If not entirely defined by its engine, the appeal of the old Abarth 500s was undeniably enhanced by the 1.4-litre, turbocharged engine. Its roars, its gurgles and its pops were a huge part of the Abarth experience, and getting rid of it entirely for this new Abarth 500e represents a huge step change for the brand. And nobody could accuse it of lacking confidence in the transition…
‘The New Abarth 500e is the most responsive and exciting Abarth in urban driving and the fastest and most enjoyable in suburban driving. In short, it is more Abarth than ever. The electric architecture performs better than petrol thanks to an improved weight distribution, better torque, and a wider wheelbase.’ Some punchy claims from the release, then, but then it’s got quite the car to replace; after almost 15 years the old ICE car had won plenty of fans with its sound, performance, look and experience.
To recreate a familiar feel, the Abarth has 155hp, which is just sort of average for all the 595s and 695s that eventually came out. This isn’t an EV replacement with hundreds more horsepower than the old petrol version. The 500e is powered by a relatively small 42kWh battery, which sounds good for weight but not so good for range - neither number has been released yet. Alongside the power is 173lb ft - again quite modest in the world of EV torque monsters - for a claimed 0-62mph dash of seven seconds. Abarth is also keen to highlight the improvements electric power brings to urban driving; this car is 50 per cent faster between 12 and 25mph than a 695, and a second faster between 25 and 37 mph. There’s performance at higher speeds, too, another second taken out of the 37-62mph time against a 695 and even the Balocco lap time. As for charging, the 500e accepts a maximum of 85kW, which sounds a bit feeble in these days of 350kW cars. But don’t forget about that tiny battery; to Abarth’s credit, this doesn’t need much charging. In a best-case scenario, it reckons 80 per cent of range can be restored in 35 minutes, and ‘daily mileage requirements’ (or 25 miles) in five minutes. Would that make an 80 per cent charge worth 175 miles? Expect an official number soon.
There’s noise coming for this 500e, too. ‘Abarth sound has always been synonymous with hardcore fun and excitement’, reads the press release, adding that it’s a ‘key and distinctive factor specifically designed to offer all the deep emotions that every Abarthist seeks when driving an Abarth’. They’ve even had the mandatory exterior sound jazzed up - apparently it’s like a strumming guitar. For those inside, the 500e is fitted with a Sound Generator that is capable of ‘faithfully reproducing the sound of an Abarth petrol engine’. If you don’t like it, the Sound Generator can be turned off. But given what Abarth managed to conjure up with a humble 1.4 turbo over the years, there must be some hope for the Sound Generator.
Indeed, it seems that every intention with the 500e is to retain so much of what was known and loved about the old Abarth. But then Abarth did employ members of its community, thousands of ‘performance creators’ in fact, so perhaps it should be little surprise this one so closely resembles the old one. This exact 500e is a Scorpionissima Edition, effectively the launch edition, and is therefore kitted out with all sorts, from a JBL sound system to 18-inch wheels and, of course, the Abarth graphics. It’ll be offered as a cabrio and hatch in Acid Green or Poison Blue, with just 1,949 to be made (because 1949 is when Carlo Abarth created his eponymous company). As a special thank you for their contribution to the new car, the first month of Scorpionissima sales will be allocated for just the Abarth community members. Given the global love for the brand, with more than 160,000 ‘Abarthists’ across the world, don’t be surprised if those launch editions are all gone a month from now. Interestingly, every new Abarth 500e will be ordered online.
Features shared between the Scorpionissima and the standard 500e include a longer wheelbase, wider tracks and better weight distribution than before. It also gets three drives modes - Turismo, Scorpion Street, and Scorpion Track - which can alter power output and regen braking strength. Furthermore, the bumper, skirts, diffuser and lights seen here will be on non-Scorpionissima cars. In best Abarth 500 tradition, from here at least, the e looks absolutely brilliant.
Inside, the 500e continues that theme of updating what was known and loved about the old car (hopefully with a better driving position). There are scorpions everywhere, lashings of Alcantara, Performance Pages in the infotainment and a chunky three-spoke steering wheel. Standard equipment includes wireless smartphone mirroring, a swathe of active safety features and a wearable Abarth key.
Fiat and Abarth’s CEO Olivier Francois said of the new car: “You may ask ‘why electric?’. Well, basically, performance made us do it: in fact, every change made in the Abarth is about getting the best driving performance. That’s exactly how our founder, Carlo Abarth, always went at it. So, from that point of view, let’s say that nothing has changed: better acceleration, better handling, more fun. And then there’s Abarth’s legendary signature: its sound.” So he’s more than keen - it’s “more Abarth than EVer”, apparently - so what about you? Orders for those special Abarth folk are open now…
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