The first electric Smart Fortwo was introduced in 2007, when 100 were tested across the steets of London. Now, almost a decade on, the momentum of electric vehicles (EVs) has gained considerable pace, so this new Smart Fortwo Electric Drive needs to better than ever.
It’s the fourth-generation of Smart’s electric powertrain, and for the first time is available across the entire model range: the two-seater Fortwo, its open-top sibling the Fortwo Cabriolet, and the four-seater Forfour. The Cabriolet also has the claim to fame of being the only all-electric convertible on sale today.
Compared with its predecessor, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive has an updated appearance, a more spacious interior, a new electric motor and a more efficient battery, which promises to reduce charging times and slightly improve range.
It won’t go on sale in the UK until autumn 2017. Prices are expected to start from around £16,500 (after a Government subsidy) – a considerable premium over the £11,125 entry-level price of the conventionally powered Fortwo.
The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is conventional to drive despite its unconventional powertrain, while its tiny proportions and impressively tight turning circle make parking incredibly easy.
With an 80bhp electric motor powered by 17.6kWh battery, the Fortwo has quiet, smooth and effortless power delivery. The electric motor is paired with a single fixed gear. In short, that means you don’t need to change gear, making life easy in the city.
Thanks to the instant torque you get in electric cars, and the way the Fortwo Electric Drive has such excellent accelerator and braking response, it’s ideal for snaking your way through heavy city traffic. True, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive isn’t really suited to motorways, but its 0-62mph time of 11.5sec is more than adequate for this type of car. Its instant torque means it feels much quicker, especially at typical urban speeds.
The Fortwo Electric Drive’s handling is actually better than that of its petrol sibling. That’s largely because the battery under the seats gives it a lower centre of gravity, but it also has firmer suspension, with the result being slightly better body control.
Its steering is very light – a trait found in most city cars – and lacks feedback, but combined with the compact dimensions, the Fortwo Electric Drive makes light work of any manoeuvre in town.
So, how far will the car go on one charge? Officially, 100 miles – just 10 miles more than its predecessor – but during our test drive, it started on less than 85 miles of range, having been fully charged. That’s probably a better indication of its real world range.
What Smart has improved is its charging time; the standard 7.2kW charging system charges the battery to 80% in 2.5 hours, and buyers can also opt for a more powerful wallbox that can charge it in just 45mins.
As long as you only need to transport two people, the interior of the Fortwo is a neat, practical place to be, with lots of space for driver and passenger, plus neat little touches such as cupholders and cubbyholes.
In terms of layout, it’s identical to the standard Smart Fortwo, other than an additional dashboard instrument which shows you how much charge you have remaining. There’s a mixture of materials in the Smart, which are largely of decent quality, albeit with the odd cheap-feeling plastic mixed in.
Smart says the UK is only likely to get one trim level, which will have a touchscreen sat-nav system, heated leather seats, cruise control, LED lights and an Aux/USB/Bluetooth media interface. Given what we know about the price, that means it would carry a premium of around £2000 over the equivalent conventionally powered model.
The system can also tell you details such as where to find the nearest charging station, while the current range can be considered when selecting destinations in the sat-nav.
As the battery is under the seats, boot space is the same as the standard Smart. There’s room for a few shopping bags – although not the full weekly grocery shop – and a net behind the seats is ideal for storing loose bits and pieces.