What is it?
Electric Smart Fortwos first appeared in 2007 and have undergone two development phases so far, yet there’s been no showroom version of a car almost begging for electric propulsion.
But after five years of testing with over 2000 cars, most loaned to real-world users, Smart is ready to sell a Fortwo EV in this third, upgraded iteration.
It is performance that improves most, as demonstrated by a 0-62mph time that falls from a sleepy 26.7sec to a sparky 11.5sec.
What's it like?
You certainly feel the difference, the Fortwo tearing away with enough zeal to excite when you’re darting along urban tributaries.
User feedback also prompted improved motorway performance and speedier charging, while the discovery that drivers averaged 25 miles daily lead to no more than a modest six mile range gain to 90 miles.
The extra power comes from a new motor developed under a Daimler-Bosch joint venture called EM-motive, rising dramatically from 40bhp to 74bhp while torque swells to 96lb ft from 89lb ft.
Although Smart was happy with the Zytek collaboration that produced earlier electric Fortwos incidentally, the UK company doesn’t manufacture in high volumes. The nickel-cobalt-manganese lithium-ion battery charges in seven hours rather than eight from a domestic socket, and can now be fast-charged in an hour.
Driving this Smart is blissfully easy and pleasingly free of the faltering gearchanges that afflict piston-powered Fortwos. Sinking the throttle produces surprising thrust, and it’s no less eager when you’re rolling along at 30-50mph and need a burst of go.
Motorways are less stressful now that it tops 78mph rather than 62mph, although they’re not its favoured habitat.
Drawbacks? The ride can get choppy and the £52 monthly battery lease price seems steep.
Should I buy one?
But if you can score a £5000 government subsidy, you’ll be paying £10k for a chic, entertaining and practical zero-emission city car that battery fees apart, will cost little to run.
True, you can have a Yaris hybrid that puts out similar emissions on a well-to-wheel basis, that’s speedily refuelled and seats four, but this electric Smart is the most credible pure electric yet.
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
Price: £15,300 est; 0-62mph: 11.5sec; Top speed: 78mph; Economy: NA; C02: Zero; Recharge time, standard domestic supply: 7 hours; Range: 90 miles; Kerbweight: 900kg; Engine: Electric; Power: 74bhp max, 47bhp continuous; Torque: 96lb ft; Gearbox: Single speed