Once a compliance car, now an electric car that the masses can seize. You may ask: what exactly is a compliance car? A compliance car is the product of tightened environmental regulations from local governments. The 2013-2019 Fiat 500e was a compliance car that was sold exclusively in Oregon and California. In contrast, the 500e is so much more than just a "compliance car." Unlike other compliance cars, the 500e has a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, which will help counteract battery degradation. Although the 500e was based on an ICE platform, the battery pack almost resembles a skateboard platform. Compare this to the Ford Focus Electric's battery placement, which is sporadic as cup holder locations in the Subaru Ascent.
When new, the 500e started around $32,500, accompanying a $7,500 federal tax credit. Comparably speaking, this was an expensive package brand new. As a matter of fact, the 500e was a $15,500 ($8,000 incl. FTC) premium over the gasoline variant! The 500e can travel in the range of 84-87 miles on a full charge, depending on the model year (87 miles for 2014). Acceleration to sixty is around eight seconds, and the top end is 88 mph. Even for 2014, the 500e was still a little pricey for the specifications. Today, 500e's can easily be purchased second-hand for under $10,000. The model I reviewed, provided by ECars Carolinas, a small EV dealership located southwest of Charlotte, NC, was priced at $4,999. For $4,999, the package is unbeatable. This 500e, in particular, has under 38,000 miles, achieves 101 miles per charge, and features the TomTom navigation system.
The interior of the 500e is decent. Considering this is a Fiat, my interior expectations were low. However, both the steering wheel and the seats felt pretty comfortable. While the interior had its fair share of cheap plastic, I thought it was akin to the Chevrolet Volt in interior quality. Additionally, the circular LCD gauge cluster was quite visually attractive. The cluster showed all the par for the course vitals paired with colorful graphics that successfully executed the task. Additionally, since the battery pack becomes taller the further it progresses down the vehicle's frame, I was interested in rear-seat space. To my surprise, it was relatively comfortable. They weren't as large as the rear seats in the i3, but still ample for my 5' 9" stature even with the driver seat not moved forward. The seat material felt relatively soft, and the seats were all manually-adjustable.
The exterior of the 500e is unmistakably a Fiat. Unlike other automakers experimenting with EVs, there are only three subtle differences between the electric and ICE variants. There are only four, small "500e" badges located around the body of the vehicle. The wheels are more aerodynamic than the ICE variant's wheels, and the front and rear diffusers have small circles carved into them. Besides this, the average Joe would assume this is just a regular Fiat. I once talked to an owner of a 2016 Fiat 500e, and she said that I was the first person to recognize that it's electric immediately. This may be a good electric car for someone to buy that doesn't want to scream to everybody that it's electric.
Driving the 500e was quite fun. Due to its small size and the low center of gravity, it felt very agile. Along with the agility, the power delivery felt very smooth (as expected with an EV) The low-end torque made the driving experience feel even more energetic. As I firmly pressed the accelerator at around 20 miles per hour, I was surprised by the tires squealing and the force of the acceleration. While the actual 0-60 time is about eight seconds, it certainly did not feel like an eight-second car at lower speeds. The acceleration does stagnate around the forty mile an hour mark, but it'll be more than ample for city driving. For a car with "only" 111 horsepower, I was genuinely impressed. If you are in the market for a fun, urban vehicle that won't break the bank on maintenance or purchasing cost, this should definitely be on your shortlist!
Image Courtesy: FCA Group (given access by FCA)