Road tests

New Fiat 600e 2023 review

The all-electric Fiat 600e oozes Italian flair, but it's not cheap

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4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The Fiat 600e shows how effectively Fiat can expand its line-up using the tech knowhow, parts and platforms from Stellantis. It’s decent to drive, retains just about enough of the Italian brand’s style-focused dolce vita, and while it’s not the last word in practicality, there should be enough space here for many customers looking at small SUVs. The prices look a teeny bit premium, perhaps, so much could depend on how Fiat supports finance deals once it moves beyond the initial wave of early adopters. We’re eager to see how the hybrid version mixes the car’s strengths with additional value.

Fiat is finally beginning to plug the obvious gaps in its line-up, now that the Italian brand is able to properly tap into the shared resources of its parent Stellantis group. We know there’s a new Panda on the way, but in the meantime, here’s Fiat’s take on a more style-focused offering in the small-SUV segment: the new Fiat 600e.

This is, of course, is the indirect successor to the Fiat 500X – although the cars will be sold alongside each other for the time being – and it’s also meant to replace the unloved 500L MPV and, for all we know it, do at least some of the job once fulfilled by the Grande Punto supermini. A wide brief, then.

While the current generation all-electric Fiat 500 has its own underpinnings, Fiat has cleverly switched the 600e to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by Stellantis. So what we really have here is a close relation of the Jeep Avenger; the 600e uses the same e-CMP platform, gets the same 54kWh battery and 154bhp motor, and will also go down the same production line in Tichy, Poland. Curiously enough, it has the same wheelbase too, to the millimetre.

There are just two versions at launch. The 600e Red is the entry point and brings bright-red paintwork, climate control, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, LED headlights, a seven-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment system with DAB and wireless connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Step up to the 600e La Prima that we’re driving here and you get front parking sensors with a rear-view camera, 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, puddle lights, heated front seats, electrically folding side mirrors, gesture control for the electric tailgate, adaptive cruise control, and navigation on the infotainment system.

Fiat is declaring the 600e to be its ‘return to the B-segment’ and there’s no doubt that the car’s dimensions fit right into that brief. It’s 4,17 metres long, so slightly shorter than the current Nissan Juke, and has a cabin for five people. It certainly manages to deliver on the brief to be stylish and fun, with plenty of 500 cues included, such as the body-coloured insert above the headlights, decals and, referencing the classic original model, vertical tail-lights. Buyers will be the final judges on this, but we’d say it looks distinctive enough and unmistakably Fiat within its class.

The Fiat 600e is being launched as a pure-electric model, although Fiat has already confirmed that it can’t ignore market forces and will offer UK customers a mild-hybrid version, powered by a 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine mated to an electrified six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, later in 2024. It claims the ICE model will have CO2 emissions of as little as 110g/km, and be able to spend up to half its time driving on electric power alone around town.

For now, though, there’s a single pure-electric powertrain on offer: a 154bhp front-mounted motor, delivering 0-62mph in nine seconds and either 254 miles (Red) or 252 miles (La Prima) of WLTP range between recharges. Fiat claims this figure can top 370 miles when the car is being used in urban situations.

The onboard DC charger is rated at 100kW and can take the battery from 20 to 80 per cent in 27 minutes. You get a heat pump as standard, along with 11kW three-phase AC charging – though that’s more useful in continental Europe, where more domestic properties have the electrics to back it up.

Oh, and as promised, you can’t buy a 600e in grey or silver. ‘Red’ model aside, you can choose from white, black, green, orange and blue. Some of the shades would still count as subtle, to our eyes, but none of them could be called dull grey, at least.

It all sounds promising enough – but being launched as a small pure-electric model means that for now, the price is decidedly un-B-segment. The 600e Red costs from £32,995, while a La Prima will set you back £36,995; both of these figures are some way north of where combustion-engined models of similar size weigh-in, and with none of the government incentives like in Germany or France, the monthlies won’t be cheap. It’ll be interesting to see, in fact, where Fiat ultimately pitches the hybrid model; our guess is more than Juke money but still just south of £30k.

The 600e can’t just rely on funky looks, then; it has to deliver decent practicality, solid dynamics and a premium-feeling cabin if it’s to live up to its price positioning.

Climb into the front seats and you’ll get the strongest whiff of Jeep Avenger; there’s that car’s central letterbox-format infotainment screen, the familiar row of buttons (sensible though they are) for key controls and drive selection just beneath it and a tweaked version of the same foldable cover for the central storage area. There’s a bit more body-coloured material, true, and adjustable ambient lighting, so it still feels like a smart environment with quality materials in the right areas – but it can’t quite match the originality of the 500.

Fiat has made all sorts of bold claims about how much it has stretched the rear cabin compared with its city car but in truth, its engineering team has done all it can with a fixed set of mechanicals shared with another vehicle. So just as the Avenger is a bit of a squeeze in the back, so is the 600e; four six-footers could just about clamber in overall, though the rear-seat passengers wouldn’t thank you after a longer journey. 

The boot is a decent capacity, at 360 litres – somewhere between supermini and family-hatch territory. And there’s a dual-height floor so you can prioritise overall load space or smooth out the load lip to make it easier to slide items in and out (doing the latter also creates an area beneath to store charging cables). There are a couple of useful hooks integrated into the moulded plastic areas of the boot lining, too – handy for holding shopping bags in place. 

As for the dynamics, the 600e has a little more of an urban focus than the Avenger, and the chassis tune reflects that. The steering is light but precise, and the suspension has a softer edge than the Jeep’s, so the body isn’t quite so tied down in corners but there’s a little more pliancy to how the 600e deals with road scars and bumps. It has decent levels of grip, too, so it’ll hang on surprisingly well if you do get enthusiastic on a country road.

There’s enough performance to support this approach too; the 600e is relatively light by EV standards, at just over a tonne and a half, so the modest-looking power figure is more than compensated for by 260Nm of instant torque. This all helps the 600e avoid feeling outgunned on motorways and particularly well judged as a crossover about town, with enough response and manoeuvrability to squirt into gaps in traffic (though not as quite as effectively as a 500, obviously), and a well-modulated left-hand pedal that makes it easy to stop smoothly. 

You can play with the driving modes, of course, including flicking the switch into Sport to give you additional performance, but not for the first time, we’d question the need for these settings when ‘Normal’ is such a nicely balanced configuration.

We’ve found Stellantis’s latest motor refined in other group products, including the Avenger, and it’s no different here. Indeed, the 600e is a pretty refined cruiser, making it a car that delivers qualities beyond its urban brief.

Fiat’s take on the infotainment system, meanwhile, is pretty straightforward to use and quick to respond to key presses. You can jump around easily, and even on the version without navigation installed, you get wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to help you hook up your own personalised mapping, with real-time traffic info.

Model:Fiat 600e La Prima
Price:£36,995
Powertrain:54kWh battery, 1x e-motor
Power/torque:154bhp/260Nm
Transmission:Single-speed auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph9.0 seconds
Top speed:83mph
Range:252 miles
Charging:88kW (30-80% in 29min)
On sale:October
Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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