Fiat 500 - Electric motor, drive & performance
The electric Fiat 500 is quick off the line and ideal for negotiating city streets
The electric motor paired with the 42kWh battery generates 117bhp and an instant 220Nm dose of pulling power, so it springs forwards when you press the accelerator pedal. In fact, you'll soon need to reach for the brake pedal in city traffic, and happily the pedal feels smooth and easy to modulate, so petrol city car drivers won't need to spend long getting used to it. Zero to 62mph takes nine seconds, but like most small EVs, the 500 feels quicker than its official figures suggest around town.
The lower-powered 92bhp Action model is also offered, and because its smaller battery is around 100kg lighter, its 0-62mph time is only 0.5 seconds slower, which won't be too noticeable. We found it lively enough, and more responsive than the old petrol 500, so most drivers should be pleasantly surprised.
Several driving modes are available and they make a big difference to how the 500 behaves. Normal is intended to feel most like a petrol car, while Range dramatically increases the braking effect of the electric motor as you come off the throttle. It should help improve range by harvesting more energy, and the process can bring the car to a halt without the driver touching the brake pedal. There's also a Sherpa mode, for eking out those final few miles of range. As well as making the engine less powerful, it limits top speed to 50mph and turns off the climate control to preserve as much battery power as possible. You won't want to use it all the time, but it can be handy if you just need to get home or to a charger.
Light steering is one of the few frustrations, with a slightly vague feel that requires more inputs than we'd like. Predominantly, though, this is an ideal city car; the tight 9.7-metre turning circle, nippy acceleration and small size make it perfect for negotiating congested roads and tight spaces. Its low-mounted battery also helps give the electric 500 a more surefooted feel than the car it's set to replace.