2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Those who enter the car market intending to go electric have more and better choices than ever, reducing the odds that they’ll just give up and buy a fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered model instead. But what about the other way around, the shopper who goes into the dealership expecting to buy a gas car and winds up choosing an EV? Will that ever happen?

Eco-minded city dwellers may be interested in the Smart Fortwo, a specific answer to the tiny question. There is nothing like it on U.S. roads today: two doors, two seats, three itty-bitty cylinders, and casting a shadow not much larger than a can of tuna. It looks so much like it should be electric that owners probably grow tired of telling people that, no, it does, in fact, burn gasoline. So it’s a neat reversal that those thinking about the latest Fortwo might find it worth waiting until spring and snatching up the new version of the battery-powered Smart, the Electric Drive, a name unfortunately shortened to ED.

Yes, the $35K Chevy Bolt is more of a car than any other affordable electric (our last roundup was back in 2014, in which the previous ED finished sixth of six), but hear us out. While the gas-burning Smart is certainly capable of long-distance travel, that isn’t what it’s designed for, and few use it that way. It is a city car. Smart estimates an EPA-rated range in the ED of 70 to 80 miles—a distance that for many drivers would be more than adequate for urban use. And it will be a major bargain when the rebate dust settles. Pricing isn’t finalized for the U.S., but the European ED costs about 15 percent less than the car it replaces, so we expect it to start at about $23,000 before any credits are factored in.


The new Electric Drive variant does everything the gas-powered coupe can do, except for restoring its driving range in a couple of minutes at a gas station. The onboard 7.2-kW charger—a significant improvement over the previous ED’s 3.3-kW unit—can replenish the 17.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack from zero to 80 percent in 2.5 hours. That battery pack, designed by Smart and built by Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotive, is the same capacity as before because increasing its size would raise the ED’s cost. The second-generation U.S.-market Fortwo saw a lot of beneficial updates for 2016 that transfer directly to the 2017 ED, most notably a real automatic transmission and 4.1 inches of additional width. This makes the Smart smoother to drive, a skosh roomier, and altogether more palatable. No longer does the driver rub shoulders with the passenger as if they were crammed into coach-class airplane seats; there’s even a center armrest that’s wide enough to share. The cabin is sufficiently airy that you’ll forget there are only a few inches of car behind the driver’s seat until you head-check for a lane change, when you’ll remember that you don’t need a lot of checks because the visibility and mirror positioning give great views from all angles. Read more...

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30 Dec 2016