First report: our current city car champ makes a good first impression in London, but the Fiat 500’s real tests are still to come
4.0 out of 5
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We’re off to a good start with the new 500. The Fiat has proven to be a small and useful option around town, and we’ve yet to find ourselves stuck with a flat battery.
- Mileage: 794
- Efficiency: 4.5 miles/kWh
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In the grey corner, weighing in at 1,395kg and with an undefeated record in Auto Express group tests… the current champion in the Auto Express New Car Awards City Car of the Year category, the new, all-electric Fiat 500.
In the fetching yellow jumper is me, its custodian for the next six months. This impressive small electric car, which beat its rivals on test and did enough to convince us to bestow New Car Awards honours on it this year, is about to enter its toughest bout yet. We’re going to find out how it stacks up in daily life on the Auto Express fleet.
Why the boxing references? Well, aside from the fact that the 500 has given lots of other small EVs a bloody nose since its launch, it’s also a metaphor for what could, but I hope won’t be, some forthcoming scraps of my own. Not with the car, but with the UK’s public charging infrastructure, which I’ll have to rely on almost entirely.
Car group tests
Used car tests
Some context is probably necessary here. I don’t have a driveway, and have to park the 500 on the street. This means I can’t rely on using a home wallbox to recharge, and I can’t really feed a cable from a household plug, across the pavement under a cable guard and to the Fiat either, because this is an ill-fitting and potentially dangerous solution for several reasons. And that’s before you even consider the fact that I don’t live on the ground floor of my building.
So we have an electric city car very much in its element on our capital’s streets, but without the most optimal charging option. Judging by how busy some of the charging points near me are, I’m not only person in this predicament. The growing popularity of EVs is no longer something just noted in the SMMT registration figures; it is something you can see every day out on the road, and now in my case, when I’m running on sparks and want a charge.
My local options aren’t great. Although my London borough has plenty of Source London points – 65 in total – and I can use any of them without risking a parking ticket, there are only two within a stone’s throw. Handily placed four minutes on foot from my front door, they’re the points I hope to become acquainted with the most.
However, they’re also exceptionally busy, capped at a speed of 7kW, and if you can’t get hooked up after 7pm (when everyone else wants to), you can only charge for up to three hours at a time. That means filling the Fiat’s 42kWh battery from a relatively drained starting point is going to take at least two separate charges. These can be reserved for a small fee online or via an app.
Source points are available further afield but these are similarly governed and capped at a 7kW DC maximum flow. There is lamp-post charging locally, and there are four in my road alone. But two are broken, and the pair that work are again in high demand or parked in front of by people in internal-combustion cars, because there’s nothing in place to stop this from happening just yet.
A petrol station 16 minutes’ drive away has 50kW DC rapid charging available. I could charge the car faster still, thanks to the 42kWh-battery 500’s 85kW rapid-charging capability, but I’ve yet to explore fuelling an EV in a similar way to a petrol car, by going to a rapid point and waiting for a charge to be completed.
With a little forward planning and a bit of patience, the local charging options have so far proven adequate enough. I’ve not been caught short, but I’ve yet to truly use the car day to day, so we’ll see how things go as the miles clock up over the months.
The Fiat has already made a fantastic impression on me from behind the wheel. It’s a wonderful car to slink around town in, combining its still-modest footprint and good driving position with large windows for excellent visibility. As such, it’s not at all surprising that I’ve already seen many new 500s around my part of London.
The car’s efficiency so far is 4.5 miles per kWh – a real-world range of 189 miles on a full charge, not too far off the 199-mile WLTP claim at all. But I’ve not done huge motorway miles in it yet, so I’m expecting that figure to reduce a little as time goes on.
|Model:||Fiat 500 Passion 87kW|
|On fleet since:||September 2021|
|Price new:||£26,995 (after Govt. grant)|
|Engine:||Single 116bhp electric motor, 42kWh battery|
|Options:||Cloud Grey metallic paint (£1,000), 16-inch alloy wheels (£350), Wireless smartphone charging (£150), 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation (£500)|
|Insurance*:||Group: 16D Quote: £446|
|Any problems?||None so far|
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
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