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First drive: Fiat 600e. Image by Simon Thompson.

First drive: Fiat 600e
Fiat makes a larger sibling for the superb 500e. Can the 600e recreate that electric city car's sparkle?

   



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Fiat 600e

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Fiat needs to move away from relying solely on the 500, and all its various derivatives, for its long-term sales success. So, borrowing an electric vehicle (EV) platform widely in use across the Stellantis group - it underpins the Peugeot e-2008, Citroen e-C4, DS3 E-Tense and Jeep Avenger, among others - it has created a new B-segment crossover-family-hatch thing. Which, er... it has called the 600 and which takes its styling cues strongly from the 500. Of course. But is this new five-door compact EV worth your consideration?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Fiat 600e La Prima
Price: 600e from 32,995, La Prima from 36,995
Motor: 115kW front-mounted electric motor
Battery: 54kWh lithium-ion, 51kWh usable
Transmission: single-speed reduction-gear automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 156hp (Sport mode)
Torque: 260Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Economy: 4.9 miles/kWh (quoted)
Range: 252 miles
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 93mph
Boot space: 360-1,261 litres

Styling

Easily the new Fiat 600e's strongest suit, the styling is what is going to win it many buyers. For those who have always wanted a 500, but the impracticalities of having only two usable seats (in reality) and a minuscule boot would be too much of an impediment, this is clearly the answer. Just don't call it a replacement for the 500X. Even though it looks incredibly similar and is about the same size. Apparently, the 600e is no such thing - and, as such, the 500X will continue on sale for a while alongside the electric newcomer. Right.

Whatever you think about Fiat's relative market placing of the 600e, one thing is clear - this is a good-looking car. It's perhaps... not the most adventurous piece of design we've ever seen, especially at the back where it's rather anodyne, but those round headlights and daytime running lamps at the front, set in a snub nose, give it plenty of Italian appeal. In profile, it's very much a 'larger 500', with a familiar slope to the tailgate, but of course there are extra doors at the back for passengers, plus the promise of a larger boot beneath said tailgate. Just to make sure there's no confusion, the 600e is adorned with plenty of '600' logos: there's one where the radiator grille would be if it wasn't an EV, there's another built into the chunky side sills that befit a crossover, and yet another emblem in the rear bumper which also features the Italian tricolour, just for good measure.

Oh, and the tiny 'e' on the bootlid is relevant, as is the use of the letter in the model name. Although it was expected to only be sold as an EV, Fiat confirmed on the launch that a hybrid model, using a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and small electric motor for a combined 136hp output, will follow the 600e soon. This drivetrain has been seen recently in the Peugeot 3008 and Citroen C5 Aircross products, so its inclusion here is no great surprise.

Interior

The exterior is far more interesting than the interior, which - despite Fiat's best efforts to inject a bit of that fabled Italian style into it - is quite obviously built down to a particular cost. So while we, and we suspect many buyers, will like the elegant two-spoke steering wheel, and that unusual folding flap arrangement for the central cubby compartment (think 'Apple iPad cover'), and the synthetic leather seats with the 'Fiat' logo repeated on the fabric, it is unavoidable that some of the material finishing is remarkably cheap. The door cards, for instance, are brittle charcoal plastic efforts, while the fillet of contrast-colour trim in the oval dashboard is clacky to the touch. At least the digital displays, a seven-inch item in front of the driver and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, are sharp to look at and easy to operate, while those seats are made of 200 recycled PET bottles - so there's a noble ecological benefit to having the 600e.

Practicality

This isn't as practical as you might be hoping for, in all truth. Granted, there's more room in the back of the 600e than there is in a 500e, but that's not really saying a great deal, is it? As in, spatially, you're talking about the new model having a preposterously low bar to clear there. While four shorter people could probably get comfortable onboard the 600e, and indeed Fiat itself claims it's a full five-seater, taller or, um, heavier-set folk won't want to be sitting in the back for long, where both knee- and headroom feel at a premium. Again, with the one hand Fiat taketh away and the other it giveth: as compensation for so-so rear passenger room, the 600e's 360-litre boot is a pretty decent figure for this class of vehicle, and it's about double what you'd get in a 500e. Sadly, though, only the range-topping La Prima gets an adjustable boot floor; it's otherwise fixed in the entry-level Red car.

Performance

Fiat makes it simple for you - there's just one electric drivetrain to go for, comprising a 115kW (156hp) electric motor linked up to a 54kWh gross, 51kWh net lithium-ion battery pack. That's enough for 252 miles of range, reputedly, as well as a 0-62mph time of nine seconds precisely - making it, on paper at least, a bit quicker than recent Peugeot and Citroen products fitted with the same propulsion system.

But don't go expecting the Fiat 600e to feel fast. It's nippy enough, Fiat claiming a 4.4-second 0-31mph time - which means it's lively in its preferred cut-and-thrust environment of urban streets - but once the roads open up and clear, it soon runs out of urgency once 50mph has come and gone. True, you don't need a city-biased EV to be able to hit 100mph in 3.3 seconds or the like, but for merging onto motorways or enacting overtakes on bigger trunk routes, the Fiat feels a touch thin on torque. Mind, it has 260Nm of the stuff, so we guess the bulky 1,520kg kerb weight is what blunts its roll-on acceleration so.

And yes, like other Stellantis cars with this powertrain, the Fiat has to be in Sport mode for the full 156hp - outputs, and throttle sharpness, reduce considerably as you step down to Normal and then Eco mode. In fact, the responsiveness - or lack of it, should we say? - to the accelerator in Eco is borderline alarming.

At least the range claims look believable. On an up-and-down test route, driven with reasonable vim, the battery range used versus the claimed remaining driving distance suggested 200 miles ought to be easily achievable on a regular basis. Accepting that EVs rarely do their claimed one-shot driving numbers in reality, we'd therefore have to say the 600e looks like it should be handy enough for most urban users.

Speaking of which, it can charge at 100kW DC as a maximum speed, which means that Fiat says a 27-minute session at this rate of hook-up would see the battery replenished from 20-80 per cent. An 11kW AC onboard charger will allow someone with a home wallbox charger to top the battery up completely in about six hours, meanwhile.

Ride & Handling

Some of the shine of the Fiat 600e's cheeky looks and acceptable driving range is worn away by the manner in which it drives. Engineers on hand at the launch were keen to tell us how the car had been specially tuned to feel like a Fiat - whatever that means these days - and that there was extra weight to the steering in Sport mode and so on. And our hopes were further raised when we remembered how cultured and refined the smaller 500e feels in and about town.

Strangely, the 600e is a rather noisy machine, as EVs go, and it excels at neither ride comfort/refinement nor handling finesse. On the latter score, just forget about it. There's plenty of grip and body roll, while present, isn't out of control, but the steering tells you next to nothing of what the front wheels are encountering. Along with the ho-hum powertrain performance, it makes throwing a 600e about on a challenging road a dull and uninvolving experience, so you soon forget about even trying and just throttle it back to a more sedate pace.

That's how the vast majority of customers will drive the 600e, of course, so this is where it should be much more impressive. Yet you'll be amazed how much you can hear the suspension working as it tries to smother out lumps and bumps in the road, while there's also a bit too much tyre roar and wind noise around the B-pillars once you get to around 50mph and more. If everything is in the Fiat's favour, then yes, it's fairly quiet and civilised. But higher speeds and/or rubbish road surfaces soon introduce cracks in the surface lustre of its refinement. To be honest, most of the other Stellantis products on this same platform either ride better than this, or handle better than this, or just feel more generally accomplished in both departments than this.

Value

Just two trim specifications will be offered, which are the Red from 32,995 and the La Prima, kicking off at 36,995. Those figures are usefully a few grand lower than prices for the Jeep Avenger, so value-for-money could be another feather in the cap of the 600e.

The Red is named in honour of Fiat's tie-up with the organisation founded in 2006, to fight various serious global health emergencies. As a result, it comes in red, primarily, although black and white body colours are available. Buyers will enjoy a lengthy kit list for the outlay, including (but not limited to) 16-inch steel wheels with bicolour covers, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, keyless go, LED headlights and DRLs, cruise control, 10.25-inch Uconnect infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a good selection of advanced driver assist systems.

La Prima spec adds to this with 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, the painted dashboard fascia, 360-degree parking sensors with a 180-degree rear-view camera, the fancy synthetic leather upholstery with the 'Fiat' monogram motif, heated and electrically adjustable front seats with a massage function for the driver, keyless entry to go with the keyless go, auto high-beam, the adjustable boot floor, a powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, integrated nav for the Uconnect, a six-speaker sound system instead of the Red's four-speaker set-up, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

La Prima is the spec which also best embodies Fiat's 'no more greys' philosophy, of offering only brightly painted cars. We approve of this, although the clunky names Sun of Italy (orange), Sky of Italy (a sort of teal) and Sea of Italy (it looks dark blue, although it is said to be green) are a tad, well, twee - and then there's Earth of Italy. Which definitely, definitely isn't grey. Nope. Not at all. Just... call it beige, perhaps?

Verdict

There are things which play heavily in the new Fiat 600e's favour here, which should see it marked as a sales success. For starters, it looks like what Fiat wants it to be - an overgrown electric Fiat 500, so that's half the showroom battle won for the Italian company. Throw in keen pricing and a good amount of zero-emissions range, and the case looks compelling for the 600e.

Sadly, we don't think it drives that well, in any circumstance. It's OK, sure, but other Stellantis cars using its hardware do many things to a higher standard than the Fiat does - we suspect a reduction in hidden sound-deadening, in order to keep those list prices down, might be to blame here - and then there are some scarily talented rivals available elsewhere, like the Kia Niro EV and the incoming Hyundai Kona Electric. Maybe the incoming 600 Hybrid will be the pick of the range, then, but for now, and knowing what we do about how great the smaller 500e is, the 600e feels just a little bit disappointing.



Matt Robinson - 28 Sep 2023



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2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.

2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.2024 Fiat 600e La Prima. Image by Simon Thompson.








 

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