Fiat's second-generation electric 500e has been on sale in Europe for a minute, but it will finally make its way to dealers Stateside in 2024. The automaker released the little hatch's official specs this week, and the important bits read like this: $34,095 starting price (plus destination), 149 miles of range, and 117 horsepower. While that range is nearly double that of its predecessor, it still comes up short compared to the ranges of all its U.S.-market competitors, many of which are also cheaper to buy. So will the new Fiat 500e be dead on arrival, or will its Euro supermini cuteness save the day?
See, the first-gen 500e sold so poorly, Fiat was practically throwing bargain lease deals at customers well into its life cycle late last decade. Some dealers back in 2017 were offering $49-per-month leases. I spend that on gas every week in my first-gen Honda Pilot.
Why was Fiat giving these electric hatches away like McDonald's Happy Meal toys? Because no one wanted them. With only 84 miles of range in ideal conditions, barely enough power to handle freeway on-ramps, and just enough interior space to carry one large American, the 500e just wasn't poised for success in our market. What, then, has changed about this new 500e that has convinced Fiat it'll enjoy a better fate?
Well, aside from consumers slowly warming up to EVs in the four years since the previous 500e left us, the new one is, on paper, a better proposition. The forthcoming electric Fiat's range is significantly higher; it has much improved interior tech; and it can charge considerably faster, all while about matching its predecessor's MSRP. However, the 500e's 149 miles on a full battery is still 110 miles less than the Chevy Bolt's 259 miles, and the Bolt started at $27,495, $6,600 less than the 500e. Making matters worse for Fiat is the Bolt's 200 hp, which got it to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, considerably faster than the 500e's 8.5 seconds. So the Fiat is more expensive, less powerful, slower, and has a significantly shorter range than a competitor GM is retiring to replace with something even better. What's the upside?
Fiat seems to be marketing the new 500e as a luxury accessory: something stylish, fun, and enjoyable to own, regardless of its spec sheet. It's an item for its owners to wear, more than something to rely on. And there is some merit to that. The 500e is admittedly adorable, with its chic retro Italian styling and quirky interior. We haven't driven it yet of course, but it's also safe to assume that it will be moderately amusing, since Fiat 500s have historically been fun to drive, and its shoebox-sized footprint will make it nimble in traffic. But the same could be said about the last 500e, and look where that got it.
Another obstacle in the Fiat 500e's way is a rival compact electric hatch—the 2025 electric Mini Cooper. The new Mini EV will have more power (181 hp), more interior space, and a larger battery pack (58.4 kWh, versus the Fiat's 42 kWh), while also wearing retro-fun looks and sporting a quirky interior. Mini hasn't released U.S. pricing for the 2025 Cooper Electric yet, but the first-gen car started at $31,895, which is less than the new 500e. So don't expect the new Mini to be significantly more expensive, if at all.
And it gets worse for Fiat still. The 2024 Volvo EX30 is on its way, and it wears a sticker price just a hair over the 500e's, at $34,950 (before destination), and comes with 268 horsepower, 275 miles of range, and way more interior space on account of the fact it's a legitimate compact SUV. It also looks sensational, and has a smart looking cabin.
As The Drive's resident I-talian car apologist, I really want to like the Fiat 500e. It's cute, it's fun, and it looks like it'd probably hit on my wife right in front of me with a cigarette hanging from its mouth, as Italians do. But it seems to be yet another case of style over substance, and when it comes to customers' hard-earned cash, that only goes so far. If the 500e started in the mid-$20K range, it'd be a different story. But when it's priced similar, or higher, than vehicles that buyers are likely to cross-shop against it without any technical or mechanical advantages, it could be doomed to fail well before you see its cheery face on the road.
Got tips? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org