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New Abarth 500e 2023 review

Does the all-new Abarth 500e succeed in its bid to crack the EV hot-hatch sector? We hit UK roads to find out…

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

Abarth has injected real charisma and personality into its all-electric 500e hot hatch. The car is swift rather than fast, but it has impressive road manners, considering its upright stance and city-car proportions. Add in an excellent cabin, plus the fabulous exterior design transformation, and the 500e feels like one of the most desirable compact hot EVs on the market.

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Fiat made a great job of reinventing its 500 city car for the electric era. But when it comes to the sporty Abarth version, with no terrier-like turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, the question of how to mimic the regular 500e’s success is a tricky one.

Noise – or rather, the lack of it – is a major part of this, so Abarth decided to tap into the model’s playful nature and just fake it. As a result, the hot 500e features a sound generator – with one speaker inside and one out – to try to replicate the sometimes flatulent sounds of a petrol-powered Abarth.

After turning the car on, the initial response is surprise – not at the sound itself, rather its quite unruly volume. Straight away, you can tell Abarth is not taking itself too seriously, a positive point despite the potential for teeth-grinding embarrassment, depending on the driver’s circumstances. The good news is that this playful side is backed up with bespoke tuning, applied to both the powertrain and the chassis, in order to give the hot EV more charisma.

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The motor now produces 150bhp – 35bhp more than the most powerful Fiat 500e – plus 235Nm of torque. The battery capacity is 42.2kWh. On paper, the 7.0-second 0-62mph time is good, if not great, but more interesting is its rolling acceleration. Abarth says this car is a second faster from 25-37mph than the 165bhp petrol-engined Abarth 595.

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Range is perhaps the only disappointing number, because Abarth claims 157 miles, rising to 209 in town. Peak charging speed is as per the top-spec Fiat 500e, at 85kW, yet due to the relatively low battery capacity, a 10-80 per cent charge takes only 25 minutes.

The flipside of its smaller battery and limited range – remember this is a city car, after all – is that at 1,410kg, the 500e’s weight is reasonable. So despite a relatively high seating position, the low-set battery helps with weight distribution. As such, the Abarth’s chassis feels agile and playful without suffering a bouncy or brittle ride – quite a feat on a car with a short wheelbase.

It’s hardly softly sprung, but it is compliant even on the larger 18-inch wheels fitted to our top-spec Turismo. This is backed up by responsive, weighty steering, particularly in the Scorpion driver modes. It’s in these two settings that the e-motor’s full 150bhp is available, with the main difference being the level of regenerative braking. There’s lots of front-end grip, but get greedy with the throttle and you’ll need to manage traction.

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You won’t feel bored, because the Abarth is broadly engaging and entertaining. Even the brakes, often a tricky element to get right on high-performance EVs, have a good level of feel and are more than powerful enough.

The only element that perhaps goes too far is the sound generator. The volume isn’t variable, and at a constant speed the burble turns into a drone, which you can’t disable on the move. We’re told a fix is on the way.

The Abarth follows the Fiat 500e in hitting the right notes inside, with high-quality black Alcantara trim for this sporty model. This is backed up by a good, 10.25-inch infotainment interface and slick driver’s display, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Space in the back seats is marginally improved over the combustion-powered Abarth’s, and the boot is rated at 185 litres, identical to the older car’s.

At £38,195, this Turismo is pricey – more than the new MG4 XPower, in fact. But it’s still a solid first step from Abarth in realising the brand’s vision of an all-electric hot hatch.

Model:Abarth 500e Turismo
Price:£38,195
Powertrain:42.2kWh battery/1x e-motor
Power/torque:150bhp/235Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:7.0 seconds
Top speed:96mph
Range:157 miles
Charging:85kW (10-80% in 25mins)
On sale:Now
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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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