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Fiat’s 500e makes stylish sense as a city commuter

Your Life

Fiat’s 500e makes stylish sense as a city commuter

BRUCE McMAHON has found a compact electric vehicle that ticks the boxes as an economical, everyday ride for suburbia.

This three-door Italian is the right size and the right fit for an electric run-around.

It’s cute and compact and may rarely venture far from metropolitan limits and re-charging sources.

Fine to run from Brisbane to Broadbeach, but unlikely to be asked to take a spin out to Birdsville.

It’s not cheap at $52,500 but it is more fit for purpose than any number of other electrics.

The buzz about electric vehicles has been a little over-hyped – especially when it comes to larger (and heavier) family sedans and SUVs.

Take Hertz’s experience for example.

The American rental car company is now throwing some 20,000 electric vehicles – many of them Teslas – off its fleet and replacing them with petrol-powered cars. Why? High repair costs and rapid price depreciation.

Yet there remains a case, at this stage of battery-electric vehicle development, for the likes of Fiat’s 500e: small cars well-suited to city life, rather than high-mileage renters driven by Tom, Dick and Harry.

The Fiat’s 300km or so battery range, and the cost when there are cheaper Chinese alternatives, may not impress eco-rationalists. But this is a most-entertaining compact, ideal for economical urban motoring with flair.

The Italian-built 500e is a touch bigger (56mm wider, 61mm longer) than regular, petrol-engined 500 hatchbacks, but still comes in at a friendly 3.6 metres long by 1.6 metres wide.

Some more numbers: the front-mounted electric motor puts out 87kW with peak torque of 220Nm – good enough for 0 to 100kmh in nine seconds.

Fast DC charging at 85kW should get the 500e from 0 to 80 per cent in 35 minutes and, with a claimed range of 310 kilometres, one charge should be enough for a week of average commutes.

The 500e’s price tag – compared with around $28,000 for a petrol Fiat 500 – brings not only electric propulsion but also other cosmetics and comforts: from smart 17-inch wheels to a fixed glass roof, heated front seats to eco-leather seat and door panel trim. That’s on top of safety gear such as tyre pressure monitoring and lane centring.

This adds up to a premium cabin, a fair size for two average adults up front and two, for a short ride, in the back seats; entry to the rear can be a scramble. With those rear seats up, there’s not a huge amount of cargo space – maybe enough for a long weekend.

Back up front, drivers sit comfortably with good visibility to front and sides, although anyone close on two metres could find forward vision cut by the windscreen rail.

Controls and instruments, with centre touch-pad and a row of push buttons for gear selection, are relatively straightforward and there’s the big dial to show how much juice is being used (or saved).

There are three drive modes: Range which makes the most of regenerative braking; Normal for day-to-day; and Sherpa for saving power when the battery’s low.

This is an easy, comfortable car to drive. It’s also fun to drive with confident steering, decent ride and enough pep to stay out of traffic troubles.

The Fiat 500e has a distinct character not always found in today’s battery electric vehicles.

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