Compact, but still workably roomy, so good value. Efficient. Comfortable ride. Pretty cabin
Steering and brakes are light and numb. Jewellery aside, styling is timid
What is it?
Let's not get hung up on categorising the Fiat 600e. It identifies as non-binary, and we live in an inclusive world don't we. It's somewhere between supermini and small crossover.
Its designers speak of the 600e a big sibling to the Fiat 500 electric, and the styling certainly riffs off that. It's the same height. Which makes it a supermini, a successor to those vast numbers of Grande Puntos and Puntos and Unos.
On the other hand, it has a crossover job to do. It succeeds the Fiat 500X, which was also pretty successful in its day. But actually it's even less crossovery than the not-very-crossovery 500X.
We're testing the 600e full-electric car here, and it's competitively priced. But there'll be a substantially cheaper hybrid about half a year later, because Fiat sees itself as a car for the people and doesn't want to cut itself off from the 80 per cent of people who still buy cars with engines.
Competition is mostly in-house, from the Stellantis empire. Think Vauxhall Mokka and Jeep Avenger as crossovers, or the Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa as superminis. There's the MG 4 and BYD Dolphin. A Kia Soul with the smaller battery option also counts. The Nissan Leaf is teetering on the edge of retirement; the Hyundai Kona electric has just grown a step in its second generation, so it's dearer.
I can see the 500-ish details.
Yup, the lights and smiling facial expression are visibly a branch of the 500 family tree. So is the general shape of the facia, and the upholstery patterns. Fiat makes a big deal of painting the 600e in a range of cheery 'Italian' colours.
But where the 500's body is a generously curved thing the 600 has lost much of that fulsome sculpture. Its sides are more bland. The designers claim they did this so it would enclose as much headroom and boot space as possible. Which is, we say, a pretty boring approach to designing a 'bigger 500'.
Did they succeed in making space?
On a length of less than 4.2 metres, this is a useably roomy car with a decent boot. No frunk though. Click the 'Interior' tab of this review for more.
So underneath is it just a stretched 500 electric?
Nope, something else entirely. Fiat is making no coy assertions that this is an all-new car. It uses proven underwear. "This platform has already won Car of the Year twice," said one of the development team – the Peugeot 208 and Jeep Avenger both took that trophy.
This brings another selling point, they reckon. They're painfully aware Fiat has hardly been a byword for solid reliability and sturdiness. So they want to stress the 600 is built on the same dependable foundation as all those Stellantis sibs, the 208s, 2008s, Corsas, Mokkas, C4s and DS 3s. And most closely of all, the Jeep Avenger.
The electric system – motor, power inverter, battery – is the second generation setup that's coming out with the facelift versions of those other cars.
What does that do for the numbers?
The motor is 156bhp and the battery 51kWh net. Which isn't very big, but it doesn't need to be, because we've always found cars with this powertrain to be notably efficient. Our test of this one got a real-world mixed-road mixed-weather range of nearly 220 miles, against a WLTP of 250 miles.
So if it's got so much in common with so many cars, let me guess how it drives?
Fiat has abandoned the idea of fizzy little cars. The 600e is set up to be comfortable. It's quiet, and accelerates smoothly. But the steering and brakes are infuriating. The wheel is so feathery-light it's hard to turn smoothly into a bend. The brake pedal is inconsistent. More details in the driving tab. But in short, don't buy it for driving joy unbounded.
There are no chargers near me, and I want to keep the monthly payments low. Talk hybrid.
It's plug-less. The engine is a 100bhp three-cylinder, running the Atkinson cycle engine (which is better for part-throttle efficiency). It has a big starter-alternator on the engine, and another motor of 29 horsepower embedded in a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. So a fairly mild hybrid system, but not insignificant. The CO2 will be about 110g/km, which is good going. More details when we drive it late in 2024, more than half a year after the electric 600e goes on sale in Britain.
What's the verdict?
The 600 ticks the rational boxes. It's a decently equipped supermini-crossover with electric power at a price many folk pay for a petrol auto. It's spacious for a car that size, and comfy. The electric stuff – efficiency, charge times, standard heat pump – doesn't drop the ball.
But beyond the clever lighting jewellery and friendly face, the exterior design doesn't really break the mould. Not like say the Mokka or (Marmitey) DS 3. And it's not as good to drive as several other small EVs. It feels like Fiat wasn't quite trying hard enough.