You won’t be surprised to hear that the city is its natural environment, and it is there that the electric Smart excels.
Like all electric cars, it has a strong burst of acceleration from a standstill. While the Forfour’s 0-62mph time of 12.7sec shows it’s not especially quick over a distance, its nippy acceleration from 0-30mph is a great asset around town, plus a new electronic management system makes progress smoother than before.
But with the extra doors, seats and added weight that comes with the Forfour’s layout, it loses some of the urgency that you feel in the Fortwo ED’s acceleration, and it’s more than 1sec slower from 0-60mph.
The Forfour ED's electric battery adds around 140kg of weight to the car compared with the petrol model, and because it’s in the bottom of the car it gives it a lower centre of gravity which helps it handle better.
The steering, like the petrol car, is very light and lacks feel but it is at least precise. Although not quite as gobsmacking as the Fortwo, the Forfour still boasts a brilliantly tight turning circle of 8.65m which makes manoeuvers a breeze in town. The ride isn’t bone-shaking, but it is still unsettled. Having said that, firmer springs and dampers than the petrol Forfour, as well as that added weight, give it much better body control, and long stretches in town aren’t uncomfortable.
The brake pedal feel is a little spongey, but the off-throttle regenerative braking is effective. The car comes with an Eco mode that you can engage which limits its maximum speed, softens the accelerator pedal response and sets the regenerative braking system to maximum to eek out some extra miles of range. When left in standard mode the car uses radar sensors to judge how hard the regenerative braking should be when you lift off the accelerator, depending on the traffic around the car.
Out on the open road at faster speeds, the Smart is far less at home. It feels a bit underpowered, the steering doesn't weight up, and you get a fair bit of wind noise and road roar, but at slow speeds the cabin is a very serene and peaceful environment.
Inside, there’s a decent amount of standard tech including cruise control, Bluetooth, climate control and a touchscreen infotainment system including TomTom sat-nav with the latest version of Smart’s media system, which is pretty intuitive, and the cabin generally feels premium in small-car terms. It also gets some handy smartphone connectivity with a new browser-based web-app that allows you to check on the car's charging status and remotely control the heating.
While the Fortwo offers only marginally more storage room than a handbag, the Forfour has two rear seats that can be folded away to increase the boot capacity. The battery is housed under the floor which means the electric version doesn’t lose any extra space over the petrol version either.
It's worth pointing out that the very first cars that reach the UK later this year will take six hours to get an 80% charge from a household socket, or 3.5 hours from a wallbox for the same. However in 2018, electric Smarts will get inbuilt 22kW fast chargers, which take 45 minutes for an 80% charge - it's a rather irritating oversight to not offer the fast charger straight away, so you're certainly better off waiting to buy that version.