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New, electric-only 500 is here—well, there, anyway

by David Zatz on

The new Fiat 500 is only available as an electric car.

That might lead us to believe that the gasoline-powered Fiat 500 is dead, but it’s all a matter of words. The new 500 (not 500e!) is electric; but the old gasoline-powered 500 will continue for the foreseeable future, according to a Fiat spokesman.

2021 Fiat 500 electric

In any case, the new 500 is the most interesting all-electric cabrio around, if only because there’s only one other choice, and it’s not worth mentioning. The third-generation version of the modern Fiat 500 is longer and wider, with a 2.4 inch increase in wheelbase and a 0.8 inch increase in width. Built in Turin, Italy (gasoline, hybrid, and LPG 500s remain in Poland), the vehicle has the latest 10.3” UConnect stereo, dramatically leapfrogging the poorly developed, small, Microsoft-based systems of the older models (again, still on sale). The screen is cantilevered and separate from the rounded dashboard.

The 118-hp engine, using a little 42kWh battery, accelerates to 62 mph in 9 seconds, with speed limited to 93 mph (this is faster than the original gasoline-powered US-spec 500). 0-31 mph takes 3.1 seconds.

The battery can be 80% refilled in 35 minutes using a fast charger; a five-minute charge provides 31 miles of range. That’s quite reasonable for a city car; most people will only rarely try to come near its full range of around 199 miles.

2021 Fiat 500 electric

The “level 2 autonomous driving” is a combination of lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, usable on highways and other roads without intersections; drivers must keep their hand on the wheel.

The acoustic warning system, which is active up to 12 mph to make sure pedestrians know a car is near them, uses music from a Fellini film. Driving modes are Normal, Range (maximizing, including a 50 mph speed limit, and no seat heating), and Sherpa (presumably semi-autonomous driving).

Europeans can already order the new 500, but only for an expensive launch edition dubbed la Prima, which includes LED headlights, “eco-leather” trim, 17” alloy wheels, and such; it costs 37,900 euros (a stunning $42,178) including Italian VAT and a recharging box. Regular-roof versions appear to be in the future, likely at far lower cost.

As for North America: currently, Fiat has an all-turbocharged, gasoline-powered lineup, including the 124, 500L, 500X, and 500 itself, and this has not changed. The company is “evaluating [the new 500’s] potential” for North America, but hasn’t decided anything yet. An electric 500, the 500e, is for sale in California.

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