2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Review: Nice, but niche
– Miami, Florida
Earlier this summer, a taste of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive whetted our appetite for small, electric cars. After launching a new generation of gas-powered two-doors late last year, Smart promised a follow-up to the popular ForTwo Electric Drive. EVs and city cars dovetail in their approach to sustainable transportation, and we’re happy to report that the best car to buy if you’re always looking for a parking spot is now even better – and greener.
Interestingly, It’s no longer a Tesla relative. The battery from the outgoing ForTwo Electric Drive was produced by Tesla; this time around Smart sourced a battery from an in-house supplier, Accumotive.
Like the model it replaces, the ForTwo Electric Drive is a two-door with two variations. The ForFour that we saw during our First Ride opportunity will not cross the pond to the United States. We traveled to Miami to finally get behind the wheel of the ForTwo Electric Drive and see if this is the sweet spot of the city car’s identity.
- It’s livelier than its 81-horsepower rating would suggest. In the city, the ForTwo Electric Drive comes into its own. It’s the perfect appliance for slicing and dicing through the tightest jams. Instantaneously available torque (118 pound-feet of it) makes it a lot of fun to push the ForTwo Electric Drive to the front of a stoplight line. It’s always fun to drive, even though it’s not a typical performance car. You can step on the throttle and extract all available power from the electric motor – all the time. It exemplifies the old adage that slow cars are meant to be driven quickly.
- Hell, it can turn lane changes into left and right turns! Ride quality is firm without being harsh, and there is far less body roll and buffeting from crosswinds than in the previous model. Making all of this possible is a lower center of gravity, courtesy of a battery pack mounted between the front and rear wheels, beneath the cockpit.
- Unlike some EVs, the ForTwo Electric Drive takes the plug-and-play approach to exterior design. Aside from some green-tinted cosmetic pieces, Smart’s EV looks relatively the same as any gas-powered ForTwo. Like every other Smart, the ForTwo Electric Drive can be customized with mix-and-match body panels.
- It’s still basically a city car. If you were expecting the new ForTwo Electric Drive to leapfrog the outgoing model in terms of range and functionality, think again. This second-generation model retains the shape and attitude of a city car, with range to match. Expect 70 to 80 miles per full charge – which now takes about three hours, down from six – which is in line with other non-luxury EVs. Using another way to think about it, this is not a 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt.
- That available range is hardly groundbreaking. Regardless of its intended competitive set, the ForTwo Electric Drive deserves to offer more range. In 2017, it’s not impressive, these days, to deliver fewer than 100 miles per charge. It would be one thing if the ForTwo Electric Drive were capable of Level 3 quick charging, but it is not.
- It’s surprisingly analog, in a futuristic segment. Despite the modern look and feel of the ForTwo Electric Drive, it has some old-fashioned touches. At a moment in time when even a base Mitsubishi Mirage has push-button start, the ForTwo Electric Drive is still key-driven.
Photos: Smart USA