An electrifying and smart choice

What the electric version has over the regular gasoline model is a much smoother delivery of power…

Which cars on the market today don’t I like?

It’s a question I’m often asked and one I struggle to answer. Today’s automobiles are made so well, there are no real turkeys. But – and there is always a “but” – there are certainly cars I like more than others and some I prefer not to drive.

The regular Smart ForTwo is one of them. The small dimensions are perfect as a city runabout but the lethargic gasoline engine and very choppy automatic transmission make it more work to drive than I prefer. Well, after driving the latest Smart ForTwo Electric Drive (Smart Electric) my mood has changed to the point that this might be the best little electric car for the city, it’s that good.

Looks

The Smart Electric looks like the regular Smart, with a compact little body that provides an amazing amount of interior space and a lot of crash protection on the outside. The exteriors of all the Smart Cars have been designed as a singular safety cage, called the Tridion Safety Cell. Other cars have exterior panels that absorb impacts the Smart’s exterior metal bits are the strongest part of the car. In crash tests, these tiny cars fare well. The Smart Electric, just like the gasoline version, is available as a coupe or cabriolet. Spotting a Smart Electric is a bit tricky; this is not like buying a Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt. No, this little dynamo blends right in. It is only a small decal on the side with the emblem of a plug or the subtle badge on that back that gives anything away.

Inside

My nine-year-old son Charlie really wanted to go for a ride not because it’s electric but because he had never been in a Smart Car before and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Since there are only two seats, he could place his seat back as far as he liked and had vast amounts of leg room. He also commented on the large cargo shelf behind the two front seats for storage. The cabin is tall and we both had a commanding view down the road.

The rest of the cabin is refreshingly simple. There are two bug-like gauges on top of the dash that indicate the batteries state of charge and if the car is drawing power or regenerating power when coasting or braking. The instrument cluster provides a simple trip computer displaying the vehicle’s electric range and an “eco” meter that helps the driver be more efficient.

Drive

Under the cargo shelf in the back is the Lithium-Ion battery pack that has 17.6kWh or roughly, a 135km range when fully charged. This little car can be quick too, thanks to the 96 ft.-lbs. of instant torque from the electric motor. This moves the car along quickly, but the throttle has been calibrated for smooth acceleration, helping the driver gain the best efficiency. I should point out that the high centre of gravity, short wheelbase and slightly choppy ride all combine to make a less than connected car in the corners, so be aware that this car can accelerate quickly but it will not corner quickly. What the electric version has over the regular gasoline model is a much smoother delivery of power. No more anemic gasoline engine and gone is the choppy transmission. The electric motor is smooth and refined.

Verdict

Once again, the Smart is a perfect of example of how to get the most out of a small space. The electric cord that connects the car to a 120-volt outlet is packaged into the tailgate of the car; in fact this is the best electric car packaging I’ve seen. Most companies just leave a bag in the trunk, while this system hides it all away. With a starting price of $26,990 for the coupe or $29,990, the Smart Electric is an expensive two-seat car but a bargain the electric world, the least expensive in Canada.

The regular gasoline Smart is really an inner-city runabout, which is why the electric version makes so much sense. With up to 138km of range, this Smart Electric will have more than enough range for existing Smart buyers and a great second car for any city family.

The Smart electric is now on my list of cars that I truly enjoy driving, the best Smart of the bunch.

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 55kW electric motor

Fill-up: 138km range on a single charge

Sticker price: $26,990-$29,990

One thought on “Car Review: An Electrifying and Smart Choice

    Mike Baker says:

    I like your review, Zack, since as the owner of a 2008 Smart ForTwo I’ve been eyeing the Smart electric for some time. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to justify the price, even after comparing the comparative 5-year cost of ownership between keeping my current Smart versus trading it in on a new electric (the goal being that I would see cost recovery over the five years). I still see the biggest barrier to going electric being the substantial additional cost of upgrading.

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