Fiat 500e Test Drive Review — Torquey, Sporty, Cool, Tiny… (CleanTechnica Review, Video, & Pictures)

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

I finally got behind the wheel of a Fiat 500e while I was in Los Angeles for the Tesla Model 3 unveiling. I had heard wonderful things about the car, but naturally wanted to test it out for myself and compare it to the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Up!, Renault Zoe & Twizy, etc. Here’s my take.

Fiat 500e grey 1 enhanced

116 MPGe 4 (tight) seats
87 miles (140 km) 100% electric
$32,300 ($24,800), but with some superb lease offers 0–60 mph in 8.7 seconds

First of all, yes, the 500e is spunky — or “torquey” as Kyle likes to say and I think should be a mainstream term as well. It’s got pretty fun acceleration and can peel out pretty nicely if you want. Though, it doesn’t compare to the BMW i3 in that regard — neither in quickness or handling. Like the LEAF, if you step on it quickly (especially while turning), handling is a bit wobbly. Still, the Fiat 500e beats the pants off of a gasmobile anywhere near it in price.

Fiat 500eFiat 500e grey 2 enhanced Fiat 500e grey 3 enhanced

Unfortunately, Fiat didn’t do much to take advantage of the potential for one-pedal driving via regenerative braking. It’s similar to the LEAF in that regard again, and maybe even worse. The BMW i3 still offers the pinnacle of regenerative braking, imho, and I know that comes from its experience learning from customers through its ActiveE program — great work by BMW in that regard, but disappointing that other automakers didn’t pick up on this big benefit to EV driving and do more to maximize battery regeneration and ease of driving via stronger regen.

Fiat 500e white 2 enhanced Fiat 500e white enhanced

Style is always a subjective matter, but for my part, I’ll say that I love the cute look of the Fiat 500e. And I think the mix of cute and sporty make the 500e a great buy for the more masculine or feminine types.

The 500e’s weakest point is pretty obviously its interior space. The back seat is tight … really tight. The front seats are okay, but certainly more on the cozy side of things. And the trunk is tiny. This pretty much eliminates the 500e as a family car in my book. I think it’s an excellent car for a childless bachelor or bachelorette. I think it could even the best option for a young college kid — quite affordable (lease prices go down to $69/month! or $169/month with $0 down), a lot of fun, stylish (if you are on my side with that), and cheap to operate; just not a lot of space, which most college kids don’t need. We were told at the dealership we visited that individual weekends with good deals on offer saw sales of 40+ cars! Understandable, imho.

Fiat 500e interior enhanced Fiat 500e trunk 2 enhanced Fiat 500e trunk 3 enhanced Fiat 500e trunk enhanced


The navigation system on the 500e is a bit old school. As you’ll see if you watch the review video, passenger and fellow visitor Lesly and I were laughing that it reminded us of the original Super Mario Bros. or something from that era. Ain’t no Tesla. Still, it gets the job done, and I guess that’s the general story with the Fiat 500e (+ a some fun spunk) … unless the job entails regularly transporting more than 1 other person and/or a bit of cargo.

Of course, another big downside of the 500e is no DC fast charging. It’s not even an option, let alone Supercharging!

Overall, it seems that the pros and cons of the Fiat in my eyes are as follows:


  • Fun and quick, especially for the price.
  • Cute & stylish.
  • Cozy … if you like cozy and prefer the term over cramped.
  • Super affordable, especially when good deals are on offer.


  • Not spacious … at all.
  • Handling isn’t superb, but what can you expect at that price point?
  • Tech isn’t cutting edge.
  • It’s a Fiat … which would mean supporting EV-bashing Sergio Marchionne.

If I were in the market for this price range, I’d go for a LEAF or e-Golf over the 500e, but if I were younger and childless, I’d probably be debating the 500e vs the LEAF or e-Golf (presuming I lived in a place that offered the 500e and the e-Golf — which would basically mean the US West Coast).

Your thoughts on the intro EV from this Italian auto giant?

Photos by Kyle Field, edited by Zach Shahan, for | |

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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15 thoughts on “Fiat 500e Test Drive Review — Torquey, Sporty, Cool, Tiny… (CleanTechnica Review, Video, & Pictures)

  • I own this car and am about to wrap up the 2nd year of my lease. Sort of an interim car while I waited for news on the model 3. A couple thoughts.

    1) The lease is in fact a stellar offer. In California I got 2,500 from the State and another 2,500 from the counties clean air board. This was not a tax break but an actual check from both. The dealer applies the federal tax rebate to the sticker. Its nice to know that if I decide to buy this in 2017 – we will only owe about 10,000 on a 32,000 car. At the end of the day when maintenance and gas savings are considered we pay about 70$ a month to drive a brand new car. I honestly spend more on coffee. I do not pay to charge however and do not really have numbers on how that supplements my situation.

    2) Fiat gave me 12 free car rentals a year that accumulate. I also own a gas car so at this point I have about 20 free rentals stacked up.

    3) Roadside assistance is updated to include the specific concerns associated with EV’s. I have had to replace all 4 tires (2 sidewall blowouts) and had the battery pack completely replaced after the car simply stopped working. Nothing out of pocket for any of this. Literally not a dime – (unless you count the gas I spent on the rental they provided for the 2 weeks my car was down.) Heads up – the battery cost $37,000!! This means that if this battery dies after warranty you will be completely bricked and upside down on your value. Roadside also includes running out of power.

    I live in Yosemite National Park and am the ONLY registered EV in my county (W00T!) Very mountainous and curvy roads. Ice, snow, dirt etc. This car has NO off-road or adverse weather pedigree. It is terrible on ice and has no clearance so be aware if you you think this is going to be your adventure mobile. It’s not – its a commuter. It absolutely destroys the ICE cars on a huge grade here and I despise driving my gas car at this point. Cold weather zaps about 15-20% of the battery. However I consistently get about 20 miles more range than the stated 87.

    All things considered my wife really wants to keep it when the lease is up. I will probably haggle them to extend the battery warranty and if they do we may keep it in addition to purchasing the model 3. At 10,000 to close, even if we don’t keep it I may gift it to a niece or nephew – just to keep the value in the family. Its a great car for a younger driver.

    Oh and also, before the battery was replaced (about 13,000 miles into usage) there was absolutely no discernible reduction in battery life. With the new battery, my grocery run now only take 30% of power vs 37% on the old pack – so perhaps I received a newer pack from Bosch.

    • Edwin – A very enjoyable review, thanks.

      • Thank you. Big fan of the site and the community. Tried to keep the opinion hat off and share the experience

        • Well done. EV folks want to share experience and advice. If one doesn’t drive one, its hard to fully appreciate the difference. I tell people its the quiet and instant torque and smoothness. Makes driving less fatiguing.
          Then the lack of maintenance and never having to go to a gas station is another plus. Its just plain cleaner in every way. Nothing like the greasy under hood of an ICE.

          • haha yeah don’t get me started on gas stations. Our rental during service was a 2015 dodge charger and every time that transmission did something unexpected (which in this terrain is always) I cringed. I felt like a bad driver. It was embarrassing.

          • Nothing like driving an EV to remind one of how bad ICE really are. They just aren’t smooth. They are constantly reminding you of it with all the little surges and jostles and noises. And the constant thrumming and humming and vibrating. Who needs it.
            I mean if you were buying a dishwasher or air conditioner can you imagine the salesman bragging about the throaty exhaust growl they made like a Ferrari and how all that vibration and smoke meant your clothes and dishes were so much cleaner. LOL.
            I can just see it. Aftermarket dishwasher superchargers with louder exhausts to let everyone know your dishwasher is more powerful.

          • Vacuum cleaners were intentionally louder at one time. Quiet ones certainly couldn’t be doing much work….

    • Nice review. You’re ambitious to have an EV in Yosemite. Charging options are very slim to and from there. tesla does show s supercharger coming that will allow Teslas to drive there with less trouble than today.

      • Thanks Freddy.
        I had to pick up the car in Fresno and I remember driving home on day one with the worse ‘range anxiety’ ever. Had to stop at a friends house and slow charge for nearly 8 hours to finish the trip. My wife had to go into work on 4 hours sleep and she cried part of the way home saying she didn’t want this car.

        Fast forward and we have now installed a fast charger at that same friends house and also at an RV park in the area. Strangely enough I showed up there to inquire on day one and the new manager was on day 1 of their shift in the exact same car (color, year… exact! – different county though so the ‘one and only’ still applies) Needless to say it was an easy sell. I put together these boxes from Juice Box and basically donate them to any business willing to charge customers. So in a sense I have had to build my own charging network.

        Fresno’s available EV charging has easily grown 5x in the last two years. The Majestic Hotel (formerly the ahwahnee) put in fast chargers and I’ve worked out access to a 30 amp in the high country. We talked the previous concessionaire into going electric for their interoffice mail and even showed our car at earth day here in the park.

        And now… I can’t convince my wife to return it haha. We’re setup nicely for the next gen of affordable electrics and we never get pulled over – cause everyone around town recognizes the one and only bright orange Fiat!

        Tesla are you listening? Need a poster child in Yosemite ? 🙂

    • That was very informative. We do appreciate your taking the time to do so.

      My mom lives in California and is looking to take advantage of this lease opportunity. Do all of the financial incentives “just happen,” or do we need to have a list of what we should be getting before we walk in the door? Also, should we check on leasing prices at more than one dealer or is the lease price a standard set monthly price? Thanks again.

      • My experience is that of a leaser – so i’m not sure how it works if you purchase one. The dealer applies the 7,500 rebate to the sticker price so that indeed happened automatically. Then, the lease price is based on the remainder. To realize the advertised monthly lease prices you have to spread the additional rebates out across the lease term. Try not to splurge on rims 😉

        I had to apply separately for the state and county rebates but I found the process to be quite simple. Fiat had specific information on how to accomplish this (one page print out with the info I would need ported from my lease agreement). They were available to field my questions after the fact and never lost that new customer feel. Props for that.

  • cool hands on drive video(Zak and Kyle). My wife likes these, but at 6’2″ I think I would be a bit cramped…..

    • Get a moon roof. And a rain hat.

    • I am also 6’2″ – surprising clearance up top but you certainly wont have anyone behind you.

  • You can’t drive and so on!!

Comments are closed.