All-electric Smart car takes aim at well-heeled urban audience.
The Smart ForTwo is the most compact, manoeuvrable, parkable city car there is and now that USP is being extended with an all-electric version. Replacing the rear-mounted engine is an 81bhp electric motor, powered by a set of lithium ion batteries that reside beneath the seat floor. That makes this Smart ForTwo Cabrio ED the world’s first mass produced electric drop top.
First up, let’s state the obvious: ED stands for Electric Drive, not a problem with your gentleman’s bits. The ForTwo is also a strict two-seater, but we struggle to understand why such a statement can often be considered a negative. A car specifically designed for the city needs to have a small footprint and the ForTwo is best-in-class compact. Having two seats should be a badge of honour.
Weirdly, inside it doesn’t feel remotely compact. The driving position is slightly taller than a conventional small car, there is plenty of glazing and the use of light materials and fluid shapes helps create a characterful and spacious environment. The only piece of furniture that alludes to the electric status of this particular version is a dash-mounted pod revealing your energy consumption. This is also your fuel gauge and the ForTwo Cab ED offers a range of 96 miles.
Smart has some clever tricks to ensure you’ll be able to get as close to that figure as possible, too. The battery pack is encased in a cooling jacket for when temperatures soar, plus there’s a downloadable Smart app for your smartphone. Not only does this allow you to remotely charge or prepare your car to the correct ambient temperature, it also primes the car’s battery for the best thermal efficiency.
Unfortunately, some practicality is lost because of the folding fabric roof. Gone is the coupe’s split-folding tailgate for a narrow-looking ‘boot shoot’. There’s integrated storage back here for the detachable roof rails but when in use, this eats into the already limited space and makes the boot lid heavy to lift.
How does it drive?
As a city car, the driving experience of the Smart ForTwo Cabrio ED is as good as it gets. You have instant, gear-free, silent propulsion, finger-light steering and a laughably good turning circle. The 0-62mph sprint takes 11.8 seconds, but that stat doesn’t do enough justice to the useful performance. The instant connection between your right pedal and the car moving makes it remarkably easy to filter in traffic and a complete giggle to drive. But the biggest benefit is being able to sample the sights, sounds and smells of your city in a totally unique way.
Having the front and rear axles so close together does make the ride a bit skittish over rough surfaces, and you can feel the compact chassis flex a little – sometimes called ‘scuttle shake’ – when the roof rails have been removed. But that’s a compromise we’re more than willing to accept for being able to park anywhere, including perpendicular to the kerb.
The quality of your rear view does shift depending on whether the roof is up (good) or concertinaed (less good) and although top speed is limited to 80mph, this is not a car you want to be driving on motorways. The tallish profile and compact wheelbase make it prone to side winds.
Should I buy one?
If you need a second car, or a single car and live in the city, the ForTwo Cabrio ED needs to be on your shortlist. Without question, this is the best version of the Smart ForTwo to date; it feels like the car the ForTwo should have always been.
Granted, it does look expensive alongside a conventionally-powered Mini Convertible, or even its electric coupe counterpart, but the price does include ownership of the batteries (covered on a 62,000 mile warranty) as well as your charging cables, sat nav, reverse parking sensors, heated seats and an ambient sound generator that alerts pedestrians to your presence.
Early adopters will also pay an additional penalty: UK launch cars will be fitted with a 7kw connector which means charging your ForTwo Cabrio ED to 80% battery capacity will take two and a half hours. From spring 2018, customers will have the option to upgrade to a 22kw connector, compressing that charging cycle to a more helpful 45 minutes. Charging from a standard plug is also possible and takes six hours.