Smart ForTwo ED

Styling

The two-seat Smart ForTwo is one of the smallest cars on American roads. Measuring just over 106 inches from tip to tail, and a shade under 62 inches tall and wide, the small EV is small enough to occupy the smallest of spaces, from gaps in busy rush-hour traffic to overcrowded parking lots.

When the diminutive Smart ForTwo was first introduced in the United States nearly a decade ago, it assumed a somewhat novel cult status—because it was so different from anything else on the street. But with dismal press reviews and anemic sales, the odd looks of the stubby pipsqueak Smart soon started looking goofy. That image persists today—even as four inches of width were added a couple of years ago. You have to want to make a bold statement to drive a Smart—and frankly, it’s hard to know what that statement is. Small is beautiful? I don’t mind living with compromises? Perhaps Smart’s shift to exclusively focus on electric cars will lend a green tint to its persona.

The Smart does have a cute, urban chic. The base-level Pure trim offers a two-tone color palette with 10 color choices against a black frame—and LED daytime running lights. The mid-range Passion coupe offers the same color choices while adding grille options and three choices for interior schemes: orange on black, white on black, or black on black. The top of the line Prime trim adds black leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, and honeycomb taillights.

Performance

According to reviewers, the latest all-electric Smart drives better than the outgoing gas-powered versions. Like most electric cars, the Smart Electric Drive is very quiet and smooth—and despite its slightly wider profile, it remains very maneuverable and manageable in crowded urban environments. “The Smart is the perfect city car,” said Dr. Annette Winkler, the chief executive of Smart. “We are looking forward to the unique driving fun offered by the new Smart Electric Drive, and at very attractive prices.”

The new 2017 model of the Smart Electric Drive is slower than its predecessor—using an 81-horsepower electric motor to reach 60 miles per hour in more than 11 seconds. Its top speed is 81 mph. That’s pretty leisurely, yet auto reviewers say that the small EV has enough power for passing other vehicles in the city. However, at low speeds, the steering duties can be a chore—and despite improvements in handling the car is not well-suited to highway driving.

Efficiency/Range

The driving range of the 2017 Smart Electric Drive fell by 10 miles to just 58 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That breaks down to a city range of 63 miles and a highway rating of 51 miles.

That means the Smart Electric Drive has the shortest driving range among all EVs. For some drivers, 58 miles will be sufficient for an ultra-small two-seat commuter vehicle. But that will undoubtedly limit its use except for very predictable local trips.

Charging

The 2017 update of the Smart ForTwo ED offers a faster 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger, which roughly cuts refueling time in half compared to the previous model. As a result, you can add about 25 miles of range for every hour of charging at 240 volts—bringing a fully depleted 17.6-kWh battery pack to full capacity in about 2.5 hours.

Passenger/Cargo Room

Smart ForTwo ED

There is extra height needed to give the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive room for its battery pack under the floor. That height also gives the driver a somewhat commanding view of the road ahead, increasing visibility and managing urban maneuvering with ease. However, tall drivers likely will find the roofline a little too cramped. Our reviewer at 5’10” was less than an inch from the Smart ForTwo Coupe’s roof-mounted roller blind.

Seat adjustments for driver and passenger seats are manual, with little or no lumbar support and no lateral support. Combined with the non-adjustable steering wheel, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive isn’t a car best suited to long hours of driving—which are difficult anyhow, given the car’s limited range. Smaller drivers may find themselves stretching to operate the large center-mounted infotainment system.

Inside, you’ll find a state-of-charge meter and power gauge. The ForTwo Electric Drive’s standard equipment includes a stereo with a USB port and auxiliary jack. There are two optional stereos and an optional navigation system. The interior materials have a modicum of style but feels somewhat cheap.

Safety

Historic safety ratings for the Smart ED by major testing organizations, if put on an academic report card, would be a B-minus at best. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted four out of five stars on most of its tests, although the Smart—with its rugged safety cage—managed five stars on the side crash test.

The Smart Electric Drive performed slightly better on tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The two-seat Smart EV got a “Good” on most of the measures—IIHS’s highest level—but slipped on rear crash protection, in which an “Acceptable” rating was given.

We recommend a sniff test. If you are seriously thinking about a Smart Electric Drive, then take it for a brief test run on the highway alongside 18-wheelers to see if you feel safe in the pint-sized car.

Price

For 2017, the starting price of the Smart Fortwo electric drive was reduced by $1,200 to $23,800 before incentives. The price climbs as high as $26,640 for the Prime trim with 15-inch wheels, leather upholstery, and a panoramic sunroof. According to Automotive News, the company is offering lease deals as low as $109 a month for 2017 models.

Sales of the Smart Electric Drive have steadily declined in the past three years. Daimler sold 2,594 units of the Smart Electric Drive in 2014—the first full year of sales for the small two-passenger electric car. Since 2014, sales slipped to 1,387 in 2015; and 657 units in 2016.

Comparisons of Similar Cars

It’s hard to find a fair electric car comparison with the Smart Electric Drive, which is the only two-seat battery-powered model on the market.

It could stack up with the recently discontinued Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but while both cars have similarly low range, power and price, the Smart (once again) can only seat two, ever.

Smart ForTwo ED

The Fiat 500e is also a diminutive electric car but offers 84 miles of range (compared to 58) and from our perspective has better styling. At the end of the day, the one distinguishing feature of the Smart ED—which cannot currently be matched by any other EV—is a convertible top. If you are willing to make other compromises for fresh air, then head down to a participating Smart dealership.

Purchase Process

In February 2017, the Smart automotive brand said it would exclusively focus on making and selling pure electric cars. The surviving dealerships are located in California, New York, and other states with zero-emission vehicle mandates. Daimler executives said they expected to see dealerships remain in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Portland, Ore. Production of gas-powered Smart cars for North America was reportedly halted in April, as the company makes a shift to selling only electric vehicles. With that change, and in what appears to be an unwinding of its US presence, Smart’s 85 dealerships will be reduced to only 27 locations.

Smart Electric Drive specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $23800
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Coupe
Seats: 2
EPA Range: 58 miles pure electric
Battery size: 17 kWh
Charging rate: 7.2 kW

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