Smart cars were always intended to be fun cars and, having today driven the exact car that will go on sale next Spring, I can honestly say that the 2013 Fortwo Electric Drive is amongst the most fun electron-powered machines I've ever driven.
Smart have toyed with an electric version of their most popular model for five years now, and prototype models have steadily become more and more promising - so what's the production car like?
Very well rounded, at a glance at least. When put into 'D' there's a well executed artificial creep that's lacking in many electric cars and when you squeeze the throttle the 900kg chassis roles away crisply and with minimal fuss. Once up and running what becomes apparent is, firstly, the ease of driving - the electric Smart has a light steering rack endowed with a decent amount of feel that makes it easy to place on the road - and, secondly, the speed at which it takes off should you be in the mood. The electric Smart is an extremely nibble car.
It's spritely enough driven normally, but floor it and you'll trigger a kind of simulated kick-down reaction whereby the car summons a not inconsiderable surplus of power seemingly out of thin air, even at higher speeds of around 60mph. For this the Smart uses its total power output of 74bhp from the same 17.6kWh electric motor that sees it hit 60mph from rest in under 12 seconds. Top speed is just shy of 80mph but, until these cars are fitted with gearboxes that allow high-speed cruising at low revs, anything above 60mph will see the battery drain itself in short order and you won't get close to the car's specified range of 90 miles. The Smart can be fully recharged from a dometic socket in between 10 and 12 hours, although an express charge from 20-80% takes just 3.5 hours.
The Smart's interior, whilst cosy, spacious and accomodating of a usefully high driving position, is fairly spartan but ergonomically sound. A production car from Daimler was never going to match a car like the mia electric for sheer personality, but the Smart is still a nice place to be if you can get over the scratchy plastics.
Prices won't be announced for the UK until later this year, but a reasonable estimate is that the car will sell for around £15,000. Having driven this production Electric Drive, it's not hard to imagine how much fun one of Smart's now-imfamous oddball motor show concepts would be or, more importantly, that it might go on to be a phenomenally successful car.
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