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Car Review

Fiat 600e review

£32,940 - £36,940
610
Published: 06 Mar 2024
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Ticks all the rational boxes, but rivals are better to drive and more interesting

Good stuff

Compact, but still workably roomy, so good value. Efficient. Comfortable ride. Pretty cabin

Bad stuff

Steering and brakes are light and numb. Jewellery aside, styling is timid

Overview

What is it?

This is the Fiat 600e – as the name suggests, it’s a bit bigger than a 500. The name harks back to 1955, even before the 500 was launched, so really the diminutive city car is a smaller 600. 

It was intended as a roomier, practical family wagon, a status it maintained through the Sixties (the 600 Multipla was a three-row, six-seater runabout). For the purposes of the narrative we’ll ignore the Cinquecento and Seicento superminis of the early Noughties. 

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But is it just a bigger 500?

Well this is the slightly more existential question – the 600 is not being marketed as a larger version of the 500 in the same way that the car it’s replacing, the 500X, was. But it’s hard to pigeonhole the newer car - it’s not quite a supermini and it’s not quite an SUV, it sits somewhere in the middle. 

It has 500-ish design cues – the coquettish headlights and textured rear lights, the retro front end and various throwback styling touches littered throughout – but there are enough ‘600’ logos festooned across the car to let you know that this isn’t merely a 500 variant. It’s much larger than a 500 when you’re next to it – longer and wider, especially. This means that unlike the 500 it’ll be good for driving with more than one person onboard.

How’s the shared platform?

Fiat says that this is the first full car that’s been developed under Stellantis ownership, and it’s clear that this isn’t an all-new car but one that shares parts with familiar names from across the portfolio. To the point that Fiat will tell you that the platform has won Car of the Year twice in the form of the Peugeot 208 and Jeep Avenger (the 600 is built on the same line as the Jeep). 

On the one hand, none of its siblings set dynamic benchmarks, on the other hand the proven setup means that Fiat can claim reliability by osmosis. The company also reckons that the shared parts mean it can be more competitive on pricing, etc. The electric system – motor, power inverter, battery – is the second generation setup that's coming out with the facelift versions of those other cars.

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What’s it like inside?

The retro quirkiness doesn’t quite follow through on the inside – there are some nice touches, like the iPad-style cover on the central storage in the dashboard, but otherwise the interior is a mash-up of Fiat 500 and Jeep Avenger. Space in the back isn’t brilliant, but if you’re thinking of the 600 as a 500 upgrade then you can’t fail to be impressed. 

What are the powertrain options?

We're testing the 600e electric car here, and it's competitively priced (see Buying tab). But there'll be a substantially cheaper hybrid arriving later in 2024 to catch the people who aren’t quite ready to go fully electric just yet. That will pair a 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol producing 100bhp with a 48V mild-hybrid setup (and 29bhp e-motor), along with a six-speed dual clutch transmission. If you want something spicier, then there's an Abarth version of the 600e arriving before the end of the year.

Does it drive alright? 

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.

The motor is 156bhp and the battery 51kWh usable. 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.

What about rivals? 

Competition is mostly in-house, from the Stellantis empire. Think Vauxhall Mokka and Jeep Avenger as crossovers, or the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric 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.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Ticks all the rational boxes, but rivals are better to drive and more interesting

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.

Fiat wants to market the 600 as a ‘fun’ car, but we’ll take away different ideas of what that might mean. From Fiat’s point of view it’s definitely more along the lines of bright colours and quirky styling than outright driving fun.

This car will appeal to the same sorts of people won over by the cute stylings of the 500, but beyond the expensive marketing the exterior design doesn't really break the mould, and it's not as good to drive as several other small EVs.

The Rivals

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