Never miss an issue of Classic & Sports Car and save money when you subscribe! Check out our latest offers
Much of the reticence enthusiasts feel towards electric vehicles is due to the lack of character in a car without an engine.
But when it comes to injecting a bit of soul into an automobile, turning to Italy has always been the default answer, and so it proves with the electric city car and the Fiat ʻNew 500ʼ.
Much of that sense of fun stems from the styling, a subtle but significant update of Frank Stephensonʼs 2007 design.
Note that this is not the ʻ500eʼ, though it is colloquially still known by that name: that was the previous-generation car, in essence a modified internal-combustion 500.
This new, electric-only model echoes the nomenclature of the ʻNuovaʼ 500 that replaced the original 500 Topolino in 1957.
It has modernised but still retro-inspired good looks and, most importantly, the interior retains the special feel that was always the 500ʼs main selling point.
Body-coloured glossy plastic wraps the dash, while the detailing has a rounded, chrome-finished style to make a stylistic link to the ʼ50s.
Itʼs a thoroughly lovely place to be, and a hell of a lot more interesting to sit in than its VW e-up! competitor.
Traditionally, the character of an Italian car came as much from idiosyncratic foibles as classy styling, and the new Fiat 500 delivers here, too.
Gone is a traditional internal doorhandle, replaced by little pushbuttons in a slightly unnecessary move that never fails to stump any first-time passengers.
Then thereʼs the strangely placed volume controls, down on the console between the front seats.
Most important, though, is that famous Italian brio: the sense that, despite being the smallest thing on the road, itʼs still one of the most fun. And the new 500 is a hoot.
Like its petrol predecessor, it isnʼt wildly impressive in terms of outright grip or anything as serious as that, but its quick steering produces a feeling of chuckable agility.
And, being an EV, it has bags of torque, making it easily a match for even an Abarth away from the lights – and a genuine giggle in urban driving as a result.
Have too much fun and youʼll be punished when you look at your remaining range.
In a mixture of conditions, sometimes with a dash of enthusiasm, we didnʼt get close to the 199-mile claims and were disappointed by how quickly range diminished in town, for which the new 500 should be primarily calibrated.
In a world where most new EVs are big SUVs, the new Fiat 500 is surely the ultimate city car for those with a sense of style.
It doesnʼt solve any of the practical problems of existing EVs, but it is one of the first with a real dose of charm.
Images: Max Edleston
- Engine electric motor; 118bhp; 162lb ft
- Transmission single-speed, FWD
- 0-60mph 8.5 secs
- Top speed 93mph
- Range 199 miles
- Price £30,175
Enjoy more of the world’s best classic car content every month when you subscribe to C&SC – get our latest deals here