UPDATE, June 10: The hatch variant has now also been revealed. Story here.
Fiat has announced the third generation of its 500 model will be a full-electric vehicle (EV) – the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has ever produced in full series production. The 'La Prima' launch version will be limited to 500 cars in each market it's sold into.
Whether Australia will be among those markets is unclear at this stage, with the Italian-American company yet to confirm global plans. Right-hand drive is confirmed, however, with a UK launch locked in for early 2021.
Fiat claims the new-generation 500 is a ‘blank-sheet’ build – meaning every aspect of the car has been redesigned and optimised for the electric powertrain.
Along with the familiar yet updated styling, the new 500 also boasts a 20mm longer wheelbase, making for a subtly more spacious cabin.
The current 500 gains a minor upgrade with the addition in European markets of a mild-hybrid system, and Fiat says it will remain on sale alongside the new model for at least the next two years.
What drives the new Fiat 500 electric car?
An electric motor attached to a 42kWh lithium-ion battery will produce 87kW, taking the electric 500 from 0-100km/h in nine seconds.
Impressively, the 0-50km/h run is covered in just 3.1 seconds thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor. Top speed is claimed at 150km/h.
The new 500 will have a 320km driving range, tested on the WLTP cycle. However, an obvious focus of the model is convenience for shorter journeys.
With an inbuilt 85kW fast charging capability and ‘Combo 2’ socket as standard, the new 500 can accept AC and DC charging, taking just five minutes to adequately charge for a 48km drive.
The launch-edition 500 will come accessorised with an ‘Easy Wallbox’ charging system, able to convert a regular home power outlet into a 3kW charger without the need for an electrician. The Easy Wallbox can also be controlled and monitored via Bluetooth.
The Easy Wallbox can also be optioned to 7.4kW, which brings the charge time at home to just over the six-hour mark.
Drivers will have the choice of three driving modes, including Normal, Range and ‘Sherpa’. Normal driving mode, Fiat says, comes closest to "recreating driving an internal combustion engine".
Sherpa will emphasise economy, limiting maximum speed to 80km/h, switching off climate control and heated seat functions and reducing throttle pedal sensitivity.
'Range' will sit between the two, introducing a ‘one-pedal-drive’ system whereby lifting the throttle causes considerable deceleration while contributing to battery charge regeneration. This means that many driving situations will not require the brakes to be used at all. However, the brake pedal will need to be depressed to bring the car to a full stop.
'Level 2' autonomous driving comes standard. This means the Fiat 500 can automatically accelerate and brake to maintain a speed whilst self-centring in a lane without driver inputs.
The system can also emergency brake if its front-facing camera senses an imminent collision with a car, cyclist or pedestrian.
Inside, Fiat claims the focus is “bulk efficiency” and simplicity. The lithium-ion batteries are kept compact and low in the body, meaning a flat floor and increased occupant space.
A 10.25-inch touchscreen in 16:9 ratio will feature ‘UConnect 5’ connectivity. The system allows access to functions of the vehicle via a smartphone.
Owners can monitor and schedule battery charging, locate the car, and operate locks and climate control. Navigation and anti-theft features can also be accessed and various maintenance parameters such as tyre pressures can be monitored.
The new Fiat 500 will also work as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices, however Fiat claims this will only be available in some markets.
The exterior pays homage to the classic 500 while bringing it into the 21st century. Fiat teases with the logo, converting the final character of the 500 name into both a zero and an ‘e’.
The Fiat 500 will be available in three colours, a Mineral Grey metallic, Ocean Green pearlescent and Celestial Blue (a three-layer paint).
The launch version features LED headlights, ‘eco-leather’ upholstery with 17-inch diamond-cut wheels and chrome trims on windows and side panels.
Fiat will also be auctioning three one-off Fiat 500s for charity. Famous Italian designers Giorgio Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell have each put their touches on a car.
Pre-sales in the UK begin today. The Fiat 500 Convertible Convertible ‘La Prima’ launch edition is priced at £29,000 (AU$52,300). By comparison, a 2020 Fiat Club Convertible comes in at AU$27,250 before on-road costs.
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