smart Fourtwo Electric Drive Review

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

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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Quirky character
  • Fantastic in urban conditions
  • Cheap to own

Cons

  • Disappointing range
  • Noisy
  • Quite expensive
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review 

The Fortwo was where it all started for Smart in 1998, when Daimler decided to launch a unique take on the city car – although it was previously just known as the SmartCar.

The model has proved a hit for the brand, with the car now in its third generation. It remains solidly fixed to the roots that were part of its success, though, as it’s nippy, has two-seats, is premium and is full of character.

Smart actually launched an electric version of the Fortwo in 2013, with the second-generation model. For such a small city car, it made a lot of sense to make an electric version of it. With a measly 74bhp, it was never going to win any drag races, but it was easily fast enough for nipping around cities.

The third-generation model went on sale in 2015, at the same time as the brand's Forfour did. Both cars were developed alongside the latest Renault Twingo, which is unusually, for a car of its size rear-engined.

It didn't take Smart long before it decided to launch an electric version of this model.

Latest Model 

Electric motors were first dropped into the latest Fortwo last year. Like the naturally-aspirated versions of the Fortwo, the Electric Drive shares the same electrical underpinnings as the Forfour. This means it produces 81bhp and 115Nm of torque.

It also comes with the same green paint that covers half of the car – like on the Forfour - but if you want another colour you can pay to have it done differently.

Value for money 

Prices for the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive start from £20,920, which might seem expensive but you do need to remember that because it produces zero emissions, it qualifies for the government's £4,500 electric car grant, dropping the price down to £16,420. This makes it far more reasonable, although unfortunately it is still considerably pricier than the petrol version of the Fortwo is.

As standard you get equipment such as LED daytime running lights, leather seats, a seven-inch touchscreen and satellite navigation, as well as 15-inch alloy wheels and a leather gearstick and steering wheel.

Smarts have a general reputation of holding their value. They aren't hugely common and because they are desirable on the used market, it keeps values up. For the last-generation model, you can pick up a 2014 example for around £8,750.

If you are looking at the latest model, you are probably better off just buying a new Fortwo ED because of the hefty £4,500 government discount available on them. There are minor savings to be made – for example we saw a 2017 example for sale with 5,000 miles for £15,800. But in the grand scheme of things, these are minor savings to be made over a new model.

Looks and image

The Fortwo still retains the quirky looks that the original had, albeit now with a more modern and sophisticated approach.

To drive around the city it is fantastic. It’s nimble, easy to park and has a fantastic turning circle. While it might have a disappointing 0-60mph figure of 11.5 seconds, it actually feels much quicker thanks to the instant torque generated from the electric motor. It’s pretty brisk up to 40mph, though, which is what most people will be accelerating to in the city.

Out of town, though, it all begins to fall part a bit. The wind and road noise is hugely intrusive, although this might be due to the lack of noise from an engine. That said, other electric cars we’ve driven haven’t shared this problem. The interior quality is largely to a very good standard and gives it an upmarket image, which is good considering its upmarket price. There are a few scatchy plastics, but they are largely hidden.

Its small wheelbase doesn’t help to absorb bumps well, which does lead to quite a rough ride as it goes over them. As an urban runaround though, it’s forgivable.

Space and Practicality

If you tried to think of the least spacious cars on the market, there’s a good chance that the Fortwo would be at the top of the list.

It certainly should not be something that you consider as your next family car, with just two seats. It is reasonably spacious for such a small car. Visibility is also good thanks to big windows and a high driving position. The boot is actually surprisingly big for such a tiny car, with between 260 and 340 litres depending on if you load the rear space above the parcel shelf or not.

The Fortwo Electric Drive remains structurally the same as the petrol Fortwo, which received four stars when it was tested by EuroNCAP. It was always going to be tough for such a small car to receive a five-star safety rating, but it scored well on adult and child occupant safety – 82 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. It also features standard safety kit including autonomous emergency braking, crosswind assist, ABS and electronic stability control (ESC).

Engines

Just one powertrain is available on the Fortwo Electric Drive – a 60kW electric motor that produces the equivalent of 81bhp and 160Nm of torque, and is joined by a 17.6kw battery – it’s much smaller than that fitted to the similarly prices Renault Zoe, however. It is capable of getting from 0-60mph in 10.3 seconds and has a top speed of 80mph.

The Fortwo Electric Drive has a claimed range of 100 miles, which while not class-leading in any way, should be enough range for urban driving. The only problems will come when it comes to driving out of the city, when the range will drop quickly. It doesn’t help that you can’t charge the Fortwo with a rapid charger, meaning your only options are to charge it using a wallbox – where it can be charged from 20-100 per cent in two-and-a-half hours – or with domestic power socket where it will take six hours.

Running costs

The Fortwo ED will be a cheap car to run, thanks to its zero emissions and free tax. That means the only regular bill you will have is paying to charge, but this should only be a couple of pounds.

It is also exempt from numerous emissions-based traffic charges, such as the London Congestion Charge.

The Fortwo Electric Drive sits in insurance group 13, which is really quite high for such a small and low-powered car. Even its bigger brother, the Forfour, is placed in a lower group.

Things to look for

Smart hasn’t had the best reliability record in the past, which is disappointing for a manufacturer that prides itself on its premium image, as it frequently comes out near the bottom of reliability surveys.

Because of the few Fortwo Electric Drives – particularly the new model – that have been sold, little is known about the reliability of these models. Because the electric version does have less moving parts than the petrol Fortwo, you would expect it to be more reliable.

Rivals

The Smart Fortwo is almost in a class of its own, being one of very few two-seat city car. Its main rivals are the Volkswagen e-Up! and Renault Zoe. At the cheaper end of the spectrum you have the Renault Twizy, which is technically a two-seater but is not labelled a car, rather a heavy quadricycle. You could also look at a one-year-old Nissan Leaf, which will come in at a similar price to the Fortwo Electric Drive.

Trims Explained

There are two trim levels are available on the Fortwo Electric Drive – Prime Premium and Prime Premium Plus.

Prime Premium

Prime Premium costs from £16,420. Standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and brake light, a leather gearstick and steering wheel, and black leather upholstery.

It also gets a seven-inch touchscreen with MirrorLink, Bluetooth, satellite navigation and an electric charger finder.

Prime Premium Plus

Prime Premium Plus is definitely tailored towards comfort. You get full LED lights front and rear, ambient interor lighting, a centre armrest, fog lights with cornering function, a rear-view parking camera and rain sensing wipers.

This trim levels costs £17,015.

Summary

  1. Fantastic city car
  2. … But flawed everywhere else
  3. Limited electric range
  4. Not fast-charger compatible
  5. Well-equipped
  6. Strictly a two-seater
  7. A little bit expensive
  8. Lots of wind noise
  9. Cheap to run
  10. Quirky looks

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