Road tests

New Fiat 500 Convertible 2020 review

New all-electric Fiat 500 combines classic lines with latest tech and up to 199 miles of range

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

The Fiat 500 maintains the old car’s fashion accessory image, but it’s also a small EV with usable range, the latest charging tech and crucially it’s offered at a very tempting price. The less expensive and likely more popular hatchback version could score an extra half star when we try it.

Reinventing an icon can be tricky, but Fiat’s first attempt at reimagining the classic 500 for the 21st Century was a resounding success. Launched in 2007, the ‘new’ 500 has been a phenomenal hit in its 13-year reign as one of Europe’s favourite city cars. But it’s about to be superseded by this: the all-electric, third-generation 500.

The underlying technology and platform are new, it’s 61mm longer and 29mm taller to accommodate the new powertrain, but the new 500 is still a familiar face. Small design tweaks aside, it’s unmistakably a 500, especially in profile. It will also still be offered in hatchback and convertible styles.

Priced from £19,995 after factoring in the Government’s plug-in car grant, the line-up kicks off with the low-range model that’s capable of 115 miles. Most 500 buyers will gravitate towards the longer-range option driven here, though, using a 42kWh battery, a more powerful 117bhp motor and faster 85kW recharging. It costs from £23,495, and Fiat claims up to 199 miles of range.

It means that the 500 slots in behind the more expensive and longer-range Renault Zoe supermini, but ahead of city cars such as the Volkswagen e-up! in terms of price and capability. It’s slightly smaller than cars such as the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e, but has a similar working range and a much lower price tag.

All things considered, it’s a spot otherwise unoccupied by other small electric cars, but the 500 doesn’t do anything too differently from the competition from behind the wheel. In Normal mode it’s a fun small car to hustle around town, with instant torque, a tiny 9.7-metre turning circle and light controls.

One-pedal driving is available too – pick Range mode on the drive selector and it introduces a more relaxed throttle setting, but strong regenerative braking can bring the car to a halt without you needing to touch the brakes. As well as Normal mode, there’s a Sherpa setting, which caps power to 67bhp, top speed to 50mph, and shuts off the climate control to conserve energy.

As in a lot of electric cars, the additional weight means poor surfaces aren’t dealt with as cleanly as you’d expect. While the light, direct steering and smooth controls are strong points, the ride could feel a little better, although our top-spec car is on big 18-inch wheels. But there’s a reassuring ease about the new 500 that petrol buyers could easily transition to.

When it comes to charging, an 80 per cent charge in 35 minutes is possible if you find an 85kW DC fast charger, making longer journeys viable. It’s great cruising at motorway pace in near total silence, and cruise control is fitted as standard on all 42kWh cars.

But the powertrain and tech aren’t the only strong points. There’s now far more space in the cabin, and the driving position is far better than the old 500’s too, so it’s very easy to get comfortable.

While the interior is more spacious, quality doesn’t improve. Skim over the new design and you’ll find swathes of hard black plastic. We can’t fault Fiat for the cabin redesign, though; it looks more modern, while retaining plenty of physical controls.

Standard kit on Passion models – the cheapest version of the 42kWh car – is adequate, including a seven-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, climate control and rear parking sensors. However, it’s the Icon model that makes the most sense on paper.

Priced from £24,995 for the hatchback, it adds some style, with standard 16-inch alloys, a body-coloured dashboard insert, a soft-touch steering wheel and ‘premium’ fabric seats, while buyers also get a 10.25-inch infotainment system with navigation. It’s a compelling price for a high-spec small electric car capable of 199 miles on a charge, especially when you consider that the Fiat’s main rivals cost more in their most basic trim levels. If you don’t require extra space, the 500 makes a very compelling case for itself.

Model:Fiat 500 Convertible Icon
Price:£27,645 (inc PiCG)
Drive:42kWh battery, electric motor
Power/torque:117bhp/220Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.0 seconds
Top speed:93mph
Range:186-199 miles
CO2:0/km
On saleNow

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