Reviews have not been kind to the Smart ForTwo. While the "is it, isn't it" automated manual transmission has received the lion's share of reviewers' ire, the less-than-stellar fuel economy for such a small car (34 mpg city, 38 mpg highway) has turned consumers away to vehicles with close mileage figures but more useable space like the Toyota Yaris (30 mpg city, 38 mpg). Smart looks to charge pass the competition by offering an electric model available in both coupe and convertible configuration.
Model and PriceOur 2013 Smart ForTwo EV starts at $25,750 which includes $750 in destination and delivery fee. Our vehicles came fully loaded, feature-wise: Smart has not yet announced details of additional packages at the time of this post. We did see several EVs sporting appearance packages, including at least one Brabus edition. A convertible model of the Smart ForTwo EV will also be offered, going on sale in mid-2013 with a starting price of $28,750. Like all EVs in the U.S., Smart ForTwo EVs qualify for a $7,500 federal tax incentives plus any rebates from the state.
Safety and Key FeaturesLike all Smart ForTwo subcompacts, the 2013 Smart EV protects its two passengers with a high-strength "tridion safety cell" which acts like a roll cage from race cars. Eight standard airbag protects passengers. Batteries are located underneath the vehicle, and the motor is designed to actually slide under the car in rear crashes. The NHTSA has not yet evaluated the Smart EV; the gas model has not been rated in frontal and side collision and only received 3 out of 5 stars in roll-over tests. The private IIHS, on the other hand, has given "Good" ratings to the Smart ForTwo in moderate front crash test, side impact, roof strength, and "Acceptable" in rear crash tests.
Family Friendliness and UtilityA child can easily enter and exit the 2013 Smart ForTwo EV, though the subcompact works best with two adults. Seat and dash are too close to fit backward facing baby seats in any ForTwo, though a forward-facing one should have no problem. Utility, of course, is limited in such a tiny car, especially in the trunk. We were able to fit the equivalent of a couple of duffle bags behind the seats. In the cabin, though, there's a lot of utility. There's a fairly useable alcove in the driver-side dash to store items and the lockable glove compartment box is adequate for storing larger items like small purses, wallets, and knickknacks. Netted pockets in the side doors can easily hold magazines and even an e-book or two, while the two cup-holders are useful for holding our waterbottles.
Comfort and QualityAll Smart ForTwo vehicles are surprisingly spacious for such a compact vehicle, and the Smart EV is no different. Even in the convertible we drove, a person over six feet tall can easily find plenty of headroom. Shoulder space is also excellent as well. Note the seats in the Smart are locked into the floor to maximize safety. What really surprised us is the improvement in quality of materials used and fit and finish in our Smart EV. We found such lacking in the gas-version, and were especially critical of the roof materials used. We had no such issues in the EV.
How it DrivesThe 2013 Smart ForTwo EV replaces the Smart's standard three-cylinder engine and five-speed automated manual transmission with a 55 kW electric motor and single gear transmission. The difference is night and day. The Smart EV zips smoothly from either a stop or navigating through traffic with nary awkward shifting from the gearbox. The regenerative braking is surprisingly aggressive in the Smart EV -- you could almost stop the car without touching the brake pedal. Finally, we found the suspension a bit on the stiff side in the ForTwo EV, the chassis transmitting road imperfections harsher than expected even in such a small car.
SummaryThe 2013 Smart ForTwo EV is what the Smart ForTwo should have been when it entered the U.S. market, specifically the transmission. Hopefully a similar system is on its way across the pond for gas-powered models. Otherwise, the Smart EV has all the advantages and disadvantages of its base model -- small size, easy to find parking, limited utility -- with those inherited from being an EV. Smart says the ForTwo EV has a range of 90 miles in Europe, which is estimated to be around 63 miles here in the States. That's on the low side for an EV when top-seller Nissan Leaf gets a real-world range in the low 70s. Also, the Leaf and competitors like the Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi i, and even the Coda sedan are larger and truly can fit four adults and most of their cargo. We're not sure the Smart EV's price tag of $25,000 -- currently the lowest in this segment -- is enough to entice buyers to overlook its size and low range.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $25,750
EPA City: 112 mpge (equivalent)
EPA Highway: 88 mpge (equivalent)
EPA Combined: 100 mpge (equivalent)
Cargo Space: 5 grocery bags
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Not Applicable
Estimated Combined Range: 63 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: N/A