Pros Efficient, fun as hell, easy to park, inexpensive to buy or lease.
Cons I would like more range, but who wouldn't! Some interior plastics are a bit flimsy.
Summary I first drove the 500e at a media event in Monterey California and was instantly captured by the combination of practicality and style. While I really liked the car, I thought it would be perfect for my wife to commute to work in, as she only works about 20 miles from home.... This is what started the ball rolling....
Now, I've been around electrics, I've driven lots from the EV-1 to many of today's crop. Even a now defunct CODA! So I'm used to how they drive and feel. Fiat has done one of the best jobs of tuning the elctric drivetrain of any I've driven. The BMW Active E had such massive regeneration that it actually would slow down going down the 17% grade leaving Laguna Seca. I hated driving that car, no matter what the tech inside, because the drivetrain tune was so ghastly.
FIAT has justifiable pride in the regeneration/hydraulic brake blending. But when pushed hard, these types of systems show some drawbacks. If pushed hard in turns, the transitions from electric braking to hydraulic can upset the balance of the car a bit, so it's best to do the braking before you're deep into turns, and this lessens one's ability to rotate the car. Also, the system can get confused by a big bump, the regen turns off for a moment to keep the front tires from locking up, and the set of the car goes down the toilet. But since this car isn't a race car, that's not really a big deal. But if you are an agressive driver, you will run into it.
Speaking of driving aggressively, I turned of the DSC system to screw around, and it seems like it may defeat the traction control. Why do I say this? Because I now have two black lines going up my driveway from the burnout I did!
I gotta say I was particulary unimpressed by the CNET reviewers typical dissing of the range of electrics. Sure it's a problem for road trips, but then, no one is buying one of these FOR road trips! IT's like doing a review of a bycicle and saying it's a bad bike because it can't fly. Get over beating this dead horse!
Oh, and after having to bring up the Range Anxiety dead horse, the author forgets to mention that FIAT will give you up to 12 days a year of rental car credit if you do have to drive to Nebraska to visit Aunt Nellie!
When it comes to performance, the car is urgent, but not that fast. On paper, it's a dog at 9 sec 0-60. But with electrics there are no delays. It just GOES, there is just maximum torque. There is no shifting at all. It just squirts forward with an urgency that means that you find yourself in front of all but those who really ARE racing your car! At first I wasn't sure I wasn't just driving like an idiot (after all, there were times I probably was!) but I asked my wife about it, and she noticed it too.
For freeway driving, it's not that good. IT goes fast enough (perfectly acceptable to 75 or so) but to get to 85 or higher (whereever the pointless speed limiter is set) isn't measured in single seconds. Maybe not even double seconds...... But whatever. Power consumption climes so fast at speed due to aero losses, that it tanks the range. For freeway driving now, I get on and set the cruise control for about 65 and just bide my time....
We considered a leaf, but as we didn't really need this car, to be frank, we needed something a little more emotionally compelling. The Volt is a great vehicle (my Mom drive one), but it was much more expensive, and once again, lacked that emotional appeal. In fact, it wasn't till my wife Cheryl actually sat in the car and drove it that we were sure it was the car for her. She got that smile on here face that told me we were getting a new car. The Volt or Leaf just had no chance of getting that response (the Spark EV wasn't out yet. I'd love the torque but my wife wouldn't have been drawn to the style like the FIAT).
As far as efficiency, I've given up knowing what it costs to drive. This is because we've gone to time of use meetering, and PG&E hs tiered pricing. So depending on the time of day and day of month, there can be as many as 15 different rates! But as best I can tell, I'm paying about 7 cents a kWh to charge the car, and a bit over 11 cents on average for my electricity. This is a bit cheaper than most estimates, but works out to somewhere between 2 cents and 4 cents a mile for electricity.
As far as pricing goes, to get the $1000 down $200 a month lease, your dealership has to credit the full $1500 in promotional money from Corporate to the buyer. For me, we got $1000 and the dealership kept $500, so we ended up a bit more than $1000 down and a bit more than $200 a month (options added some, as did CA tax.) And we get the $2500 from California!
To summarize, the car is a total hoot to drive! Yes, it has all the problems of most of the pure electrics (range and charge time), but it does all else very, very well. IT's not a boring utility (sorry Leaf), nor is it an underpowered joke (sorry SMART ED), but it's a very, very affordable pure electric that is as much about the TOTAL ownership experience as it is the electric drivetrain. I know Sergio says that FIAT's future is small turbo gas engines and small turbo diesels, and I don't care that the 500e is a compliance car. It's a great little car that we love to own. And none of the other electrics in it's class even got us anywhere close to show room.
Pros Torque at low speeds
Better than advertised efficiency
More than enough range as a daily-use second car
Doesn't look like an EV
I love the maneuverability of small cars!
Great conversation piece
Cons Getting charger installed, getting HOV sticker, and state rebate take forever
Typical EV range issue
Back seat is awfully small
HVAC system is a little funky
Key tends to get stuck in ignition
Very low clearance below car (very easy to scrape)
Summary This car fits into my lifestyle very well, with my 35 mile daily round-trip commute, with occasional sidetrips. From Menlo Park, both San Jose and San Francisco are within a full-charge's range. A car that is this efficient shouldn't be this fun to drive. Most of the time, it's just me or me and my honey, so the small size is ideal. I've got access to a second car, plus the car rental benefit, so it's been no problem. (I'll probably go ahead and get rid of my 3rd car; I've kept it as back-up, but between the second car, and the 3 years of occasional rentals, it's not needed. After 3 years, I may depend on Zipcar for emergencies; you can do that in the Bay Area.) Very happy with this purchase.
Pros - I can get 90+ miles on a single charge consistently
- Very well equipped
- Nice and stylish interior
- Modern looking
Cons - If I could go 200 miles on one charge it would obviously be better
- I have to get a 240V installed - the 110V takes too long to charge
Summary All in all, I am very happy with this car. I am leasing it as I think the used car prices for these EVs will drop when battery and motor technology advances.
Pros Quick, Quiet, Cute, Classic. Tight turning radius. Good Electric Range. Visible-at-a-distance charge meter. Smartphone app. Various rebates and incentives substantially cut acquisition cost. Good sound system.
Cons Level 1 charge takes a long time. Visibility for left side lane change needs getting used to (mirror is 2 segment to deal with this). Tom Tom seems a bit "aftermarkety." Maybe could have had a front charge port. No HD radio. No level 3 charge port.
Summary We leased an Orange one with a sunroof and we love it so far. Can't wait for our level 2 charger which might make the location of the charge port unimportant. Having had louder cars in the past makes the cabin's low noise level welcome. If the need to accelerate to freeway speeds is needed, there is no hesitation. It GOES. Remember the $ savings are substantial in monthly costs.
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