2013 Fiat 500e offers convenience, savings


This newest version doesn't exactly zoom: it whirrs. Because it's very different.

This is the new 2013 Fiat 500e ($32,500), the e meaning electric.

"Its 147 foot pounds of torque as soon as you touch the gas pedal so you get the fun to drive elements of that very responsive power training with all the dynamics that people have loved about the Fiat brand itself," said Matt Davis of Fiat North America.

But electric cars have been in a bit of a slump these days, not having caught on quite as well as some had predicted.

"I think there's just been so much hype around it but the reality of it is it just doesn't really meet everyone's needs," said Sue Carpenter, an auto writer for the OC Register.

The price of many electric vehicles has kept a lot of potential buyers away.

Fiat's answer? You can lease a 500e for three years at $199 a month and $1,000 to start. Essentially, the same lease price as a base model gasoline Fiat.

"We went back and looked at all the elements that a customer may object to when looking at an electric car and we've tried to solve those problems," said Davis.

One of the issues a lot of people have with electric cars is that it doesn't have enough range.

The 500e has a projected driving range of 87 miles on a full battery. But what if you want to go on a trip or you need to carry something big? Fiat's thought of that; they'll rent you a vehicle.

Anyone who leases a 500e will get a credit at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

"We give them essentially a rental 12 times a year for three years so they could extend the range indefinitely," said Davis.

But that's for planned trips. Many people still fear getting stranded around town. Public charging stations help, springing up in more and more places but they're still in short supply.

Fiat is addressing electric car drawbacks for the 500e or most of them anyway.

And, the car is quick, handles well, and of course, like other Fiat 500's is awfully cute.

The new gas-free Fiat goes on sale this summer.

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