The New Fiat 500 has finally landed, and it’s electric. The company says it has taken inspiration from previous generations, delving into its Italian heritage, but has also added some unique features.
Last year we spoke to Roberto Giolito, head of design at Fiat, who was credited with the creation of the second generation 500, which was launched back in 2007. As well as discussing the 500L, Giolito hinted at the path ahead for the new 500.
“It can be scary, there is a resistance - from the customer point of view - to changing the car,” he stated. “But for designers in my team, they want to look into the future perspective. I am pushing for this latter direction, it’s absolutely the right direction to go. What you will see is that each new product within the 500 family will show a little more of the future direction we intend to take.”
He was certainly giving us a hint - the New Fiat 500 has finally landed, and it’s electric. In fact, it is Fiat’s first electric car. The company says it has taken design inspiration from previous generations, but has also added some unique features.
It takes a second or third glance to differentiate the exterior of the new 500 from its predecessor. The headlamps are dissected, with the top third sliced off by the dividing line between the front bumper and the bonnet, and outlined by a arched groove in the bonnet. The upper section of the front bumper has been pushed forward, bringing it closer to the first generation 500, and the logo has been subtly adapted, with the second zero in 500 becoming the letter ‘E’.
Although exterior changes are minimal, the model sits on a new platform, suggesting other electric models could soon follow under the FCA umbrella. The wheelbase of the new 500 has been extended by 2cm, and the car is 6cm wider and 6cm longer than the previous generation.
In contrast to the subtle changes on the outside, the interior is completely new, introducing a far more modern feel when compared to the previous generation 500. The dashboard is characterised by a metallic divider that runs in a sweeping ellipse across the top and to the centre console. In place of the gearbox is a new storage space, and above this sits a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Another screen positioned behind the steering wheel is used for the instrument panel, which is housed in a familiar circular structure, hinting back to previous models.
There is more room in the back due to a flat floor that houses the lithium-ion batteries. Seats are made of what company describes as ‘eco-leather’, while some specs will use seats made from plastic recovered from the sea. Bravo Fiat!
When it comes to driving, the new 500 has a range of approximately 199 miles, which is provided by the 42kWh battery pack. The electric motor has an output of 87kW, enabling a max speed of 93mph and acceleration from zero to 62mph in nine seconds.
Fiat also describes the model as having ‘Level 2 autonomous driving’ capability. Tech includes intelligent adaptive cruise control (iACC), which brakes and accelerates in response to cars, cyclists and pedestrians, and Urban Blind Spot, which uses ultrasonic sensors to warn the driver to obstacles. There is also a Lane Centring system, Intelligent Speed Assist that prompts the driver to change speed in accordance to the limit, and Attention Assist.
The company has evidently been careful with the design of the new 500, emphasising the point that Giolito made regarding the “resistance” to change one of Europe’s best-selling cars. And while the right balance between old and new may have been achieved in terms of design, the fact that the new 500 is electric could be deciding factor in determining its success.