights.

Step inside and you are greeted even more to satisfy even the most ardent Fiat devotee. The leatherette seats are embossed with a 500 emblem and a very clever quilted Fiat logo pattern on the seat backs. The single 7-inch TFT instrument cluster, which displays all relevant on the road driving information, such as range, energy consumption and speed, naturally, is positioned just so, harking back six decades to the original 500. Another cool throwback to the original can be found in the door armrest pocket. Here you find a small outline of an original Fiat 500D.

The aforementioned seats are comfortable. However, in typical modern Bambina fashion, leaves you feeling like you are sitting on them rather than in them. A high driving position gives you a clear view of what lies ahead, though the rear vision is average at best.

With 160L of boot space, the 500e is big enough for a light weekly shop and an overnight bag, or two. Drop the rear seats and the space increases to 550L. In fact, since the rear seats are really only suitable for extra luggage and children so it would make sense if you wanted to go touring in your 500e, to leave the rear seat row stowed away.

Equipment levels are good. The 500e comes standard with a 10.25-inch landscape touch-screen infotainment system, intelligent cruise control, lane control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless phone charging and satellite navigation. The Icon gets a few more goodies such as glass panoramic roof, 360-degree parking sensors, leather seats, more upmarket feeling dashboard fascia trim, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, traffic jam assist and lane centering to name a few.

After a chirpy jingle which plays through the speakers on start up, you select drive via the shift buttons below the infotainment screen. They do require an assertive press to get them to engage though. That aside, the 500e already has you giggling as you apply some right shoe. It may tip the scales at a snip over 1300kg, but the 500e is certainly brisk enough off the line, especially in Sport mode.

The hunting ground of the 500 has always been the urban jungle and the 500e is equally at home here, though I wouldn’t be doing the same kind of driving as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt. From devouring sharp inner city corners and darting in and out of back streets and alleyways, the 500e laps it all up, all while you continue to giggle.

The term “turns on a two-cent piece” could have been invented for this car. Its turning circle is tiny and the sometimes bumpy streets of urban Christchurch don’t faze the ride too much. The steering also weights up well enough too, giving some responsive precision to each change in direction.

If you want to fully maximize your electric range, then switch over to Sherpa mode via the toggle switch mounted on the floating center console. This shuts off in-car features like the air-con to ensure you get the absolute most out of your recent fast charge and gives you a greater level of regenerative braking too. The only trade off of this is the top speed becomes limited to 80km/h, but this is no real hardship.

Fiat has also done a good job to drown out the commotion of the outside world. When you mute the tracks on Spotify, aside from the merest suggestion of tyre roar, the 500e is very quiet indeed. It also gets a positive response with other road users and passers-by. In fact when I was taking these photos, a shop owner could help but come out for a better look.

By blending the essence of what we love a Fiat 500 to be with all the trinkets of a usable modern day EV, Fiat have given us a charming and fun package, one which you will have a jolly hard time to resist once you drive it. Bring on a blat in the Abarth.

RATING: 8.5/10

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