Fiat 500 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Friday 29th September


What is it like to drive?

In the 42kWh 500 you’re propelled by a 117bhp motor. And the car’s not too heavy, at 1,365kg, so it gets to 62mph in 9.0 seconds. The entry level 24kWh car only has 94bhp, but it’s over 100kg lighter so takes just half a second longer to reach 62mph.

Acceleration is instantly responsive in that e-car way. But not so front-loaded with show-off urge that it snaps back your head or rips the front tyres out of a roundabout (both versions have the same 162lb ft of torque). 

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Performance tails away above 60mph, so don’t go doing ill-planned spontaneous overtakes at dual-carriageway speed. But when we first tested it abroad last year we had no trouble eventually hitting its 93mph limiter (the 24kWh is limited to 84mph).

It feels thoroughly stable and refined trucking down the highway at 70, though there is a fair bit of wind noise to contend with and you’ll munch through miles on your range countdown. Out in the countryside, even on lumpy hairpins, there’s enough traction and a broad resistance to understeer. But woolly steering and a jiggly ride means it isn’t as much fun to chuck down a B-road as a Mini Electric. It doesn’t feel at home out here.

Great in town, though, where the bouncy ride is less of a problem (and even somewhat beneficial over sleeping policemen/potholes). The steering’s light and direct enough that you might have to recalibrate your wrist muscles in the first few miles. But the wheel brings a quick (if slightly numb) answer.

You get three drive modes. ‘Sherpa’ dials back top speed and constrains the A/C, to eke the battery’s mileage right out. ‘Range’ is the one with a one-pedal driving style, bringing more regeneration when you lift off. Takes a bit of getting used to, especially with parking manoeuvres – you might love it or you might not.

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In Normal mode the brake and lifted throttle are more progressive, the regen is supposed to simulate engine braking but feels even lighter touch than that. Most of your regen in Normal mode will come from the brake pedal, and it’s an easy car to drive tidily.

The driver assist features – full Level 2 cruise and urban traffic-jamming, and lots of camera systems – sit around the front of the small-car pack. All the sensors are neatly hidden behind the ‘500’ badge, so no need for awkward looking appendages.

Overall, it feels like a solid, refined little car.

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