17.3.2018Smart fortwo coupe ed review
Smart might not have the largest range around, but it should still be applauded for offering an electrified version of each of its three models. Alongside conventional petrol models, Smart provides a pure-EV option of its fortwo coupe, fortwo cabrio, and forfour citycars. Here we test the fortwo coupe, the only one of the trio that is isn't in its first generation of electrification.
Review by Chris Lilly
The Smart range all uses a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration, like a Porsche 911. That's where the similarity between the iconic sportscar and famous citycar ends though, because power from the motor under the boot floor is a rather more modest 60kW (82hp). This is good for a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds in the fortwo coupe ed - before topping out at 80mph - with that power and 160 Nm of torque going through an easy to drive single-gear transmission. Although these performance figures might sound rather modest, they do not give a true picture of how the Smart feels to drive. One benefit of an electric motor is the instantly available torque, and when combined with a small and lightweight car, pick-up at lower speeds feels rapid. Pulling out of junctions and away from traffic lights can be a hoot if you stomp on the accelerator, and the fortwo coupe feels far quicker than its sprint time suggests - at least at town speeds. Because of the Smart's regenerative system, braking is strong too as soon as you lift off. It's not quite flexible enough to one-pedal drive most of the time like a BMW i3 for example, but it does mean that you only need to put your foot on the brake when coming to a complete stop really. Stick to town driving and the fortwo coupe ed is in its element, buzzing along at any pace you feel like, and more than keeping up with traffic. Out on the open road, the urban focus becomes apparant at higher speeds, though having spent time doing the commute - which is mostly made up of dual carriageway and motorway sections - the fortwo coupe ed didn't struggle. It can cope with longer, faster stretches, but its performance is more comfortable at slower speeds.
Like the Smart's pace, the handling is tailored to urban areas. It's rather unsurprising this focus considering the car's design brief, but what is surprising is how well that brief is carried out. The combination of a short wheel base and wheels pushed into - and almost beyond - the corners of the car make for an agile little car. Add in the fact that the turning circle is tiny - just under 9m kerb-to-kerb - and the Smart fortwo ed is ideally suited to urban driving. Without an engine up front, Smart has been able to increase the amount of lock available to keep that turning circle as tight as possible, and it consistently offered a pleasant surprise while driving in tight areas. It's almost not necessary to complete a traditional turn-in-the-road with the Smart. The suspension is well set-up for the demands of town driving too, with a stiffness that maintains the car's agility and prevents too much lean from a relatively tall car. It's supple enough for most bumps and pot-holes too, though might be a little rigid for some. Steering is very as you would expect from a Smart, though this does mean the fortwo ed can become a little vague on faster roads. It never feels scary on the motorway, but there were times when added weight would have made me a happier driver.
Small, it's very small. But then that's good news for those living in a city, or who want a commuter runabout for short trips. There's no need for a larger car with lots of wasted space, and there is certainly none of that in the fortwo ed. The boot is tiny, but will easily hold a suitcase or some shopping, and there is some storage space behind the seats in the cabin too. Unmistakable a Smart, the fortwo ed looks just the same as a petrol version when you glance at it. Only elements such as an 'ed' logo on the rear pillar and 'electric drive' emblem on the bonnet give the game away, and the test car's white with green safety cell highlights is Smart's traditional electric drive colour scheme. Otherwise, the fortwo ed is normal - or as normal as a two-seater microcar can be.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior has a much more spacious feel than you might expect, which I'm not sure is as a result of clever packaging of the car's tiny proportions lowering expectations - I suspect a combination of both. The large doors allow for easy access, and the seats feel placed far back in the car - especially considering the 'one-box' shape meaning there isn't much of a bonnet to speak of. The cabin is essentially the same as the petrol powered model, with a small touchscreen infotainment system controlling most elements. The dashboard is pretty clutter-free which improves the amount of head, leg, and shoulder space available. Neither occupant is going to complain about a lack of space in which to sit, and thanks to the batteries placed in the floor, there is no impact in interior space because of electrification. You don't buy a fortwo as a spacious car, but the Smart works well with what it's got. The seats are comfortable, though don't offer much in the way of lateral support. This suits the car's driving strengths though, and you don't slide about as if on a bench seat. The main difference between the interior of a fortwo ed and petrol model is the instrument bubble that shows charge remaining and the amount of power being used.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Running costs are where the electric Smart really comes into its own, with charging costing very little - even for an electric car. The fortwo ed only has a limited range - officially 99 miles, though I found that 65-70 miles was a more accurate figure. To be fair, this is with motorway driving making up a fair proportion of my regular trip, and that's not sticking to the Smart's natural habitat. Run around town, and I was getting figures of 80-85 miles, which is more than enough for many urban drivers. With a small car and small range comes a small battery, just 17.6 kWh in fact. This is around half of the size of the current range of larger mainstream EVs on the market, halving charging costs. You're looking at about Â£2.50 for a full 0-100% charge at home, and often that will be less. Since the fortwo ed is full-electric, there will be no VED car tax to pay, either for the first year or standard rate.
The electric powertrain is obviously the greenest part of the Smart range, and with a quoted 12.9 kwh/100km, the fortwo does pretty well in terms of energy consumption. Using a Type 2 inlet, a 7kW on-board charger is standard on the Smart range, meaning charging at a higher-power home point or many public units will take just 2.5 hours for a 20-100% charge. There is no rapid charge capability, though a 22kW on-board charger will become available as an option in the future, reducing charging times to under an hour. Regenerative braking and an Eco button aid with efficiency too, topping up the battery under deceleration with the former, and restricting performance with the latter. Smart provides feedback on how economically you're driving, and there's also the ability to pre-condition the car while charging to reduce drain from the air-con while driving. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 20.
Standard equipment is generous on the fortwo ed, as it often is on electric models to help persuade buyers to overlook the higher initial price. Features such as 15-inch alloys and two-tone paint give the exterior a fairly premium look for such a compact car. Inside buyers get a multi-function leather steering wheel, leather upholstery, 3.5-inch digital instrument screen, electric windows, heated seats, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, smartphone compatibility, DAB radio, and Bluetooth/USB connectivity. The 7kW on-board charger is standard, and the two cables - one for =three-pin, the other for public points - sit in a stiff 'bag' which can't be closed, but holds the cables neatly and in a compact space. It's the best solution for cable storage I've seen so far, without having to mess about with a flexible bag and do it up again, or try and access under floor storage when there might be stuff in the boot. It's rigid enough to just stuff the coil cable into and not mess about - particularly handy in poor weather with the split-tailgate offering scant protection from the elements.
The Smart fortwo coupe ed is one of those cars that makes more sense as an EV than with a petrol engine. Those looking to cover distances long enough for the fortwo ed's relatively limited range to be be a deal-breaker shouldn't really be looking at a Smart full-stop - there are better options out there. So if you're looking at buying a fortwo, the ed is not only cheaper to run, it's better to drive. It's no less practical than a petrol model, but has better handling, improved performance - at least up to 40mph - and retains the rest of the Smart's traits that make it such a great citycar. For those looking to cover a lot of miles in town, the wait for the 22kW on-board charger option might be worthwhile to save time - half an hour will add 30-40 miles easily. And anyone wanting a smaller commuter car have only a less-comfortable Twizy or a moped to look at really. It's pricey, but the fortwo isn't just greener in ed trim, it's better overall, and could be perfect for some buyers.
Model tested: Smart fortwo coupe ed
Engine / CO2: 60kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Premium, Premium Plus
On-road price: From £16,920 (inc Cat 1 PiCG).
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage - Battery: Eight years / 62,500 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars