2013 Fiat 500e Auto Review

2 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2013 Fiat 500e Auto Review отключены

Fiat 500e Electric Cars

2013 Fiat 500e

Pushing the boundaries of what an electric car should be

Ryan ZumMallen on 06.06.2013

Los Angeles is the home of bright eyes and big dreams, and the 2013 Fiat 500e is the newest budding sensation with a genuine shot at the big time. The all-electric vehicle is on sale soon, in California only, and has the look and personality to make it. But there is a fine line between the loveable substance of Jennifer Lawrence and the depressing nothingness of Heidi Montag, and the 500e has to prove itself worthy before L.A. — and eventually, car buyers across America — can pronounce it the next big thing.

So is the Fiat 500e a bona fide star or another empty Hollywood mirage?

A 500 With Extra Juice

The Extra Mile

Though California is by far the largest EV market, the 500e could still be a tricky sell. EV infrastructure hasn’t progressed like many hoped, and electric cars haven’t become any more affordable in the last few years. Fisker and Coda have had their share of troubles, and it’s not exactly the most stable strategy for growing your auto brand.

That’s why Chrysler approached sales of the 500e from a whole new perspective.

The 2013 Fiat 500e retails for $32,500, roughly double the cost of the entry-level 500 Pop. Most people aren’t going to be too excited to pay over $30k for a three-door hatch, however, so the financial department got creative. Instead of buying, customers can take out a 36-month lease that, after state and federal rebates and incentives, comes out to $995 down and $199 per month — exactly the lease price of a 500 Pop that, again, is half the price of the 500e.

If that seems like it would cost Fiat, it’s because it does. The automaker is losing about $10,000 on each 500e they’ll sell, proving that while their strategy is innovative, it isn’t exactly cost effective. Dealers won’t make their money back on that plan, so Fiat is setting up 500e Distribution Centers in San Francisco and L.A. to serve customers and save branches the hassle.

But Fiat and Chrysler don’t want you to know any of that. They want you to know that they now offer a fully capable, convenient and hassle-free electric car in the 500e. The battery is covered under warranty for 8 years or 100,000 miles; owners can utilize up to 12 free days with an Enterprise rental car per year for long trips.

Talk about going the extra electric mile.

Inside, the 500e feels much like the 500 with a few noticeable differences. The seating position is still high, and the half-leather half-cloth seats are still very supportive and comfortable. The stereo and climate settings are easy to read and well within reach, but the similarities end there.

Staring at you from the dash is a perched TomTom Navigation system. My feelings on this were mixed. It would have been much nicer to have an integrated touchscreen, because the TomTom limits visibility through the windshield and is also kind of an eyesore. It’s like coming to work in sandals, or putting an Ed Hardy label on literally anything at all — you just don’t do it. On the other hand, it’s a fine system that provides up-to-the-minute traffic and weather and is programmed to find nearby charging stations (the mobile app also does this).

There are no pretentious leaf graphics that remind you to drive economically — only a bright orange digital display with speed, battery power and other helpful info on tap. Take that, stupid leaf graphics. Bluetooth and a six-speaker Alpine stereo system are also welcome additions.

Instead of the typical gear selector or manual transmission stick, the 500e uses a row of buttons dotted along the center console. The PRND setup makes sense in an EV, since not much else is necessary with a one-speed transmission, and it fits the general playfulness and futuristic spirit of the car. The buttons can be a little stubborn and often take more than one punch to get into gear.

All in all, though, it wraps up the interior quite nicely and shows that thought went into the 500e design.

Just don’t expect anyone or anything to fit into the back — the batteries cost four inches of already-nonexistent floor space. I’ve seen bigger Kindergarten cubbies.

From behind the wheel, there can be no doubt that you’re driving something that is not only different, but revolutionary. Like any electric car, the Fiat 500e is silent except for the whirr of the battery. Fiat even bolstered up the sound and vibration reduction, so you don’t notice much more road and wind noise with the absence of the exhaust note.

Compared to the rickety i-MiEV, the 500e is ahead of the curve.

It’s when you step on the gas — err, accelerator — that the 500e really comes alive. All 147 lb.-ft of torque will power that tiny wheelbase off the line almost instantly. The 500e is eager to jump, an extremely playful e-puppy in never-ending pursuit of a stick.

Speed comes in a super thrust with no gear shifts to interrupt; a thrill for even experienced EV drivers.

Acceleration tapers off around 50mph, and the 500e can struggle to get up to highway speeds. Its 0-60mph time is around 8.0 seconds, but losing a few drag races is well worth the pure pleasure on initial launch. If you’re just putting around town, the acceleration on hand is more than enough, and even better are the driving dynamics that come courtesy of the extremely heavy batteries under foot.

Fiat lined the battery packs along the floor, starting from under the driver’s seat and running all the way back to behind the rear axle. That gives the car a healthy rear-weight bias, which turns the understeer-y Fiat 500 into a bona fide thrill either darting from block to block or carving up the Malibu hillside.

While the Scion FR-S and Mazda Miata need not worry, the 500e is truly a blast to drive at speed. The weight from 600-lbs. of batteries plants it to the ground with none of the standard 500’s body roll, and accelerating through turns will bring the 500e around to counteract any natural understeer.

It’s also more liveable around town than other EVs. The regenerative braking isn’t intrusive, like it is with the i-MiEV or even some hybrids like the Toyota Camry. In fact, you don’t notice any rolling resistance until the car is under 8mph. Pedal feel is natural and the 500e will also coast as if it has a clutch, which contributes immensely to energy savings, whether you’re rolling to a stoplight or descending a mountain.

On a 20-mile loop, I averaged 112.6 MPGe — more than enough to make the gas-guzzling public reconsider their monthly fuel expenses.

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