smart ForFour Electric Drive Review

Find out more about the smart Forfour Electric Drive in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Fantastic around town
  • Well-equipped
  • Open to personalisation

Cons

  • Expensive
  • You can’t charge it using a rapid charger
  • Poor range
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model Review

The new Smart Forfour went on sale in 2014, and was built alongside the Renault Twingo. This means that it shares many of the French city car’s technology, including the engine and transmissions. The same platform was also shortened to create the Smart Forfour.

Thanks to its more practical four-seat layout, the Forfour is now Smart’s best-selling car – albeit there is only itself and the Fortwo in the range.

Smart added a premium twist to the Forfour with extra sound proofing, as well as some more premium trim and touches.

But in 2017 Smart decided to launch an electric version of the Forfour – named the Forfour Electric Drive (ED).

Latest Model

The Forfour ED is a new car, only launching last year. With half of it painted in distinctive green bodywork, it stands out from the standard model.

The main difference is, of course, that the engine has been replaced by a 17.6Kwh battery pack and electric motor that produces 81bhp.

Value for money

The Forfour ED is expensive car for the size of car it is, starting at over £16,000 – including the electric car grant. It does make up for this a little bit with a vast level of standard equipment, but it still makes it hard to justify compared to the Renault Zoe which is just as accomplished and far cheaper. As standard you get 15-inch alloy wheels, and a contrasting bright green strip painted around the car, as well as a white front grille. You also get heated leather seats, a panoramic roof and climate control.

On the infotainment front there is a seven-inch touchscreen that includes a Tom Tom satellite navigation, Bluetooth and MirrorLink smartphone compatibility. It does do without Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, though, two things that many rivals now have as standard.

There is only a limited number of Forfour EDs for sale on the used market, but there are savings to be made. We saw a 2017 model for sale with only 1,500 miles for £15,990. However, the fact you save £4,500 off the price of a new one thanks to the government’s plug-in car grant does push it awfully close to the price of a new one that has had the deduction.

 

Looks and image

The Forfour ED certainly has an eccentric look to it with the vibrant green body – if you would prefer this in a different tone you can pay a hefty £600 to have it in a less vibrant colour. The ED is also distinguishable thanks to its white wheels and grille, which shows that you are in something a little different to a standard Forfour.

Inside, it is vibrant and there is plenty of room for personalisation. It also has a joyful feel to it, something many electric cars lack. The Smart feels well-made, and the materials used are largely sturdy, minus the odd bit of cheap scratchy plastic.

The ride is a vast improvement on Smart vehicles of the past, with only large potholes feeling particularly crashy inside. It does lack a bit of stability, though, because of its skinny wheels and relatively tall shape. While the steering does feel far too light, it helps with the ridiculously tight turning circle that will come in very useful around towns and cities.

It does seem unsettled at speed however, where it is quite noticeably out of its comfort zone. The ride also seems particularly restless as soon as you out of town.

Space and practicality

Unlike other electric cars, the Forfour ED loses no practicality after electrification. It’s a small car anyway, though, so it didn’t have that much practicality to lose.

It has a small boot - offering just 185 litres. In contrast to this, the equally-compact Volkswagen e-Up has 250 litres of capacity. However, the relatively spacious rear seats do help to increase the practicality significantly once they are folded.

It’s not a big car, so while you could fit four adults in the rear (there isn’t a central rear seat), it would be a squeeze for any length of time.

When the non-electric Forfour was tested by EuroNCAP, it received four stars. Its highest rating was for adult occupation protection with a score of 78 per cent. This is due to the fact that occupants sit inside a ‘Tridion safety cell’ – a module designed to spread and absorb the impact of a crash for the benefit of the occupants.

If you are intending to use it as a family car, it wouldn’t be the most practical. It’s quite small, and only has four seats, limiting its versatility. If you are thinking of buying one as a family car, you would be best looking at the larger Renault Zoe or a used Nissan Leaf.

Power and range

A 60kW electric motor produces 81bhp and 160Nm of torque, and is joined by a 17.6kWh battery – vastly smaller than that fitted to the Renault Zoe. The performance figures are not impressive, with a 0-60mph time of 12.5 seconds and a top speed of 80mph.

It has a claimed range of just 96 miles, disappointing considering that the rival Renault Zoe boasts a quoted 250 miles between charges. Providing you rarely leave the city and have regular access to a charging point, though, this range should be adequate.

As for charging times, the Forfour ED will take two-and-a-half hours to charge from 20 per cent to full using a wallbox, while using a domestic power socket it will take six hours. Unfortunately you are not able to charge it using a fast charger, which does reduce its flexibility and usability particularly when covering long journeys.

Running costs

While the Forfour ED is quite expensive to purchase, it does recoup these costs when it comes to running it.

As it is fully electric, you won’t be paying to fill up at the pumps, while it qualifies for free road tax, as well as be exempt from many emissions-based road charges, such as the London Congestion Charge.

Both trim levels of the Forfour ED sit in insurance group 11, which does seem high for a car with this power output. That said, it is in a far lower grouping than the Renault Zoe is, which is placed in groups 15 to 17 depending on the version chosen.

Things to look out for

Surprisingly for Smart, it hasn’t had the best reliability record in the past – especially when it is regarded as a premium manufacturer. The brand (as a whole) has frequently come out near the bottom of reliability surveys.

Because only a few Forfour Electric Drives have been sold, it is hard to judge the common problems that have occurred. Owners of the standard Forfour have reported that the stop-start systems can be temperamental, as can the tyre pressure monitors.

Rivals

The Smart Forfour’s most direct rival is the Renault Zoe, which offers a far better range at a far cheaper price. Other than that, there is the smaller Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, a Nissan Leaf, a used BMW i3 and a used Volkswagen e-Golf.

Trims Explained

Just two trim levels are available on the Forfour Electric Drive – Prime Premium and Prime Premium Plus.

Prime Premium

Standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels, LED brake lights and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Bluetooth and satellite navigation. You also get a panoramic roof, heated leather seats, electric and heated door mirrors, and rear parking sensors.

Prime Premium costs from £16,915 – including the government’s plug-in car grant.

Prime Premium Plus

Prime Premium Plus adds convenience features such as a central armrest, ambient lighting and automatic lights and wipers. You also get LED headlamps, fog lights with cornering function and a reversing camera.

This trim level costs £17,510.

Summary

  1. Expensive compared to rivals
  2. Well-made interior
  3. Limited electric range
  4. Disappointing performance
  5. Disappointingly-sized boot
  6. Cheap running costs
  7. Quirky looks
  8. Lots of customisation options
  9. Reasonably well-equipped
  10. Great around town

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