Smart ForTwo ED
Does the second generation battery-powered Smart live up to its name? We get behind the wheel to find out.
The Smart EV is one of a new, more sophisticated breed of electric city cars. It's beautifully made, comfortable and simple to use. It is slow however, which limits its usability when you reach the city limits and, like all battery electric cars, it's much less convenient to use than its petrol-powered stablemates.
Could this be the smartest electric car on the block? Smart certainly hopes so as it's building 1,000 of these second generation ForTwo Electric Drives, with the UK receiving 100 cars in London, the South East and West Midlands as part of a 12-month trial.
It certainly looks the part, with its green and white paint making it easily stand out from other Smarts on the road. Like other ForTwos, it will be available with both a fixed roof or as a convertible. Inside it benefits from all of the safety and comfort features you'd find in a regular Smart including air conditioning, power steering, electronic stability control and four airbags.
With just a single forward gear, the ForTwo ED is a synch to drive in its natural urban environment. For ease of use, it's right up there with a twist-and-go scooter. There's also the added advantage of no longer having to deal with the Smart's usual achilles heal – the jerky semi-automatic gearbox. Ride and handling seem unaffected by the increased weight, with the power steering making the little Smart as manoeuvrable as ever.
With the full 120Nm of torque available as soon as you press the throttle, the Smart ED can hold its own against far more potent machines at the traffic lights. But, after the initial surge, the 20kW motor – the equivalent of 27bhp – is disappointingly sluggish.
An extra 10kW is available for brief bursts, which is useful on steep hills or when pulling out of junctions. However holding your foot flat to the floor for too long seriously reduces its maximum range of around 84 miles. And be sure to steer well clear of motorways as the top speed is limited to just 62mph. A full charge from a special three-phase supply socket is an overnight task, taking eight hours. However a range of around 20 miles – the average daily commute – can be achieved in two hours.
The ForTwo is one of the most convincing electric commuters on the market. It's fun and easy to drive as well as being kind to the environment. However it is disappointingly slow and prohibitively expensive to build. Thankfully though, the lease cost of around £700 will initially be subsidised by the Government.
Rival: Mitsubishi i MiEV The electric i has already begun its UK trial and so goes head-to-head with the Smart. It might not be as handily sized but the extra performance makes it more enjoyable to drive than the ForTwo.