The Abarth 500e full-battery hot hatch proves that small EVs needn’t be boring. We’re promised it will drive, handle, and even sound like the brand’s previous rorty little petrol models. But that the heart and soul here is pure Abarth.
It’s difficult to think of a brand less suited to the EV generation than Abarth. The company’s Fiat-based sports models are all about loud, noisy, profligate performance and nimble handling. Everything you can’t usually have in most EVs. Except possibly this one, the Abarth 500e. The brand’s very vocal community of owners have been less than enthusiastic about the prospect of this all-electric full-battery model. The company, however, says the 500e has been developed in the name of performance in the very best traditions of founder Carlo Abarth.
But is a 500e really a true Arbath? Let’s take a look…
The Abarth 500e Driving Experience
Sound is what sells an Abarth. Always has. So to be successful, 500e has to sound like no EV ever has. It does. The brand has installed a set of speakers beneath the car to reproduce the engine note of its traditional petrol powerplants. The speakers are linked to the throttle so that as you accelerate, the sound builds. Just as it would in a 595 or 695. It sounds remarkably realistic too. You don’t have to take our word for it; a sound generator on the Abarth website will play the powerplant to you.
You might dismiss that as a gimmick, but you can’t argue with the performance facts here. The 500e is an all-round faster car than the 595 petrol model it replaces. This may come as a surprise given that it’s much heavier and has 20bhp less in total output. The reason being that the full 152bhp output is available immediately. Opposing the hampering cuased by the turbo lag you’d get in the petrol versions.
That instant torque (234Nm of it) propels the car from rest to 62mph in just 7 seconds flat. Even more significant is the 25 to 37mph overtaking increment time of just 1.5 seconds. 12 to 25mph takes only a second (50% faster even than the 695). Abarth says the car is a second faster around Alfa Romeo’s Balocco test track than the 695. There’s the usual single-speed EV auto transmission and you work it through three drive modes. ‘Turismo’, ‘Scorpion Street’ and ‘Scorpion Track’ – which can alter brake regen strength and power output.
The Abarth 500e Design and Build
We’re looking here at the fixed-top model, but there’s also a cabrio version offered too with a folding fabric sunroof-style top. Either way, you might be surprised just how different this Abarth 500e is from its Fiat 500 EV donor model. Even under the skin where it has a wheelbase 24mm longer and a track 60mm wider. As you’d expect, stuff you can see looks more aggressive too – lights, diffuser, skirts and bumpers are all of course Abarth-specific.
Inside, just as with the old car, there’s a sportier take on the donor Fiat model. There’s scorpion branding everywhere, lots of Alcantara trimming and a satisfyingly chunky 3-spoke sports steering wheel. Plus you get a ‘wearable’ Abarth key and there are bespoke graphics and dedicated ‘Performance Pages’ for the 10.25-inch central infotainment screen. This display runs Fiat’s latest ‘U connect 5’ media system and can deliver navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto smartphone-mirroring. There’s a circular instrument panel as before but, as you might expect from EV, it’s now fully digital. Those condemned to a seat in the rear will find that this EV generation model’s 2cm wheelbase increase means that things aren’t quite as cramped as before. Out back, there’s a compact 185-litre boot with either body style.
The Abarth 500e Market and Model
Expect pricing to be around £35,000 upwards. All initial 500e production is based around a special edition model, the ‘Scorpionissima’. To try and regain empathy with disgruntled Abarth brand owners, the marque is dedicating the first month of ‘Scorpionissima’ 500e sales to Abarth community members, over 160,000 of which can be found around the world. Which should see those cars snapped up quite quickly by ‘Abarthists’ because only 1,949 examples of this special edition will be made (a reference to 1949 when Carlo Abarth created the company).
The ‘Scorpionissima’ version of the 500e is elaborately kitted out – and brightly painted, with a choice of either ‘Acid Green’ or ‘Poison Blue’ paintwork. And 18-inch diamond-cut wheels, plus the usual Abath graphics. Inside, there’s an alcanatara-trimmed dashboard, a sports steering wheel, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, branded sports pedals and premium alcantara racing seats. Media kit includes a 10.25-inch ‘Uconnect’ centre touchscreen, with wireless ‘Apple CarPlay’ and ‘android Auto’ smartphone-mirroring. Plus there’s the emotive ‘Sound Generator’ that’ll audibly make this like no other EV. The 500e also gets an Abarth-branded version of the ‘MyFiat’ app, through which you can remotely interact with your car. Via this app, you can also schedule charging, find a public charger and check battery status.
The Cost of Owning an Abarth 500e
Don’t expect the driving range figure to quite match the best-possible 205 mile figure of the Fiat 500 EV donor car – given the racier electric motor and the weight of all those bodywork add-ons. But it won’t be far short of that. And the charging system (like this car’s 42kWh battery) is of course just the same. The Abarth 500e features an 85kW DC rapid charging system that can recharge from empty to 80% capacity in just 35 minutes and can provide the car with 31 miles of driving range in just 5 minutes.
Buyers can also get a wall charging box that offers 3kW charging and apparently doesn’t need to be professionally installed. This wallbox can be upgraded to allow for 7.4kW charging at home. That 7.4kW wall box allows you to fully charge this electric Abarth in just over 6 hours. The car also comes with a mode 3 cable for charging at up to 11kW from a public charging point. It can be charged via AC or DC power points.
As usual with an Abarth, this car is covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, and there’s 36 months of breakdown cover included as well. Should you have a problem on a journey, you can use the ‘Uconnect’ infotainment system to contact roadside assistance.
What else might you need to know? Well, servicing intervals are every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Owners can keep up to date with their car’s maintenance schedule via the ‘My Car’ section of that ‘MyFiat’ app, which briefs you on the time of your next service and various maintenance issues.
This is but the first episode in a brand-new Abarth story, one that founder Carlo Abarth could never have dreamed of. And it’ll help this fledgling Italian brand that, for the time being anyway, this 500e has a clear run at the market for small EV hot hatches.