FIAT 500 ‘La Prima'
AutoVolt Magazine|Issue 31
Fiat hopes electric drive will continue the success of its world-conquering city car – but powertrain changes are only the tip of the iceberg.
Alex Grant

For just over 60 years, the Fiat 500 has stood for new beginnings. The thimble-sized city car of 1957 got Italians motoring in style, while its 2007 namesake was at the forefront of the company’s revival and is still the segment best-seller 13 years later. In 2020, the latest in a line of fashionable Fiats not only has to continue a success story – it’s also beginning a new electric era for its parent company.

This isn’t wholly unfamiliar territory. Fiat introduced an electric version of the old car in 2013, but only in selected areas of the United States – it stopped short of bringing the 500e to Europe or engineering it for right-hand drive. However, the new 500 is just that; a scratch-developed electric vehicle platform, but wrapped up in bodywork that appears to be little more than a futuristic update of its predecessor. For now, the two generations will be sold alongside one another, and electrification of the older car will top out with the very mild ‘mild hybrid’ which was introduced at the start of 2020.

That might actually help stress the differences at the showroom because the two cars look quite a different side by side. The new 500 is bigger in every direction, it sits on larger-diameter wheels and is offered in a choice of softer, more upmarket paint finishes too. So the biggest change is apparent even before you power it up; Fiat has addressed the old car’s unnaturally upright driving position, so you feel like you’re sat in the car, rather than on top of it, and it seems more spacious as a result.

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