2013 Fiat 500e Test Drive Popular Mechanics

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Fiat 500e Electric Cars

2013 Fiat 500e Test Drive

In compliance with ever-tightening emissions standards, Fiat has electrified its 500 and if you’re a Californian, you can get one in your driveway.

April 25, 2013 12:19 PM Text Size: A. A. A

On-sale Date: Summer 2013

Base Price: $32,500 (eligible for $7500 Federal Tax Credit and $2500 California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project); 36-month lease terms of $199/month and $999 due at signing

Powertrains: AC electric motor, 117 hp, 147 lb-ft; 24-kwh lithium-ion battery pack, direct drive, FWD


EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 122/108 mpge

What’s New: Fiat has electrified the 500, ditching internal combustion in favor of a 117-hp electric motor powered by a 24-kwh lithium-ion battery pack. The 500e looks pretty much like any other Fiat 500, but the addition of some aero tweaks adds about 5 extra miles of range. It sits slightly higher than the gas car. too, to accommodate the 600-pound battery underneath the floor.

That battery also improves the car’s previously nose-heavy 63/37 front-to-rear weight distribution, to a more balanced 53/47. Inside, the 500e cops all the fancy pieces from the Lounge trim, such as automatic climate control and premium seats, but without the sunroof- which is to say, it’s well equipped for a car in this category.

Tech Tidbit: The 500e has an EPA estimated range of 87 miles, thanks largely to liquid cooling and heating in the 24-kwh battery. Ethylene glycol and corrosion inhibitors cycle through the 97 cells to ensure consistent temperature across the battery during recharging and driving, which helps maintain range.

Driving Character: The electrified Fiat exhibits all the personality traits we’ve come to expect of small electric cars. The standard benefits of a pint-sized EV, including near-silent driving and instantaneous shift-free acceleration, are all here. But rather than feeling like a half-hearted effort at satisfying federal and California government mandates, the 500e is a pretty good ride.

Fiat 500e Electric Cars

It has the most natural brake pedal we’ve felt in any electric car to date, and a unique creep feature that makes the gas pedal feel more familiar, too.

Power delivery is excellent, with the exception of some torque steer. One negative: We expected the car to feel more balanced than its gas-powered cousin because of the more even weight distribution, but the low-rolling resistance tires (the same 185/55R15 size as the nonturbo gas-powered 500) are so prone to understeer that the handling difference is undetectable.

Favorite Detail: The Fiat 500e Pass Program. Every 500e sold will come with a solution to your need for a road trip: twelve free days per year of Chrysler rental car use at Enterprise, Alamo, or National, for three years. You might think of this as a cheesy attempt to quell range anxiety, but it’s a creative way to make the 500e more practical for single-car households who occasionally need to drive farther than the EV’s range will allow.

Driver’s Grievance: While we like that Fiat is using an add-on TomTom navigation unit in lieu of a costly comprehensive system, we would love if the display weren’t mounted smack-dab in the driver’s field of view. Also, the steering wheel is too far away from many drivers. But these complaints are true of any 500, and they are minor ones at that.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint and cheapen the ride to work (plus get access to the commuter lane), the Fiat 500e is as good a way to go as any. Not only does it retain the 500’s cheeky styling, but it also retains much of the gas-powered car’s cute, plucky nature in every other area. And as electric cars go, this thing really does drive well, with plenty of torque on demand, a great brake pedal, and effortless steering.

The included smartphone app and 500e Pass rental car plan are added purchase incentives.

Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars
Fiat 500e Electric Cars

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