Production Honda e, new Zoe and all‑electric Smart range revealed
The petrol-powered Smart car is no more. With new EQ versions of the Fortwo and Forfour microcars announced this week, Smart becomes the first manufacturer to switch from combustion engines to electric powertrains across the board.
The new Smarts join a fast-expanding array of cars that prove that electric models don’t have to be big, fast and expensive. 2,000bhp hypercars are great but electric cars can also be small, slow and cheap, relatively speaking at least, and designed more for everyday driving in the real world.
Two more battery babies also revealed this week prove that point – and show that electric car wars at the affordable end of the market are really about to hot up.
We have seen the Honda e before – most recently at Goodwood when a prototype took on the hillclimb at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard. The pictures of it you see here show the car final production form. Nope, it hasn’t changed much at all and still looks fresh and cute.
We have also seen the Renault Zoe before. It would be a great surprise if we hadn’t, with 10,000 of them now sold in the UK and 150,000 of them across the Channel, making it Europe’s best-selling electric car. But you haven’t seen this one before: the version announced today is the third-generation Zoe and, such is the fast pace of electric car development, is substantially different from Zoe MkI of seven years ago.
The Honda e, Renault Zoe and electric Smarts – plus a whole lot more besides – are jostling for position ahead of next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show and the start of UK sales as early as January 2020. A good time then to look at what we know about what are among the most affordable electric cars on the market.
The 2020 Fortwo (two-seater coupe and cabrio) and Forfour (four-seater) models have been restyled and had a mobile phone-based digital makeover along with their exclusively electric powertrains.
Smart has had battery models as part of its range since 2007 and it is the 82bhp electric motor from those cars that carries on in the revised models. So while the look may be new and connectivity may be revolutionised, performance and range are the same as before.
There are three trims – Passion, Pulse and Prime – and three equipment packages, Advanced, Premium and Exclusive. Add choice of body colour and, says Smart, the car is fully customisable in three simple steps. No prices yet but the old Smart EQ cost from around £21k after the government’s £3,500 electric car grant.
Claim to fame: everything about it is on the small side.
This car’s protracted arrival since the Urban EV concept was first shown at the Frankfurt show two years ago isn’t over yet. The car shown here may be exactly as it will appear in the showrooms – not too different from that 2017 concept, suicide doors apart – but there are still plenty of question marks over it, not least of which is how much it will cost.
Funky design, plenty of hi-tech – just look at that amazing dashboard – and twice the power of the Smart mean it will likely be far from the most affordable of compact electric cars. Pop-out door handles, digital cameras for rear view mirrors, that array of touch screens, “Ok Honda” voice activated personal assistant – all thought to be standard – do not come cheap.
Claim to fame: that five-screen full-width digital dashboard makes other compact cars look archaic.
Zoe has always been pretty in a conventional way but the new one builds on that with a rather more dynamic look, and a much improved and better-connected interior.
The dash is no match for the Honda’s, but with a customisable 10-inch TFT instrument cluster as standard and 9.3-inch multimedia screen as an option it’s all a lot more with it. Standard goodies include LED headlamps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while go for the Iconic or GT models and you get wireless smartphone charging.
The electrics have been upgraded too, now with two motor options and a much bigger-capacity battery for more power and longer (said to be class-leading) range. There’s also a new regenerative braking mode for single-pedal driving.
Claim to fame: Zoe is the most affordable electric car – if you lease the batteries instead of buying them, in which case prices start from £18,670.