If you’re looking for a convertible electric car then the smart fortwo ed cabrio is your only choice; but does it make sense?
Electric cars are predicted to be increasingly popular as we head towards a future of lower emissions targets, but the take-up of EVs so far has been slow. We’ve had the Nissan LEAF and now we’ve got the Renault ZOE , both being five-seat pure electric cars. Is there a sufficient niche in the market for a two seater all-electric convertible?
The smart fortwo looks like it was originally designed to be an electric car, and in fact it was. However it’s taken 15 years to add a pure electric production version to the current petrol and diesel engined smart fortwo line-up.
Electric fortwos have in fact been around for a while – we tested a fortwo ed back in March 2011 – but the two previous generations of electric fortwos were undergoing trials, and weren’t available to buy. Smart now believes that the fortwo ed has completed enough testing, so you can now buy one – either in ‘coupe’ or ‘cabrio’ form.
The smart fortwo is obviously a car that is designed for the city
, and this is even more the case with the zero tailpipe emission electric drive version. So if you’re expecting a sports car driving experience, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Performance has been improved compared to the previous-generation development cars, but you still can’t describe it as rapid. Despite the lithium-ion battery pack fitting in the sandwich floor, meaning that the centre of gravity is actually better than the conventional models, with its tall, narrow and short shape the smart fortwo ed drives more like an electric dodgem car compared to the Renault Twizy , which drives more like an electric go-kart. But if you want the smallest possible ‘real’ car with the lowest possible emissions, then the fortwo could be the one for you.
As with all electric cars, the driving experience is quiet, smooth and refined. It’s also easy – there’s no clutch or gears, just slip the selector into drive and you’re off. There is one slight issue with doing this – the text showing which ‘gear’ you’re in is hidden on the far side of the selector. It does also show what drive mode you’re in on the dash, but this is a less intuitive place to look when selecting a gear.
The electric drivetrain is a huge improvement over the semi-automatic transmission in the petrol and diesel smarts, which feels like it takes an age to change gear.
The fortwo’s ride is fairly firm, to the extent that the sighting of potholes or speed bumps ahead causes feelings of alarm – something that’s not good for a car designed for urban use. You’ve also got the issue of the car’s front track being so narrow that it can’t straddle central speed bumps.
If you’re driving slowly in areas that are busy with pedestrians, then you need to be very aware that this car is virtually silent , and people are likely to walk out right in front of you.
The smart fortwo ed interior looks stylish, but the controls around the satnav screen are fiddly to use. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles. These are not for F1-style gear changes, but instead are to adjust the level of regenerative braking. There is a very, very small display in the instrument cluster showing a plus or minus sign based on which paddle you select. We’re not sure how many people are likely to use this feature.
The good news is that the smart fortwo ed doesn’t need any petrol or diesel, you just plug it in to your electricity supply to charge the battery. This means that it’s cheaper to run than a petrol or diesel car – it may cost you only £2-£3 for a full overnight recharge, depending upon your electricity tariff. This will give you an official range of 90 miles. However unlike refuelling with petrol or diesel, a full recharge can take 7-12 hours from a household socket.
Also, the official range of 90 miles will reduce if you drive it more enthusiastically than on the NEDC test cycle, and if the weather is cold and you need the heater on. All the above applied to our time with the car, so our ‘real-life’ range averaged around 60 miles.
The smart fortwo is
the ideal car for cities such as London
, however you need off-road parking to be able to recharge your smart fortwo ed at home – and off-road parking is something that not many London properties have.
Remember also that whilst the smart fortwo ed has zero tailpipe emissions, there are emissions involved in the generation of electricity to charge the car, unless you have a 100% renewable electricity tariff. Taking the electricity generation into account, we calculate the smart fortwo ed’s CO2 emissions to be approximately 77g/km (fast charge) or 82g/km (standard charge) based on average UK electricity supply.
The base price for the smart fortwo ed cabrio is £16,895 (after the government’s £5000 Plug-in Car Grant ). The basic specification is good and includes touch screen satellite navigation as standard. However our car had options such as LED daytime running lights (£265), smart sound system (£210), heated seats (£175), electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors (£130) and cupholder (£30), taking the total price to £17,705.
If you want the option of 1 hour fast charging you’ll need to specify the 22 kW on-board charger which costs £2,650, and a wallbox charger.
Most manufacturers offering electric cars are either selling customers the car and battery (more expensive) or renting the battery separately. Cleverly, smart is giving customers the choice, which reduces the initial purchase price to £13,400, plus £55 per month battery rental. If you do choose to rent the battery, smart is responsible for replacing the expensive battery pack if it degrades significantly at any time over a whole ten years, which offers great peace of mind.
If you don’t want a convertible, you can also buy the ‘coupe’ with an electric powertrain, which costs £15,395, or £12,275 plus £55 per month battery rental.
If you live in a city such as London and you want one of the smallest possible cars that’s easy to drive and has zero tailpipe emissions, then the smart fortwo ed is the one for you – if you can recharge it.
If you also like the thrill of open top electric motoring then the cabrio version literally has no competition. The smart fortwo ed looks stylish and the driving experience is basically similar to most other electric cars. However with only two seats and a real-life range of just 50-90 miles it has its limitations.
And as is the case with most electric cars, for the purchase price of the smart fortwo ed (£17,705 in the case of our test car), there are plenty of other good new cars that you can buy that don’t have the limitations of space and range. If you look at used cars, then you can buy some amazing cars for £18,000. Therefore, although the smart fortwo ed is in theory a very intelligent solution to the problems of space and pollution in today’s cities, due to its limitations it’s difficult to award it more than a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
The smart fortwo ed is probably best suited to carrying out its role as an electric hire car in cities such as London as part of the car2go smart Carsharing Service where it makes complete sense.