Which one will you go for?

MINI Electric v’s Honda e v’s Fiat 500e

Our three protagonists are easy to choose, and come in the shape of the new Fiat 500, the updated MINI Electric, and the sensational Honda e. But which one will take the overall victory?


Despite the love for the SUV at the moment, here at AutoEV, we do love driving small, fun cars. In fact, if you look at our own personal buying history, there is a gluttony of them from old, quirky, small French hatchbacks to classic Fiats and hot Abarths right up to modern MINIs.
So, when we decided to bring three of our own favourite small electric cars together in a triple test to decide which one was best, it called upon creating a bit of a special road trip. Thankfully, the decision on where to take them came very easily in the form of an invitation to attend the inaugural Eclectic Electric weekend at the sensational Caffeine & Machine in Warwickshire in conjunction with Michelin tyres.
Our three protagonists were easy to choose, and came in the shape of the new Fiat 500, the updated MINI Electric, and the sensational Honda e. But which one would take the overall victory?
Let’s start with the MINI, which is now the oldest of the bunch really, although it has just undergone a little refresh this year.  It is still the same car overall, but now with a minor styling refresh and some small updates to the trim, although mechanically it remains the MINI we know and love.
The other rejuvenated icon is the Fiat 500, now in its third generation.  The previous car will remain on sale alongside in hybrid form for those who still prefer petrol stations, but this more modern, more future-proof one is powered only by an electric motor, and is all the better for it.
And lastly, the wonderful Honda e, a car that is as stylistically brilliant as it is stuffed full of technology and traditional Honda engineering.  This car still looks like it just rolled off the motorshow stand as a concept car and is ready to show the other two that you don’t have to rely on nostalgia to create a brilliant small EV.

3 of a kind YouTube


Honda E


Fiat 500


MINI Electric


And it’s with the Honda that we start here.  It just oozes desirability in our book.  There is a nod to the first generation Civic in the window line, and perhaps around the inset headlamps, but in all other ways, the little e is as charming and lovable as it is cool and distinctive.  It’s the only car here that is exclusively 5 doors, and whilst the concept car that previewed it, the Urban EV, was a 3 door, the design has translated well.

Now to the Fiat.  And of course, it is instantly recognisable as a 500, but it shares absolutely nothing with the previous model car.  It is bigger in every way, going to show just how small the car was to begin with, as this is by far the smallest of our trio.  They’ve managed to do the almost impossible by retaining all the styling cues that make the Fiat 500 what it is, but by taking away the ‘prettiness’ if you like.  Don’t expect to see many of these wearing those ridiculous stick-on eyelashes that seem so common on the previous car.  

Lastly the MINI.  Design changes are limited to the nose area with a body-colour infill in the grille and the front fog lamps have been replaced by upright vents to try and give the car a more dynamic stance.  You can also specify a graduated colour roof, and black pack to give it an even more sporty look.  Whilst the car isn’t ugly, it’s by far the least attractive of all the generations of the new MINI since 2001, and it feels like it is trying too hard in this company.  The Honda takes the prize in this category, with the second place Fiat showing how to do retro right.


These are small, city cars, so you can’t expect wonders here.  The original design briefs for the Fiat and MINI way back in the 1950s of providing accommodation for 4 with luggage didn’t have to take into account modern safety equipment and batteries, so packing too much wont really work in any of these cars.

The smallest of the three is the Honda at 171 litres, with the Fiat giving a bit more room at 185 litres, and the MINI appearing almost estate-car like at 211 litres.  The Fiat and MINI have split-folding rear seats adding to their use of space, but the Honda’s only folds in one piece.  

In terms of rear accommodation, the Honda counters by being the only 5 door, making access to the rear much better.  On the Continent, Fiat will offer the 500 with rear-hinged third rear door (much like MINI used to with their older Clubman model) but the cost of re-engineering for RHD means it won’t appear in the UK.  Both the Fiat and MINI make their rear passengers suffer a bit more cramped accommodation, with the Honda providing, not just better access, but more room once you’re actually inside.

None of the three will be required to carry much more than the weekly shopping or school bags or, at the most, smaller pieces of luggage, so with a more practical rear cabin, it’s the Honda that takes victory here by the narrowest of margins from the MINI with the diminutive Fiat bringing up the rear.


Interestingly, our thoughts on the exterior design of the three cars are pretty much mirrored on the inside.  The Honda represents a more futuristic view, with the MINI and the 500 portraying their design heritage, albeit one more successfully than the other.  

The Honda is a triumph in this area, and not just because of the dominance of screens, of which there are five.  The one in front of the driver carries all the relevant driver information, two central ones that can vary their displays to show infotainment, menus or sat nav as you see fit, and of course, the two small outer screens that work as mirrors, and much better than the terrible ones in the Audi e-tron.

But it is more than that, it is the whole ambience of the Honda.  It has just enough physical controls that you can have quick access to what you need, and the cabin just feels special and different.  In our initial road test of the car last year we said that it reminds us of the wonderful BMW i3 interior with its innovative use of materials, and its distinctive design that brings something new to cars without alienating people.  

The Fiat also delights, albeit in a different way.  What Fiat has managed to do is really quite clever.  At first, you think that the car is very simple, perhaps even basic.  But in reality, this interior is a marvel.  What they have done is combine the simplistic allure of both the original 1950s car and the second generation 2007 car with every conceivable requirement you will need.  Wireless charging pad?  Beautifully integrated into this one-piece dash.  Separate screen in front of the driver with integrated map display and driver information?  All housed in this almost circular binnacle that is just like the last cars fussy and cluttered instruments.  An easy to reach touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?  Designed to mimic the dashboard mounted rear view mirror of the original car.  It is just a delight.  Even the large panoramic roof brings you in mind of the fliptop canvas one in the classic 500.  The materials used are recyclable and yet feel special.  The equipment level of our test car was high with heated seats, the aforementioned smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels, cruise control and all the safety tech you could want.  And then there are the details such as the Turin skyline embossed in the phone charging pad, and the “Made in Torino” legend emblazoned in the door recesses.  Electric parking brake, and these simple to use transmission buttons along the dashboard just make this interior feel simplistically luxurious.  

And so to the MINI.  It feels like it is trying a bit too hard now.  Back when BMW Group relaunched the MINI in 2001, that large central speedo and toggle switches really worked well to help us reminisce about Issigoniss’s original car.  Now, however, it is starting to look a little bit too overdesigned.  What it has in its favour, however, is a feeling of quality, and that is a good thing.  Everything feels solid, and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen is easy to navigate and you get brilliant, figure-hugging sports seats that hold you just right in a really good driving position.  We still like the interior, and its signature MINI, but it does trail the other two that just feel a bit more special.


The MINI and Honda both come with similar sized batteries at 33kWh and 35.5kWh respectively, giving WLTP ranges of 145 miles for the MINI and 127 miles for the Honda.  Both cars will take charging speeds of up to 50kW meaning a 10-80% charge in roughly 30 minutes.  

The Fiat goes a little further at 199 miles from its larger 44kWh battery.  It will also take a slightly higher rate of charge at 85kW, but given the larger capacity battery, that 80% full time is roughly the same.

However, with the Fiat, you can specify it with a smaller 24kWh battery with a 118 mile range, but only in the lowest ‘Action’ trim level, which isn’t available in the convertible model that you can also have the 500 in.

Victory here goes to the Fiat.

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The 500 is primarily a car built for the urban landscape.  It’s smaller dimensions, although more upright driving style, make it perfect for slicing through the city streets, with easy parking and good visibility.  Power comes from its front-mounted 117bhp motor that feels perfectly adequate when it comes to shifting this car around.  Like the Honda, this is a dedicated EV platform, and not a previous generation 500 re-engineered to take electric power.  It is a brand-new platform, and it shows.  It may be geared more towards town driving, but its refinement away from that is quite something, and that also goes towards that more ‘expensive’ feel that you get from the new 500.  The steering is very light, however, and you do notice that as you push on a bit.  It is more vague and not as communicative as the Honda, and a world away from the MINI.  You can alter the driving mode through a centrally-mounted toggle switch between ‘Normal’, ‘Range’ and ‘Sherpa’, the latter being the one to eek out that very last mile by shutting a few things off and limiting performance.  In ‘Range’ mode, you get almost one pedal driving with fairly aggressive brake regeneration, whereas ‘Normal’ mostly lets the car coast.  Using the brakes isn’t a chore, and the pedal has a decent feel to it

Jumping into the MINI is a massive contrast.  You just know that this car is designed much more with dynamics in mind.  Its motor, the same one used in the BMW i3, allows 184 braked horses to make their way to the road surface through the front wheels, scampering the car to 60mph from rest in just over 7 seconds.  But more than that, it is the chassis that delights.  The grip level is huge, and the steering has the same amount of feel as if you’d just run your fingers over a cheese grater, meaning you can feel absolutely everything through this lovely nappa leather steering wheel.  It is just as capable as the Fiat through the city, albeit it does transfer a bit more suspension movement through the car, but then you sit in the MINI not on it like you do in the 500.  The brakes are also good, and differing levels of regeneration are available depending on what you like.  Where the Fiat feels light and easy, the MINI feels darty and dynamic.

The Honda splits the two really.  Our test car is fitted with the 150bhp motor mounted, uniquely in this company, at the rear.  Like the Fiat, you also have the option of a lower powered car if you want to save some money without sacrificing the style.  The Honda doesn’t have the dynamics of the MINI, but it handles the open road slightly better than the Fiat whilst not sacrificing the manoeuvrability of the Italian.  The miniscule turning circle helps here, and although the steering isn’t overtly light, it does have slickness to it that makes punting the car down a road a bit more confidence-inspiring than the Fiat whilst not having that agility of the MINI.  The car can be put into different modes depending on your wants and needs, although ‘Normal’ is decent enough for most times.  And the brake regeneration is worth mentioning too, as you can adjust it from coasting to one pedal driving.  This is a car with a very broad range of talents.


Our three test cars are at the upper end of their respective ranges and therefore are priced as such.  The MINI is one of the Electric Collection cars and costs just over £32,000. The range starts, however, from just over £26,000.

The Honda is the Advance model, and comes in at just over £31,000, but if you were to plump for the lower-powered car, it starts at just over £28,000.

The Fiat offers an even broader spread of models, with our test car being the ‘Icon’ trim which comes in at just over £30,000, but the range starts at the low entry point of just over £23,000.  You can also, remember, have the 500 in the Convertible bodystyle.

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These three offer more style and, arguably, prestige than practicality, so that is your trade-off.  The other small evs at this price go the other way, save for perhaps the Mazda MX-30 and entry level BMW i3 which you might also consider.

Otherwise it is the usual suspects of Renault Zoe, Peugeot e208, Vauxhall Corsa e.  Volkswagen Group have now discontinued the e-Up, Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii, but will no doubt re-enter the market with something based on their ID siblings.  But in reality, it is these three that are their own worst enemies.



We like:

  • Chassis dynamics
  • Performance
  • Well-equipped
  • Build quality

We don’t like:

  • Limited range

  • Rear seat space

  • Styling inside and out is not as interesting as rivals


We like:

  • Styling
  • Dashboard
  • Range
  • Charging capabilities
  • Convertible option
  • Value for money

We don’t like:

  • Smaller on the inside than rivals
  • Light steering
  • Performance down on main rivals


We like:

  • Design

  • Tech

  • Well-equipped

  • Build quality

We don’t like:

  • Limited range

  • Boot space

3 of a kind


For three similarly-priced, sized and targeted cars, they all appeal in their own unique ways.  By far, the MINI was the choice of the day for a spirited drive.  It’s performance and handling showing a clean pair of alloys to the other two.  In fact, all three of us in the AutoEV office would question why you would ever buy a petrol Cooper S if you could cope with the small range and had charging capabilities.  It really is that good.

But the test wasn’t to find out what car was the most fun to drive, it was to deliver a verdict on what was overall the best small, stylish EV in which to put your money in to, and when all is said and done, the MINI was the most compromised as an electric car, and so came in a (narrow) third place.

Deciding between the Fiat and the Honda wasn’t easy either.  The Honda shows a clear advantage from a technology and design point of view, along with having more room inside, whilst the 500 counters with a greater range, better charging capabilities and better value for money.

Yet at the end of the day, we all agreed that despite the smallest range and boot of the three, it was the Honda that we would all want to live with.  Whilst the MINI and the Fiat are excellent reinventions of design classics, it is the Honda that feels like it is a new design classic.  It’s winning combination of style, engineering and technology (along with Honda’s legendary reputation for reliability) meant that it was our worthy winner.

Other AUTOEV Electric Car reviews

Here a selection of other reviews Auto EV have created that you may find of interest


Mini Electric | Review 2020

Honda e | Review 2020

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