The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive (ED) is now in its third generation. However, while previous versions of the car were leased in small numbers to selected companies, this new model is available to everyone.
Drivers of previous versions reported that acceleration was too sluggish, the batteries took too long to charge and the top speed was too low, which is why the latest ED has been improved in all of these areas.
The electric motor has been upgraded to a more powerful 74bhp unit. The charging time of the lithium-ion battery has been cut to seven hours (or just one hour from a rapid charger), and the car's top speed has been raised to 78mph.
The ED has an official range of 87 miles, although using the heater, lights, radio or even driving the car in cold weather will shorten the real-world range by some distance.
What's the 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive like to drive?
The ED is quick off the mark and has no problem keeping up with traffic in town and on short stretches of dual carriageway – although fast driving significantly reduces the range.
The 74bhp motor can power the Smart from 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds. The electric motor is also extremely quiet, with only a faint electrical whine when the accelerator is pressed.
There are no gears, meaning the ED is easier to drive than other versions of the Fortwo, which rely on a jerky semi-automatic gearbox.
The electric Smart is most at home in urban areas. Its small size allows it to fit into parking spaces that other drivers would shy away from. However, the low-speed ride is an issue.
The Smart has never had the smoothest of rides, but the ED is even more uncomfortable because of its stiffer suspension. This is needed to cope with the extra weight of the batteries.
You feel every bump, and this gets extremely irritating on longer journeys on poorly maintained roads.
The ED's regenerative brakes also take some getting used to; they're quite snatchy, making it tricky to reduce your speed smoothly.
What's the 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive like inside?
The cabin is almost identical to that of the conventionally powered Smart. It has clear dials, large buttons and room for two six-footers. Wide-opening doors make it easy to get into and out of, and the 220-litre boot is a similar size to a Fiat Panda's.
The charging cable fits in a compartment in the bootlid, so doesn't take up precious space.
Once inside, you might find it tricky to get comfortable because neither the driver's seat nor the steering wheel can be adjusted for height.
The Smart Fortwo ED has plenty of equipment, with air-conditioning, a touch-screen sat-nav and Bluetooth all fitted as standard. Options include heated seats, leather trim and cruise control.
The ED's smartphone app also allows you to check the level of battery charge, set the air-conditioning and locate charging points.
Should I buy one?
There are two ways of buying a Smart Fortwo ED. You can either buy the car and the battery outright, or you can buy the car and lease the battery.
We recommend the second option. You'll pay £12,275 for the hardtop version or £13,400 for the Cabrio and a further £55 a month for the battery. This way you won't be liable for any problems with the battery, and the leasing contract is easily switched to the new owner if you decide to sell on the car.
If you do want to buy both the car and the battery together, you'll pay £15,395 (including the Government grant) for the coupe and £16,895 for the Cabrio. The battery pack has a three-year guarantee.
Either way, the ED is a pricey alternative to a petrol-powered city car such as a VW Up, and is nowhere near as comfortable or as practical.
However, the Smart will appeal to city dwellers who are more concerned about their eco-credentials than saving money. Those buyers will benefit from lower running costs, free parking in some towns and exemption from road tax and the London Congestion Charge.
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