The 2024 Fiat 500e is a $34K EV that appeals to emotion, not logic

The 2024 Fiat 500e is a $34K EV that appeals to emotion, not logic

Enlarge / For now, Fiat’s sole US offering is the (RED) 500e, but future versions will arrive in “drops.”

Stephen Edelstein

It’s cliché to describe an Italian automaker as operating on a slower, more laid-back timetable than its rivals, but that seems to be the case with Fiat’s North American product planning.

The outgoing Fiat 500 brought the brand back to the United States in 2011, but it had been on sale in Europe since 2007. An electric 500e arrived after the gasoline models, but as then-CEO Sergio Marchionne was quick to point out, that was only to satisfy California’s zero-emission vehicle mandate.

Now the 500e is back, once again later than the European version (which was first shown in 2020), but this time, Fiat is skipping the gasoline engines for the line. The 2024 Fiat 500e is no compliance car—it’s now the only version of this retro hatchback you can get and the only Fiat model available in the US—nor is it a mass-market item.

“My ambition is not to replace your sedan or [S]UV,” Fiat CEO Olivier Francois said in a presentation during a 500e drive program in Miami. The new 500e was designed with the same ethos as its predecessor. It is intended to be a stylish second car (Francois calls it the “ultimate fashion accessory”), sharing garage space with something more practical.

The 500e is late arriving to North America, but it's here now.
Enlarge / The 500e is late arriving to North America, but it’s here now.

Stephen Edelstein

That once again puts the 500e in the competitive crosshairs of the modern Mini, which gets redesigned gasoline and all-electric variants for the 2025 model year. But the Fiat’s styling has stayed closer to its inspiration than Mini’s, which seems to have lost the plot. The rounded two-box shape remains, along with the distinctive “face” created by the grille-less, flat front end. New headlights with eyelash-like upper elements give that face a somewhat disapproving look, though. Engineers also tried to tidy up airflow with a few subtle features, including recessed door handles borrowed from Maserati.

The 500e rides on a new EV-specific platform called STLA City, which led to some changes in proportions. The new model is 2.4 inches (60 mm) longer and 2.2 inches (55 mm) wider than its predecessor, with a 0.87-inch (22 mm) longer wheelbase.

Fiat claims the new platform allowed the seating position to be lowered, avoiding the barstool-like feel of the old 500. The driving position did indeed feel a bit more normal, and the fairly short hood and generous side glass enhanced outward visibility. Rear seats are included, but they’re only useful as additional cargo space, which is more generous than you might think. But because the motor and other hardware live under the hood, there’s no frunk.

The interior has a pleasingly simple design, although aside from the red dashboard fascia in our 500e (RED) launch model (so named because of a tie-in with the RED charity), materials seemed more appropriate for a bargain-basement econobox than a vehicle marketed as a chic fashion accessory on wheels.

Fiat thinks the 500e makes the perfect second car.
Enlarge / Fiat thinks the 500e makes the perfect second car.

Stephen Edelstein

Fiat also kept things simple in the mechanical department. The 500e uses a 42-kWh battery pack that affords 149 miles (240 km) of range. That’s perhaps not the number some EV shoppers want to see, but Fiat notes that it’s more than enough for the roughly 30 miles (48 km) of daily driving most Americans do.

A smaller pack also costs less, uses fewer raw materials, and helps save weight. At just under 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg), the 2024 500e is 50 lbs (23 kg) lighter than the previous-generation 500e. That’s pretty impressive, considering that a gasoline 2025 Mini Cooper S is expected to weigh 3,014 lbs (1,367 kg) and the 500e has a battery pack under the floor.

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