- Fiat announced today that its adorable 500 minicar will return to the North America market after a four-year absence.
- Unlike the previous-generation car, the 500 will be sold here only as the electric 500e.
- The new 500e is already on sale in Europe and we expect that the North American version will come with that car's 117-hp electric motor and offer a driving range of about 150 miles per charge.
11/17/2022 Update: This story has been updated to include torque and estimated driving range figures.
After Fiat discontinued the 500 and 500L models in North America a few years back, we've been skeptical about the future of the brand. The 500X SUV is the only Fiat currently sold on our shores, but now a completely redesigned 500e electric hatchback is on the way to give Fiat a boost in the U.S. market.
Based on the 500 city car that's sold in Europe already, the 500e will go on sale here as a 2024 model. Although the company has said the motor will offer 162 lb-ft of torque, Fiat has so far been tight-lipped on details about U.S. specs for the rest of the 500e's electric powertrain and battery pack. We suspect it will port over exactly as it is sold in Europe, with the larger of the two available battery packs, a 37.3-kWh unit, and an electric motor driving the front wheels that can provide up to 117 horsepower.
With the larger battery, the 500e carries a range estimate of 199 miles on the European WLTP cycle, but Fiat says the North American version will offer an estimated range of about 150 miles per charge based on initial testing.
The 500e appears to be coming to the U.S. in both hardtop hatchback and softtop convertible body styles, although there's no word yet on if the European version's 3+1 door configuration will make the leap. With help from Italian fashion houses Armani and Bulgari as well as contemporary furniture design firm Kartell, Fiat has shown three one-off concept cars at the 2022 Los Angeles auto show that highlight the car's fashionable styling.
The Armani 500e, for example, features a special exterior paint treatment with a laser-etched chevron pattern meant to make it look like fabric. The Kartell version uses sustainable plastics to dress up the car's interior, and the Bulgari model sports an upscale appearance inside and out with colorful embroidered upholstery and a matching mural on the dashboard. That version also features a removable brooch with inset amethyst, topaz, and citrine gemstones mounted at the center of the steering wheel. We don't expect such an option to make it to production, sadly.
Those in the know will remember that the 500e version of the previous-gen car was sold here back through the 2019 model year, although its availability was limited to California and Oregon. That model was a big money loser for the brand, with former Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne famously telling Reuters in 2014 that he hoped not too many people would buy it because his company lost about $14,000 on each one.
This time around, the 500e is poised to present a better business case. For starters, it'll likely be offered for sale in more states, and we expect it will carry a higher starting price than the 2019 version, which retailed for around $34,000.
The 500e will be among the first EVs to reach the U.S. from Fiat's parent company, Stellantis. While rivals such as General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen have rapidly launched EV models, Stellantis has lagged. The company has shown flashy concepts such as the Chrysler Airflow and the Dodge Charger Daytona, but those cars are still in the concept stage. Since the 500e is already on sale in other parts of the world, it may beat those vehicles to production.
Fiat says the production version of the 500e will debut next year at the 2023 Los Angeles auto show, and by then we'll likely know more about the car's powertrain, battery, and driving range.
Drew Dorian is a lifelong car enthusiast who has also held a wide variety of consumer-focused positions throughout his career, ranging from financial counselor to auto salesperson. He has dreamed of becoming a Car and Driver editor since he was 11 years old—a dream that was realized when he joined the staff in April 2016. He’s a born-and-raised Michigander and learned to drive on a 1988 Pontiac Grand Am. His automotive interests run the gamut from convertibles and camper vans to sports cars and luxury SUVs.