On the face of it, the Forfour Electric Drive does seem to add to the choice available at the most affordable end of the electric car market – and its sub-£17,000 asking price (after the £4500 government ULEV grant) is worthy of some recognition.
But that showroom price plays against residual values that are still very poor for battery cars across the board and continue to make a mockery of the idea of an affordable EV for most buyers.
Smart’s own introductory PCP deal on the car puts it at £269 a month over three years after a £2000 deposit, and although there’s no battery lease to worry about here, you could still get into a facelifted e-Golf for the same outlay. A 41kWh Zoe is cheaper, even accounting for £59 a month to lease the battery.
Our testing shone a harsh light on the Smart’s 95-mile claimed battery range. The best range we could produce was 68 miles by employing a gentle touring driving style.
That’s poor by current EV class standards, and dropping to about 50 miles when you’re not so careful could be hard to tolerate even for drivers who never stray beyond the city limits.
Smart’s initial lack of provision for fast charging of this car is also disappointing.
Our Forfour test car could charge at 7kW AC only and would have needed 90 minutes on a typical 32-amp motorway services charger to be taken from empty to full. Smart is planning to introduce three-phase AC charging as an option later this year, but the infrastructure necessary to make that work on a longer trip must be expected to be sparse at best.