2024 Fiat 500e First Drive Review: Reborn EV packs style, plays music out its bumper

MIAMI – It’s been hard times for Fiat fans. The brand discontinued its 500 model line after 2019, leaving only the four-door crossover-ized 500X on sale, and while it planned to introduce the replacement for its 500e electric city car around that time, a little pandemic threw a wrench in the works. Now, in 2024, the folks from Turin are finally ready to let Americans taste the Dolce Vita offered by that new 500e. Has the wait been worth it? I went to Miami to find out.

As you’d expect, the 2024 Fiat 500e is once again a fully electric city car. Unlike its predecessor (2013-2019), this 500e feels like a more complete EV package than a “compliance car” meant to satisfy regulations in states like California. The “New Fiat 500” has been on sale in Europe since 2020, so while this is a new model for the United States, it’s by now a well-established platform.

Like the old 500e, the 2024 500e features a front-wheel-drive layout, with a permanent magnet motor providing a whopping 117 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Th at motor is paired with a 42-kilowatt-hour battery

(around 38 of which is usable, per Fiat engineers) for an EPA-estimated range of 149 miles (or 116 with summer tires). That doesn’t sound like a lot – and it isn’t – but this isn’t a vehicle designed for long road trips or super-commuters. Fiat claims a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 94 mph, but I suspect that driving at that speed would be trouser-browningly sketchy.

Not that the 500e feels unstable around town (Fiat didn’t include any highway driving during my brief stint with the car). It offers the kind of quick, accurate steering and subcompact agility that made the original 500e so much more fun to drive than it needed to be. The steering is light but not overly so and offers a very tight turning circle of just 31.5 feet, making the “Oh wait, there’s a parking spot! Get it!” maneuver much easier than it would be in a larger vehicle.

While the steering is awesome, the 500e’s ride isn’t as pleasant. It’s not unladen-full-size-truck brutal by any means, but calling it busy over broken city streets feels like a charitable way of putting it. This isn’t an expensive car with sophisticated suspension, and, again, given its intended use case, I wouldn’t count the ride as a huge point against it.

One of the biggest leaps forward from the old 500e to this new version is the addition of DC fast charging capability. The 2024 model uses a CCS (combined charging system) plug for fast charging at up to 85 kilowatts. That sounds more like a drinking straw for electrons than the typical 150 or 350 kW firehose-like charging capabilities of most modern EVs, but it beats the Mini Cooper

SE by 35 kW, and Fiat claims it’ll charge from 10% to 80% in 35 minutes. Fiat is also leaning hard into Level 2 charging by giving 500e buyers a choice between a free Level 2 wall charger or $600 in charging credits with Stellantis’ partner Free2Move.

Being a simple car overall, the 500e offers three drive modes. There’s Normal, Range and the questionably named Sherpa. Normal is fairly self-explanatory, Range chills out the acceleration for better efficiency, and Sherpa is like Range mode plus. It shuts down the HVAC system and gives you the least responsive accelerator pedal and maximum regenerative braking

. Or in Fiat’s words, Sherpa mode takes “charge of the whole expedition and guides it to the destination” by adjusting those above parameters. Unlike EVs from other brands (looking at you, Germans) the 500e offers one-pedal driving, which is ideal for intra-city commuting.

The 500e has a skateboard-style chassis with the battery pack located under the floor of the passenger compartment. This is pretty standard stuff for nearly all built-to-purpose electric vehicles and offers the benefit of a very low center of gravity, which makes for a fun, agile driving experience. That’s good, because agility is what the 500e is all about.

The new 500e has grown in nearly every direction from its predecessor, but not by much. The difference is mostly felt inside, and that’s a good thing. Up front, the new 500e offers up 39.3 inches of headroom (up 0.4 from the old 500e), 41.8 inches of legroom (plus 1.1 inch) and 49.8 and 51.1 inches of hip and shoulder room, respectively (plus 2 inches and 1.7 inches). That increase is welcome, especially as a very tall – 6 feet, 4 inches – individual, though as a passenger, I’d love it if its seat had the same height adjustment as the driver’s seat. Back seat legroom is also up by 2 inches, but that still doesn’t make it anywhere you’d want people you like to spend an extended period of time. Cargo

volume is predictably piccolo at just 7.5 cubic feet, up a half cube.

The 500e’s interior is basic with some unfortunately cheap-feeling materials, but it’s aesthetically pleasing and not a horrible place to be. The seats are firm and lack real bolstering but are clad (in my base test vehicle) with cool-looking, embossed Fiat logo upholstery. There are plenty of places to store all your stuff, though only having one cupholder feels like a misstep for a vehicle in the U.S., no matter how small the car may be. The 500e also gets a wireless charging pad as standard.

From a tech standpoint, the 500e is similarly basic. The base RED model lacks features like adaptive cruise control or active lane keep assist, but still gets things like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning and lane departure alert. If you want more driver assistance features, jumping up to the “Inspired By” trims is the only way to get them. Infotainment is handled by Stellantis’ typically excellent Uconnect 5 system, including a big-for-the-cabin 10.25-inch touchscreen I found to be crisp and responsive to touch inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard along with a perfectly serviceable stereo system; “Inspired By Music” models get a seven-speaker JBL system, but we’re not driving those.

Something that Fiat is extremely proud of but that seemed absent on our test vehicles is the “Acoustic Vehicle Alert System,” which plays a song on exterior speakers to warn pedestrians. This song, which you can listen to below, is called “The Sound of 500” and was written by Flavio Ibba-Marco Gualdi. It’s supposed to play every time you set off until 12 mph or whenever you dip below that speed, then give way to a more typical white noise. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I was unable to trigger it. Perhaps it was a pre-production issue, but either way, the bumper concert will have to wait for another day. 

One nice thing about the 500e is that the 2024 is slightly cheaper than the old model despite being better in nearly every measurable respect. It’s not cheap per se, given that Fiat thinks of itself as a premium brand in the United States. Still, with a sticker price of $34,095 (including a $1,595 destination fee) for the base (RED) version and $37,595 for the “Inspired By” versions, it’s not completely egregious either. That’s reinforced by the fact that the only options available on the RED or “Inspired by” trim levels are tire choice (summers or all-seasons) and which of the previously mentioned charging perks you want. Unfortunately, because the 500e is built in Italy (specifically, Fiat’s famous Mirafiori factory in Turin), it isn’t eligible for the federal EV tax credit.

While not horrible, that price is more than you’d pay for the much quicker Mini Cooper SE and its 181 hp. You pay for that extra performance in a different way, though, with an EPA-estimated range of just 114 miles. The Mini starts at $31,895, but the base spec is somewhat barebones with 16-inch wheels and no Android Auto versus the Fiat’s awesome-looking standard 17-inch units and wireless smartphone connectivity for both Apple and Android devices. The Mini also only fast charges at 50 kW, so if you plan to use public DC fast chargers, plan to spend more time waiting around in the Mini (and annoying everyone else waiting to charge).

Fiat 500e Inspired by Music

Now, the answer to the great question: Was the 2024 Fiat 500e worth the four-year wait? In short, yeah. Fiat claims that it took the time between the initial announcement in 2020 and now to find and fix bugs with the vehicle and ensure it was as ready for the U.S. market as possible. In driving it, I found that, while still a little rough around the edges, it’s an excellent choice for drivers fitting the 500e’s narrow intended use case.

It’s nimble, super-attractive (subjective, but important), offers a decent enough cabin and enough range and performance to not feel like a hindrance to traffic or a burden to your lifestyle. If you live in a densely populated urban area like New York or Los Angeles, the little Fiat will make life easier and more pleasant, but if you’re somewhere with big distances between destinations, it’s not the car for you.

I wouldn’t call the refreshed 500e a home run or a shoo-in for huge sales, given its highly specific purpose, but I enjoyed my time with it and would recommend it to someone looking for a little bit of La Dolce Vita.