2024 FIAT (500e) RED

The 2024 Fiat 500e: An Italian Classic That (Still) Rides on Style

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Can Fulmine Strike Twice?

When it came time for my wife to get a new car, there were two things that were a must — it had to be compact, and it had to be electric. She doesn’t like driving big cars and doesn’t like using gas. That said, she had her pick of any electric car on the market. My wife is about as Type-A as you can imagine. She’s sensible, practical, measured, understated.

As far as I was concerned, the choice was obvious: a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y. They have extraordinary safety, functionality, technology, performance, efficiency, charging infrastructure, etc. To top it off, they are relatively compact. The list of superlatives that Tesla vehicles enjoy is really quite astonishing. Clear choice, right? Do you know what car she went with? A powder blue 2017 Fiat 500e. Do you know why? Because it was cute. … That’s it. … It was cute. All the other attributes I listed above, all the other superlatives, all the other metrics that one might use to measure what makes a great car, were trumped by one metric — cuteness. For my wife, one of the most pragmatic people I’ve ever met, cuteness won the day. Go figure.

She didn’t need utility, break-neck performance, or road-trip-ability. That’s what my Tesla is for. She wanted to be able to get where she needed to go around town, and to look really really cute while doing so. And you know what? Mission accomplished. That 500e is cute. In the uppity Sarasota suburb of mine, where Teslas are ubiquitous (you can spot at least two Teslas at practically every intersection you come upon), my wife’s little silent blue Fiat turns as many heads as a rumbling Lamborghini Huracan. Seriously. [Editor’s note: I also live in this suburb, and I 100% back David’s statement. It’s a serious headturner. —Zach]

When we go through the Starbucks drive-thru in my Tesla, the person at the window doesn’t acknowledge it at all. Dozens of Teslas have rolled up to the window before me, and dozens will roll up after me — probably in the same day. But when we roll up to the drive-thru window in my wife’s 500e, the Starbucks employee calls their coworkers to the window to check out the adorable blue car that has come back to visit them. And that’s it. That’s the magic of the “The Cinquecento.” It’s cute. It’s undeniably cute. It’s excruciatingly cute. That’s its thing. That’s its value proposition. That’s where it fits in the vast auto market. And keep in mind that my wife’s Fiat is about seven years old. What do you call a car that is several years old that still garners that kind of attention? A classic. So, when I heard that Fiat was finally bringing the updated 500e to the United States in 2024, I was both very excited and curious to see if it had retained the classic cuteness that my wife’s Fiat exudes.

Welcome to Miami

My chance came recently when Fiat invited me, along with a gaggle of other auto journalists, to a press event in Miami’s hip Wynwood neighborhood to check out the latest incarnation of the iconic cinquecento.

2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED

I am happy to report that the new 500e retains the charm of the previous iterations. That said, I have a few gripes. Cheap feeling plastic dominates the doors of the “(RED) series” 500e that I drove, which doesn’t seem becoming of a vehicle being presented as a premium product. Another gripe is the piano black buttons on the dash, instantly riddled with fingerprints that undermine the otherwise slick interior design. When it comes to high-cycle touch surfaces like buttons, a matte finish is the way to go. Lastly, was the Uconnect UI. It had driving modes that were vague in explaining what each mode did to change the driving dynamics of the car. Another UI issue was the car’s native SatNav, that kept canceling out for no apparent reason. So much so that my copilot, the intrepid Alex Hevesy of SlashGear, had to pull over so I could sync my iPhone to the Apple CarPlay of the car to get us back on the preprogrammed route that the Fiat marketing team had set up for us. Lesson learned — when not in a Tesla (or Rivian), just use CarPlay/Android Auto.

2024 FIAT (500e) RED interior
2024 FIAT (500e) RED interior
2024 FIAT (500e) RED interior

Besides those snafus, the overall experience was delightful. The car zipped through the urban traffic with ease. The electric motor gave its signature instant torque, capable of moving the Fiat from 0–30 mph in three seconds. Not long after 30 mph, the power band flattened out, but for low-speed urban driving, it is more than adequate. The steering linkage felt a little loosey-goosey; but this is fine because the Fiat 500 is not a track car, nor is it meant to be. Its wide stance and low battery placement made the 500e feel very planted while scooting around corners and the on/off-ramps of Miami’s inter-coastal waterways. And the NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) was superb, adding to the overall serene driving experience.

2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED

Zipping through the palm tree lined streets of Miami in the Fiat 500e, evaluating its technical elements, I felt the feeling … la dolce vita …. the sweet life. Maybe I’m a sucker, but the wining and dining from the Fiat marketing/comms team, the super cool event space (shoutout to The Oasis-Wynwood), the buzzword-filled sentimental presentation given by Olivier François (Fiat’s Global Chief Marketing Officer) … it worked. I totally got it. The new Fiat 500e is not just a car, it’s a vibe — the same vibe that resonates from my wife’s car — the same vibe that turns heads and makes people feel giddy in its presence.

2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED

As with many products, particularly automobiles, there is always the balance of form and function. Some even hit that sweet spot that offer both good form and good function. The 500e unapologetically favors form (or in this case, fashion) over function. I’ve heard some auto journalists question the 500e’s relevance in the current auto market, arguing that it’s a challenging value proposition given its limited range, and limited functionality at a premium price compared to the likes of the Hyundai Kona EV; which offers more range, more functionality, and at a lower price point. They ask, “who is this car for?” I believe that asking that question is missing the point of what the 500e is. It’s not trying to compete with the Kona EV, or the Model 3, or the Ford Mustang Mach-E, or any other high-volume or semi-high-volume offering.

Who is the customer for the 500e? Someone who wants a really cute EV that turns heads. The Kona and Model 3 don’t turn heads. The Kona and Model 3 don’t have Starbucks employees flocking to the drive-thru window to gleefully look upon the cute car that is back again. The 500e does. The 500e is decidedly a niche product, at least in the US it is. It is intended to be a niche product here. It is practically in a category of its own (along with the MINI Cooper SE) — the super cute, all electric metropolitan commuter. By the virtue of being one of the only of its kind, it can own the category it is in.

Is the 500e practical? For its intended use case, it’s practical enough. 149 miles of range, 85kW of DC charging, a top speed of 94 mph, the trunk space of an overhead compartment on an airliner — all sufficient for metropolitan commuting. Again, if you try to compare the Fiat 500e with other electric vehicle offerings or really any other offering (particularly at a mid-$30,000 price point), you’re missing the point of the Fiat 500e. You don’t buy the 500e to take the kids to soccer practice, or to haul wood, or to road trip. You buy it because it looks good and it makes you feel good.

The 500e is its own thing. 500e is a vibe.

You don’t buy an Italian suit because of how many pockets it has, you buy it because you look reeeeally good in it.

Fulmine can strike twice.

2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED
2024 FIAT (500e) RED

Images courtesy of Fiat.


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David Havasi

David Havasi was born and raised in Detroit’s rich auto culture. He has a profound passion for automotive performance, efficiency, and innovation. A 7 year veteran of Tesla, David was directly involved with growing the company’s retail presence, starting with the Model S launch program in 2012. He also helped shape the marketing/messaging/protocol for the company's website, events, and retail locations throughout the entire global organization. A thought leader on the topic of electric vehicles, David has spoken on the subject at various events throughout the US and Canada. He is a contributing writer for CleanTechnica. You can hear his insider insight on Tesla in the podcast series “Tesla Inside Out,” published on CleanTechnica's CleanTech Talk podcast channel. Follow David on Twitter and Instagram at @daveydo2000

David Havasi has 12 posts and counting. See all posts by David Havasi