Fiat’s next-generation 500e electric minicar has been spied by photographers in Europe more than a year before it is due to go on sale.
Though the styling appears to be merely an evolution, underneath there’s been a revolution.
The next-generation model will launch only with an electric powertrain, though petrol-powered models may follow later.
At this stage the model is believed to be left-hand-drive only, which would rule it out for Australia. But that could change if a right-hand-drive variant of the 500e is developed for the UK, where the Fiat 500 is hugely popular.
The current petrol-powered Fiat 500 will be sold alongside the new model for an unspecified period of time. It recently received a new, mild-hybrid variant.
The proportions of the new car look much the same but the next-generation Fiat 500 is expected to have a more spacious and comfortable interior.
Fans of its button-cute, retro look will be pleased to find the new car’s shape looks much the same.
From what we can glean through the camouflage, even details such as the round headlights will be similar to the current model.
Don’t, however, expect to see much of a grille on the new electric model.
Customers seeking an even more spacious interior will have the option of a five-door Giardiniera wagon.
Due to its new, electric powertrain, the new 500 will carry a higher base price than the outgoing model and be positioned as more of a premium offering.
Fiat offers an electric version of its current-generation 500 (above), albeit only in the US states of California and Oregon.
The 500e is a “compliance car”, introduced to comply with California requirements that automakers sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles.
It’s a known money-loser for the company, the late CEO Sergio Marchionne famously saying, “I hope you don’t buy it.”
Even after the US$7,500 (A$10,924) federal tax credit, the 500e costs US$5,695 (A$8,295) more than a comparably-equipped, ICE-powered 500.
Production of the current Fiat 500e recently ended at FCA’s Toluca, Mexico plant, Fiat discontinuing the 500 and 500e from its US range.
The new 500e will be produced at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin, the company recently investing $1.1 billion in the 80-year old production facility.
We’ll likely see the new Fiat 500e at this year’s Geneva motor show.
FCA marketing chief Olivier Francois said of the next 500e, “It’s kind of an urban Tesla, with beautiful style... Italianess, dolce vita in an electric car.”