The gasoline-powered coupe and convertible Fortwo models, making use of a 1-litre, three-cylinder engine rated at a modest 70 horsepower, managed some remarkably unremarkable EPA numbers: 34mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway. When mid-size sedans are averaging better fuel economy than a two-seat city car, an intervention seems in order. This year, however, the battery-powered Fortwo Electric Drive changes things for the better.
The car employs an electric motor that is good for 47hp and and 96 pound-feet of torque, with as much as 74hp on tap in pedal-to-the-metal “kickdown” mode. With a single-speed transmission driving its rear wheels, the car scoots to 60mph in a manufacturer-estimated 11.5 seconds – hardly neck-snapping, but a not-insignificant 1.3 seconds quicker than the gasoline car – and hums its way to a 78mph top speed. These figures will not put the Electric Drive on the Stig’s radar, but they are wholly appropriate for an urban runabout.
During a jaunt around busy, beachy Santa Monica, California, the electric Fortwo proved itself a cheeky companion. The Electric Drive (Smart calls it the “ED”, but most owners will likely dodge that dysfunctional descriptor) feels spry off the line and confident in urban traffic. A subtle low-speed sound generator keeps pedestrians on their toes, but otherwise, the car is whisper-quiet. The ride is unexpectedly supple as well, doubtless thanks to the Electric Drive’s additional 300 pounds, which brings the curb weight to a still-modest 2,100lbs.
The airy cabin has not changed much for EV duty. The instrument binnacle contains a host of EV-specific alerts, and a pair of battery-focused gauges — a state-of-charge display and a power-usage display — sprout from the dash top, supplanting the gasoline car’s optional tachometer and clock. And for drivers who wear their environmental consciousness on their sleeves, the Kinetic Green appearance package, a $850 option on this test model, adds a green and white livery with white wheels.
Smart claims the Fortwo electric is good for 90 miles on a full charge, well within the daily usage of most current Smart owners, and most US commuters for that matter. Plugged into a 240v outlet, the car’s lithium-ion battery pack will charge from zero to 100% in about 6 hours, although a more real-world scenario — a 20% to 80% state of charge — will take about 3.5 hours. The car includes charging cables for a 110v household outlet; charging that way will take a good deal longer.
Pricing for the ForTwo Electric Drive starts in the US at $25,750 for the coupe and $28,750 for the convertible, inclusive of $750 destination charge. That is a healthy bump from the gasoline-powered Fortwo, which can be had for $13,240, but Smart is quick to note that the Electric Drive’s sticker does not reflect tax incentives for purchasing a zero-emissions vehicle, which include a $7,500 federal credit and, in California, a $2,500 rebate. Daimler expects the French-built Smart Electric Drive to quickly account for 30% of its sales in the United States, an ambition that, considering the car’s undeniable charm – and its dynamic superiority over its gasoline-powered siblings – seems downright modest.
Vital stats: 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible
- Base price: $28,750, inclusive of $750 destination charge
- As tested: $31,425 (price does not reflect federal and state incentives for EV purchase)
- Drivetrain: 47-74hp electric motor; one-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive
- Major options: Technology package (surround-sound audio system, GPS navigation), $1600; Kinetic Green appearance package, $850; cruise control package, $225
Smart hosted BBC Autos’ test of the ForTwo Electric Drive at a “pop-up” store in an upscale mall in Santa Monica, California. The temporary store, which featured a chic living-room motif, tempted locals with free lattes and quick test drives, for 10 days in April. It was the first outpost on a tour of 11 green-minded US cities. Stops include Portland, Oregon (2-3 May); San Francisco (11-12 May); San Diego (18-19 May); Dallas, Texas (25-26 May); Atlanta, Georgia (1-2 June); Miami, Florida(8-9 June); Washington DC (15-16 June); Hoboken, New Jersey (22-23 June); Brooklyn, New York (29-30 June); and Chicago, Illinois (6-7 July).