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Roadshow Video Reviews
2013 Fiat 500eThe all-electric Fiat 500e is an interesting little go-getter with some confusing and redundant technologies inside.
Some cars have to be tortured to become electric vehicles. Others seem that they wanted to be from the day they were born. I've got a hunch this is one of those. Let's drive the 2013 Fiat 500e, e for electric and check the tech. Now Fiat's positioning this 500e not entirely as a green car but also as a sporty car. They're trying to split the difference here, might be a little bit semantic, but you know there are different ways of tuning electric vehicles. I hope this one is as spritely as it is miserly. Spot one in the wild pretty easily. You got 500e badges around it. Different and I think kind of ugly wheels. Unique sort of diffuser in the back and a low deep chin in the front that only the e has. Also no ragtop is available on the electric like on the Cabriolet, but you can get an optional glass sunroof. Now the first thing you notice in this 500 different from the others is there's no speedometer. That's kind of a trademark thing on this car, but in this one they've got an LCD panel, a round one, with key zones. On the left that's percentage of charge in the battery. Down at the bottom, estimated miles remaining, it's a constantly moving target, always being calculated based on how you drive and how you've driven. And then on the right you're either into the power on the top. You're kind of driving easily on the middle or in the bottom there, you're putting some region back in the battery. That's what's going on there plus your speed. Now that brings us to the other screen. These clip-on TomToms are nothing new for Fiat. This one gets a few new tricks as you might imagine. See that little button right there. That will show an overlay of charging stations for example. This unit's also got the intelligence to plot a route that is within your range or tell you it's not. But we also have here aside from the navigation stuff is a car menu with some interesting integrated features between this PND and the vehicle, but over here this actually adds kind of 3 more gauges to this minimalist panel. So you've got how much drag is coming off your climate control. It might prompt you to turn now or off the heater or the AC, and this will tell you how much your actual drive motor is taking at the time. Oh, speaking of charge you see this thing up there? That's actually a giant charge indicator. You know when you plug your smartphone in it's got that little indicator saying it's charging and about how much. That's what this does for you and the whole world to see at a glance. Now the other big change of this cabin is since the engine goes away, the shifter goes away. Instead you've got a very simple pushbutton drive control. There's no transmission. There's just a reduction gear, so there are no paddles, there's no sport mode, there's no faux shifting. Now onto the audio system. The source is pretty simple. You've got AM, FM, and satellite radio, no HD radio by the way. Under media it's whatever you can ram into an aux jack or a USB over there in the glove box. Now if you don't wanna rely on those 2 screens, you've got a third with the Fiat Access app you can put on your smartphone. It duplicates a lot of what's on this screen and that screen, but it's also got the ability to locate your car, look at some information on the vehicle's energy history if you're that kind of geek. You can also check and initiate charge. Blow the horn, preheat or precool the car while it's still plugged in, and lock or unlock the doors. The reason you wanna preheat or precool the car is because you do that while it's still plugged in, allowing it to do that off of short power and not take out of the drive battery. It's an interesting technique to use for most EVs. Now under the e's diminutive hood about the size of a clipboard, you'll find a special engine cover that covers no engine at all of course, electric motor, and here's the guts. Yes, you can't see the motor. What you see first is the inverter. This is the key part that turns the DC in the battery into the AC, the motor one so the motor is down in there down yonder. This is your server's battery like all cars have, electronic control unit. Basically nothing serviceable up here although you do see a lot of elaborate cooling reservoirs up here because this vehicle's key technology is the battery and that has a thermal management system, so in hot weather or very cold weather they say the rain stays pretty much spot on. That battery has 97 lithium ion cells and not unlike the technology in our phone or tablet. Total capacity of 24 kilowatt hours, that's how they measure battery capacity in cars. That delivers 111 horsepower. That's a few more than a standard 500 and 147 foot-pounds of torque. That's a lot more than a standard 500. It gets this car up to 60 in about 9.1 seconds, a few tenths faster than any non-turbo gas engine 500, much lower than a turbo or in Abarth. Now the key here is 600 pounds extra weight. That's how much those batteries weigh and that means this car could be a lot quicker of its own power that wasn't making it's so quick wasn't so heavy. You see how you kind of chase your tail on electric cars sometimes. The efficiency numbers are good. In fact class leading says Fiat 108 MPGe. That's the equivalent MPG as the EPA defines it, which is an average of some city and highway put together. Same thing for range, blend those two together you get 87 miles EPA stated. Now getting juice under that apparatus can be a tale of two cities. Once this connector is plugged in and hooked up to the wall somewhere, it may stay there 24 hours or 4 hours. 24 would be charging from almost dead flat on a household connection at 110, 120 outlet. If you can find a 240 or a level 2 like your dyer runs on, this guy will charge from flat in under 4 hours, a huge difference and you can have the Fiat 240 volt charger installed and wired up to your 240 circuit for about 2,000 bucks at your house, little pricey. Or you can find a public charging station with level 2 and that's findable on your app or on the TomTom. Or you can go to a Fiat dealer. They're supposed to all have at least 4 high-current charging outlets, doesn't mean they'll all be waiting available but more than likely. Oh, check this out. When you buy a 500e, you also get 36 rental days at Enterprise Rental Car on the house from Chrysler Fiat. It's for those longer trips, those 1 or 2-week vacations where you don't wanna be charging all the time. They'll pick those up and stick you in a gas-powered Chrysler. You get 36 of those spread across 3 years, so you've got roughly 2 weeks per year of gas engine driving under a nickel. Now first off, you can't really tell, but as I was coming out of that stop sign, creep is built into the software. So as you come off the brakes, this car starts to creep like a car with an automatic transmission, but it gives up almost nothing in terms of ride quality in a comparison to the Nissan LEAF and that has so far been my high watermark, my benchmark for really good ride quality in an electric car that doesn't cost near 6 figures, but it's way more power than a standard 500. It's way more interesting power in a sense than a 500 turbo. It's arguably the go-to 500 configuration if you're into an electric car. Now let's talk about the way the thing handles corners, zips around at an angle. It definitely sticks down to the ground much better than any of the other 500's that I can recall the handling of. You can go around a corner better and it can either feel sporty or it can feel just heavier. This one feels more heavy, not in a bad way, but it's not quite the same as getting a corner done better with a sports suspension. It's getting a corner done better with 600 pounds of stuff. And by the way, the battery pack runs pretty much from the front of the pan back to about the rear axle line. So that mass is nicely distributed. In fact this car has a vastly better fore to aft balance than a stock 500 which is really lopsided. This car is not. It's a fun little car to drive, but the problem with an EV is at least unless you live with one a lot, you're always worried about range. You're always wondering well, I shouldn't really dip into it too much because I might need those miles and as a result you may not have as much fun with those volts as you'd like to. All right. Let's price the 500e. It goes base for $32500, a lot for a 500 I know, but it's no ordinary 500. Here come the discounts and credits: $7500 federal tax credit as of this point in time, $2500 off on California tax, now that's the only place this car is sold right now. Sorry. I just tuned out 49 states' worth of you. And I hear there's up to $2,000 of cash on the hood at the Fiat dealer. Put all those into play and you're like $22,100 out the door in this guy loaded up as much as you'd want to. That's a hell of a deal. So here's the point in the video where I normally tell you how long will it take to earn back the penalty of a hybrid or an electric MSRP, but there really isn't one.