Fiat 500 La Prima: a Low Key City EV That Quietly Stole our Hearts in New York

We've had our minds collectively blown by some of the hardware on display at the 2022 New York International Auto show so far. We don't plan on stopping either, at least until the show closes this Sunday.
Fiat 500 La Prima 8 photos
Photo: Benny Kirk/ autoevolution
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But one of the low-key underdogs of the entire show is remarkably unlike most of the other new models on display this year at the Jacob K Javits Center in Mid-Town Manhattan. It's tucked away near the bathrooms at one of the far ends of the Stellantis exhibition at the far west corners of the convention center. It's the new Fiat 500, or shall we say, the new Fiat New 500, depending on whether or not you care about fancy branding.

What matters is that Fiat's eternal flagship is different both inside and outside compared to what most North Americans are familiar with. Gone is any form of internal combustion. In its place is a battery-electric drivetrain that's perfectly suited for such a compact and iconic platform.

These drivetrains, equal to around 94 and 117 horsepower, respectively, are derived from Stellantis's first big push into the electric vehicle space since Sergio Marchionne of Fiat-Chrysler mandated the company begin a transition from an internal combustion-powered automaker to one that's fully electric, hopefully well before this decade is out. With the introduction of the Stellantis global auto group, this notion was only doubled down upon.

The end result is a car that, while appearing the same as the old 500 in passing, is one that's profoundly different on closer inspection. We suspect auto show attendees in New York this year to prioritize seeing more buzzworthy and special cars in the Stellantis lineup during their time in the company's exhibition space on their visit. But rest assured, at least a handful of these people are going to walk past the new electric 500 and be nothing short of amazed by what they see.

Fiat 500 La Prima
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
For one thing, Fiat clearly wanted people to recognize without even looking at the rear badging that this New 500 is all-electric. Where prominent air intakes used to reside on the previous ICE 500 sit smooth and sculpted lines where the front grill that once may have been jarring and off-putting in EVs. Nowadays, it's just a sign that whoever's driving this car hasn't paid for gasoline in months.

With an estimated range somewhere in the 320-kilometer range (approx 200 miles), there's more than enough juice in the batteries for most in-town commuting people who drive little city cars of this variety to get the job done. As for longer-range trips, we'd definitely plan out your re-charging stops well in advance if, in an emergency, you need to drive long-distance in one of these cars.

As for the interior, it's not often something of a high point when it comes to FCE/Stellantis automobiles. But if the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer is anything to go by, that's an era that's coming to an end.

The interior found on the inside of the 500 Prima is saturated with soft-touch leather, a 10.25-inch multifunctional navigation/infotainment screen, and a single suicide door on the passenger side that grants access to an admittedly cramped rear seating arrangement.

Fiat 500 La Prima
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
But hey, if you're a five-year-old kid, we bet it's a pretty nice place to sit. But it's not anything to do with the design or powertrain of the New 500 that has us the most intrigued. Surprisingly, it's the software trinkets that come along with it.

Fiat's new "Sherpa Mode's" primary mission is to take all the guesswork out of EV ownership. It does this by locating as many EV charging stations and even facilitating wireless card payments, so one needn't even take out their wallet to charge up.

We're somewhat blown away by the level of features present in the 500 La Prima. No wonder it debuted with a retail price of €34,900 overseas. With that in mind, don't expect to finance a Fiat 500 La Prima EV for anything less than $40,000 here in the states.

Granted, a $40,000 city car is a pretty niche market. There's no arguing that.  But there's reason to suspect much of the tech in the La Prima may trickle down into entry and mid-level models sometime very soon.

Fiat 500 La Prima
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
Even if you can't justify $40 grand for a little hippy-car, what's on display in the 500 La Prima here in New York City this year is an indicator that, at least in terms of bang for your buck, utilitarian EV transport for the masses goes, the best is still very much yet to come.
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