GRR

The Goodwood Test: Smart ForTwo Cabrio Electric Drive

30th July 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

We all know the Smart ForTwo but did you realise there have been electric ones for a decade now? Kicking off with a trial of 100 ForTwo Electric Drives in London in 2007, Smart has been developing its electric fleet for some time. After the London trial, a limited number of cars were sold to customers around the world, the third-generation ED dominating the electric market in Germany and forming the backbone of the 1,400-strong Car2Go rental fleet, amassing over 20 million miles in the process. You can now buy fourth-generation Electric Drive versions of all Smart models, making it the first manufacturer in the world to offer electric variants of its entire combustion-engined range. 

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Design

The Smart’s layout is well suited to conversion to electric power, the battery fitting under the floor and the direct drive electric motor replacing the conventional internal combustion engine and gearbox under the boot floor. Weight gain is just 20kg over an equivalent petrol-powered Cabrio with the Twinamic automatic gearbox. From inside you’d never know you were in an electric version, bar the replacement of the pod-mounted rev-counter with a battery and range gauge. Obviously, the electric motor won’t make much noise but if you feel the need to do so visually you can specify an Electric Drive Design Package for £595 which paints the steel structure and mirrors in a unique ‘Electric Green’ shade.  

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Performance

If you’ve driven a regular Smart ForTwo you’ll know throttle response and gear changes aren’t especially spectacular. The three-cylinder turbocharged engines have a lot of lag and the automated gearboxes – though now improved with a twin-clutch design – are a little slow-witted. Binning them and fitting a direct-drive electric motor with instant torque and no need to change gear seems like a brilliant move. And it is 80bhp is just 9bhp down on the more powerful petrol-engined ForTwo Cabrio and the ED has more torque, delivering its 118lb ft as soon as you press the pedal. Range is 96 miles officially (about two thirds of that in reality) and plenty for city driving. Performance is, well, electric and the more enjoyable with the roof down. 

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Passion

Hugely popular in crowded European cities, the Smart ForTwo hasn’t quite captured the imagination of British drivers in the same way despite a quietly passionate following. The adaptability to electric power just goes to show how ahead of its time the original concept was though. That the ForTwo requires so little compromise to switch to electric power finally makes sense of it. If you were chucking £100 a month of fuel into a regular one you’d need two and half years to claw back the £2,795 premium over a 90bhp automatic petrol ForTwo Cabrio (the ED is £18,560 with the £4,500 OLEV grant) but the electric Smart makes sense for more than just the number crunching.  

Price tag of our car: from £18,560 (Smart ForTwo Cabrio Electric Drive with £4,500 OLEV grant deducted)

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