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Fiat 500 can sound like a passing orchestra, plus it's got Sherpa Mode

FCA's urban runabout is now all electric, all the time, and it features downloadable ringtonelike sound signatures.

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- 03:06

More mature and refined than ever, the Fiat 500 broke into the world on Wednesday. We were supposed to see the tiny machine debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, but if you haven't heard by now, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak scrapped the Swiss show entirely.

In a livestream event, Fiat showed off its impressive next-generation small car, which is totally electric now. While the 500 we've known for years did feature a 500e model, the 500e will simply become the standard 500 moving forward. And it's no longer a mere compliance car.

The original 500e went just 84 miles on a full charge, but the new wider and longer 500 should go about 200 miles on a full charge, based on European WLTP standards. It'd likely be a smidge lower on the EPA cycle, but that's certainly a major upgrade. Power comes from a 42-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, and Fiat has bundled in an 85-kilowatt fast charger for, well, fast charging. If you can find the a robust-enough charger, the company says just 5 minutes of plugged-in time will return 31 miles of range.

The 500 has always been a bit of a statement car; it's a quirky, fun piece of machinery. The latest generation doesn't forget that and includes a wonderful take on the electric car's sound signature. At the 8:42 mark of the reveal video, a grin spread across my face as the 500 played a sample of strings as it motored along. Specifically, it's a clip of Amarcord by Nino Rota, and it's totally awesome.

Fiat mentioned these sounds will be customizable, kind of like how we all used to download new ringtones for our flip phones 15 years ago.

Then, there's Sherpa Mode, a reference to Himalayan Sherpas who guide expedition parties. Sherpa Mode works with the climate control and speed limiter to maximize efficiency and squeeze every last bit of range from the car. 

The creative quirkiness extends to the novel pebble-shaped (and -grained) key fob as well. It not only acts as the 500's key, but provides access to a new FCA mobility service the automaker plans to launch called My Dream Garage. It'll let 500 owners swap into a number of different models from FCA brands in Europe (North American availability remains unclear).

Quickly, it's easy to remember why the 500 made such a positive splash when it came to America. It's refreshing to see such oddball creativity.

The new cabin looks infinitely more modern than the old one, without totally losing its retro charm.

Fiat

Available once again in both hatchback and convertible guise, on the design front, the latest 500 doesn't change drastically, but its slightly wider and longer footprint helps this Cinquecento look like a more planted thing. The Fiat badge is also gone from the nose in favor of a 500 badge. 

Inside, the car takes a big step forward with a clean, modern look. There's a 10.25-inch infotainment screen that spans the center console with very few physical buttons. It also houses FCA's new UConnect 5 system, which supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fiat pulled the small city car from North America for the 2020 model year, but the brand is signaling there's a good chance we'll see it here again. The company went as far as pushing the announcement on its US channels, with the company saying it is "evaluating its potential for the North American market." 

I hope so, because if they can price it right, the 500 feels like a winner this time around.