What is it?
Although we’re now seeing electric vehicles that can top 300 miles between charges, it still feels like the city is their best environment, where journeys are short and regenerative braking happens often. And when it comes to city cars, few can beat the Smart Fortwo.
It was therefore no surprise when the German firm stopped selling petrol versions and switched to all-electric. A few years on from that decision, and with electric vehicles becoming ever-more commonplace, is the Smart EQ Fortwo still an appealing concept, or has time and increased competition made rivals more enticing?
The electric models continue the cute and funky styling that we’ve come to know and love in the Smart range, while the battery now comes with a 22kW on-board charger as standard, meaning a 10-80 per cent charge can take just 40 minutes.
It also gets an enhanced specification that gives the Smart a subtly premium appeal and makes it feel like even better value for money, considering it’s one of the most affordable electric vehicles on sale.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Fortwo is powered by a single electric motor on the rear wheels. It makes 82bhp and drives the rear wheels only through a single-speed gearbox. While that doesn’t sound like a great deal, bear in mind the Smart’s tiny proportions, which keep weight low and ensure the electric motor can provide exciting bursts of acceleration when required.
The battery is a 17.6kWh battery, which again, doesn’t sound like much. The relatively small capacity is the downside to having such a small car, but considering the size it actually has a decent range of 80 miles – though this does make it strictly a city car.
What’s it like to drive?
It’s always a surprise when jumping into a Smart, because the view forward feels more like a small supermini than the tiny urban runabout it actually is. Once out in city traffic the Fortwo comes into its own, its agility making even heavier traffic a breeze. And nothing matches it for parking. Driving in town also maximises range as braking tops up the battery a little each time.
However, take it out of its element and Smart starts to lose its appeal. It feels a little nervous at higher speeds, meaning short dual carriageway sprints are fine but longer motorway journeys are less relaxing. High speed runs also drain the battery, meaning that 80-mile range quickly drops… you really need to stick to the local area in the Fortwo.
How does it look?
The styling looks absolutely fantastic, with the Fortwo really growing into its dimensions in recent years. The first generations looked unique but a little top-heavy, however the newest models are well proportioned with stylish details.
Soft edges give it a fun appearance, while the new LED daytime running lights offer a distinctly modern touch. The latest models also get the front bumper and grille painted in the body paint colour, while the rear has a chunky look with halogen tail lights.
What’s it like inside?
While it doesn’t feel as small as you’d expect inside, there’s no denying the Fortwo is tiny and doesn’t offer much in the way of practicality. It’s also not the most comfortable car thanks to an unsupportive seat, though you sit quite high, giving a decent view of the road.
Although there’s plenty of premium appeal from the outside, it doesn’t totally extend to the inside. There are some nice plastic accents that can add a splash of colour, and the touchscreen is decent if you plug your phone in, but otherwise it does feel quite cheap inside. If you’re wondering where some sacrifices have been made to keep the Fortwo’s price down, it’s here.
What’s the spec like?
There are currently two trim levels on offer, starting with Premium, priced from £21,345 (after the plug-in car grant is deducted). This includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic roof, fabric upholstery, heated seats, and digital radio.
Step up to Exclusive, priced from £22,495 (after PiCG), and you also get LED headlights, leather upholstery, and enhanced safety and driver assistance systems.
Each model is also available in two-tone paint, with the body panels able to be painted a different colour to the ‘Tridion’, which wraps around the car. White with black is the free option, with six other body panel colours available for £250 and five Tridion colours that range from £225 to £275.
If you live in a big city and rarely leave the local area, the Smart Fortwo is a fantastic option. It’s quick and agile, making it ideal for urban areas, while its tiny proportions make it easy to park. Its small battery means charging doesn’t take too long, either.
The short range makes it a no-go for anyone who does longer journeys, though. Meanwhile, it might be low cost compared to many larger rivals, but the Fiat 500 has gone electric too, and offers a nicer interior with more space for a similar price.
As a quirky alternative the Smart EQ Fortwo is ideal, but for many its very specific abilities will rule it out.