2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabriolet
ForFour ED won’t be coming to the US at all. So, that’s that. But its smaller brothers the ForTwo and the ForTwo Cabrio will. And, believe it or not, you should be excited because of that. These two may well be the most perfect city cars the world has ever seen. Picture it like this – they are comfy, not cute, are serious in some strange sense, Daimler builds them and they do not consume petrol or diesel AT ALL. Furthermore, they are easy to park, easy to maintain and easy to live with from day to day basis. These cars have more sense than ever before.
U.S. Census Bureau published a paper back in 2014 about driving habits of US drivers. 76 percent of them drive ALONE to work and back and drive alone far more often than with a passenger. Just try to wrap up your head around this. If, hypothetically, half of them would use a car like this, the world would look much different. At least Antarctica would. It is not any better in other major cities in the rest of the developed world either.
At $28,750 before any possible incentives, the cabrio isn’t cheap, but the Smart never has been. Still, the Electric Drive’s price represents a big jump over the outgoing, gasoline-powered cabriolet, which stickered for $19,650, at least before Smart decided to drop its gas-powered models from the U.S. market.
Anyway, this car is about being first away from the stoplight (to everyone else’s surprise), enjoying and taking in the city, snatching the last parking spot in front of the café, and looking stylish—or nerdy, depending on one’s perspective. The Fortwo executes all of this perfectly. The new model looks beefier than the outgoing one, and there are myriad individualization options: The range of colors is vast, and the Tridion safety cell—a part of the unibody that’s made visible through the sheetmetal—can be painted to match the rest of the car or in a contrasting color.
The mid-mounted, 80-hp electric motor produces a substantial 118 lb-ft of torque and punts the colorful gumdrop to 60 mph in 11.7 seconds, says Smart. That sounds slow, but the Smart is especially quick off the line. Top speed is governed at 81 mph; it could go faster, but higher speeds would severely cut into the range.
No car parks more easily than a Smart—and not just because of its diminutive 106.1-inch length. The turning circle is a remarkable 22.8 feet. The target was to beat the Scion iQ; Smart had been embarrassed by the fact that the iQ had a smaller turning circle than the last-gen Fortwo. The iQ has since been taken off the market (as has the Scion brand), but Smart buyers still benefit from the competitive spirit that went into engineering the new model.
The electrically assisted power steering offers very little feedback from the road surface, and its strong self-centering action reminds us of old Citroëns. Of course, a city car needn’t be a racer, but we think that a little tweaking could improve the feel quite a bit. At least the suspension is quite comfortable, although with such a tiny wheelbase, it seems to hop over any bumps taken with excessive zeal. The brakes (front discs/rear drums) also feel rather artificial.
Smart says that the Fortwo can go 70 to 80 miles before it needs to be recharged. It must spend three hours connected to a 240-volt outlet for a full charge; the alternative is 16.5 hours at a 120-volt household plug.
Is Electric-Only a Smart Move?
While it’s evident that this tiny convertible is a great city car, what’s less clear is whether it works as a full replacement for the gasoline-powered Smart. Sold alongside the now defunct gas models, the electric Smarts accounted for only 19 percent of the brand’s total U.S. sales from 2014 through 2016. Management hopes to convert a high proportion of the other 81 percent, plus bring in lots of new customers.
One customer who won’t come along is Wayne Wilson. The 44-year-old consultant from Brooklyn is a repeat Smart customer. He was one of the first to get the current model, which fits his needs perfectly: Zipping around Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Prospect Heights neighborhoods, he can find parking virtually anywhere. He also likes to take his Smart beyond the city limits in the summer.
With the electric model, range would become a concern—and the Smart’s unique advantage will disappear. “I bought a Smart to be able to park anywhere and at any time, but electric plugs are next to nonexistent in my neighborhoods,” says Wilson. And, he adds: “I am not buying a car for the future that will be coming some day. I am buying it for now.”
The problem may be the price. Actually, the price is going to be a problem. Take into account that the current electric Smart ForTwo costs 25 grand while the Cabrio reaches the price of more than 27 grand. This means that the new one has to be at least two grand more expensive. In that case, the based ForTwo Cabrio RD would touch 30 grand. And this is Audi A3/Mercedes-Benz CLA money. If, in an alternate universe, the price for such a machine would drop to, say, 15 grands, we are sure, streets would be teeming with it. But that is in an alternate universe.