It’s been three years since the Fiat 500 left North America, a sad end to the iconic city car that once heralded the Italian marque’s return to these shores. Many, myself included, assumed we’d never see another supermini Fiat here again. The tiny hatch was cute, but cute isn’t in the American automotive lexicon anymore. Give Fiat some credit, though — they’re going to give it another try, this time with an all-electric 500 hatchback.
The second-gen Fiat 500e will land in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2024, the company confirmed Thursday during the media preview of the Los Angeles Auto Show. The event opens to the public on Friday, and showgoers will be able to see the new all-electric 500 for themselves on the convention center floor.
This has been something of an open secret for a few months now, but Fiat has kept its plans on the down low, quietly surveying interest at various U.S. industry gatherings like the Consumer Electronics Show. Back in July, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares confirmed the new 500e would debut in the U.S. eventually, though he declined to specify when that might happen. We know now that we’re a little more than a year away from seeing the tiny EV on American roads.
It’s a big deal for Fiat, because the company has just one model on sale in the U.S. and Canada at this point: the 500X, which shares its bones with the Jeep Renegade. The 500e on display at the LA Auto Show is still technically the Euro-spec car; the production-intent version for our market will premiere at the 2023 LA show. To drum up enthusiasm, the company has brought a trio of fashion-inspired special editions to LA this year to showcase the 500e’s unique style.
The Giorgio Armani take is the most serious-looking of the bunch, with an exterior layering multiple neutral tones, utilizing an etching process in places that evokes the texture of carbon fiber. Classical materials like full-grain leather and wood blanket the interior in traditional opulence.
Contrast that with the 500 Kartell, which looks as if it employs the classical materials of car manufacturing on Jupiter. This thing is otherworldly, with webbed polycarbonate strewn across various panels, inside and out, playing off against glossier and more crystalline surfaces to create a jewel-like effect.
Finally, we have the youthful Bulgari B.500 “Mai Troppo.” The metallic orange exterior calls to mind one of the more fun colors that Fiat sold the prior-generation 500e in, and the dashboard is adorned with a colorful mural, which mixes nicely with the dark seafoam leather seats and gold trim.
No production 500e will look exactly like any of these, of course, but each creation highlights the individualism the 500 platform can provide. In a perfect world where these cars sold enough to justify it, Fiat would go all-out with paint, materials and trim options, allowing you to mix and match hundreds of options to your heart’s content. No two would be the same, like they used to say about Minis.
Speaking of, the closest thing to the 500e on U.S. roads today is the all-electric Mini Cooper SE. Even that is a considerably larger vehicle than the 500e, but with an EPA-rated 110 miles on tap, the EV Mini is a non-starter for plenty of Americans. The 500e, despite its size, should be able to do at least 40 miles better than that, based on the Fiat’s 199-mile rating under Europe’s WLTP testing and factoring in what European outlets have reported anecdotally. For reference, the old 500e did about 90 miles at best.
The 500e’s 42-kWh battery feeds a 117-horsepower electric motor, good to hit 60 mph from a standstill in a claimed 9 seconds flat. If you use DC fast charging, Fiat says you can replenish the battery from dead to 80 percent in 35 minutes.
Will the 500e be the car that finally gets Americans on board with small EVs? I’m pulling for it, but we’ve seen this story play out before, and it doesn’t bode for an encouraging future. Perhaps it’ll come down to price, but we won’t know how Stellantis intends to position this car for many months. In the U.K., the 500e starts at £30,645, or about $36,450, but many factors will play into the price Fiat sets for the U.S. market.