What Car? says...
If ever a car was destined to be electric, surely it’s the Smart EQ Fortwo – a tiny two-seater that's most at home in clogged, smogged cities.
The Fortwo lets you avoid the ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) charges in London and other cities for a start. Its famed ability to park nose-to-kerb will also appeal to anyone who's ever spent what feels like hours hunting around for a suitable space.
On top of that, the UK charging infrastructure is gradually improving, so using an electric car is getting easier to manage, whether your main journeys are to get to work, go shopping or do the school run.
Other than the even shorter Citroën Ami, little else matches the Fortwo's dinky proportions, but the closest rivals for size and price are the Fiat 500, Mini Electric and Volkswagen e-Up. The Fortwo comes in Coupé and Cabrio form, both with two seats, so if you need four seats, find out about its bigger sibling in our Smart EQ Forfour review.
This Smart EQ Fortwo review will help you decide which small electric city car best meets your needs, comparing it with its key rivals in all the important areas. We'll cover performance, handling, interior quality, electric range and more, and let you know whether the Fortwo's running costs are as tiny as the vehicle itself.
When you've decided which make and model of car to buy, make sure you get it for the best price by searching our free What Car? New Car Buying service. It's a good place to find the best Smart car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Right, let’s answer that burning question right from the off: how many miles of range will you get out of a Smart EQ Fortwo on a full battery charge? Officially, Smart says 81 miles, but in reality you’ll struggle to match that, even if you stick to where it’s most efficient: in town.
We managed just 59 miles in our Real Range tests, which replicate real-world driving on a mix of roads. To give you some context, the Mini Electric will officially do up to 145 miles, although you're likely to get less in reality.
What about traditional performance figures? The 80bhp electric motor, juiced up by a 17.6kWh battery, is quiet, smooth and, in typical electric car fashion, effortlessly quick from the get-go. The moment you put your foot down there's an instant hit of shove from the motor that makes it feel far zippier around town than its 0-62mph sprint time of 11.6sec (11.9sec in the Cabrio) suggests.
Even so, there are quicker rivals out there, with the Fiat 500 sprinting to 62mph in 9.6sec and the Mini Electric in 7.3sec. The Fortwo also feels less adept at motorway driving than those rivals, and its rate of acceleration drops off markedly the nearer you get to its top speed of 81mph.
Electric vehicles can feed energy back into the battery when you slow down, which is great because it recovers power that would otherwise be lost. Unfortunately, it can also lead to an inconsistent-feeling, grabby brake pedal. The Fortwo is not immune to that, but it's not as bad as in some cars, and you find yourself adjusting to it with time.
It drops behind its main rivals when it comes to handling and comfort. While the Volkswagen e-Up manages bumps better than even some more expensive cars, the Fortwo jiggles and jostles around over pretty much every imperfection the road throws up.
This is more an annoyance than a significant fault, but you’ll definitely notice the lack of comfort over sharp speed bumps. It does feel more settled the faster you go, though.
The e-Up also exhibits greater dynamism along twisty roads, with more direct steering and less body lean, but the ForTwo pulls things back with its nimbleness in town. Its light steering and ultra-compact proportions allow it to nip through the smallest of gaps easily and slot into the tightest parking spaces. In the city, then, it’s hard to beat.
All electric cars offer near-silent acceleration due to their whispering electric motors, but as you pick up speed in the Fortwo, that’s all undone by the shrill wind noise, especially from around the roof of the Cabrio model. There's plenty of road noise, too.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The steering wheel and driver's seat in the Smart EQ Fortwo have height adjustment as standard, so you can find a decent driving position. It's not perfect, though, because of the hard, flat chair and the lack of reach adjustment for the wheel. You'll find the same in the Volkswagen e-Up and other small electric rivals.
You sit quite high up, giving you a good view forwards, but the thick rear pillars obstruct over-the-shoulder visibility, and it's worse in the Cabrio when the roof is up. That can be a problem when you're reversing or pulling out of junctions, although you do get rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera on all versions to help you out.
The interior is solidly constructed with some glossy plastics set against a fabric dash. That said, you can't ignore the fact that there are also cheaper plastics and slightly low-rent switches dotted about.
All versions of the Fortwo come with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, a DAB radio and Bluetooth. You also get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, which allows you to use your music and navigation apps on the screen. That makes up for the fact that you don’t get built-in sat-nav on any trim level.
Smart has an app you can download to your phone and use to check your car's location, how much battery charge it has and other information.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Smart EQ Fortwo’s interior is small, but there's still enough room for a couple of tall adults to get pretty comfortable. There’s some storage space, with door pockets, two cupholders and a little glovebox.
Boot space in the Coupé is officially 260 litres, which is small, but is still a bit more than in the Volkswagen e-Up (251 litres). The Fortwo Cabrio’s boot is much smaller, at 190 litres. Even so, both are just big enough to cram a couple of carry-on suitcases on board with a bit of squeezing and shoving.
Being the Fortwo model – rather than the Smart EQ Forfour, which we've reviewed separately – there are no rear seats.
If you need a small electric car that can carry up to four passengers, check out the Fiat 500, Mini Electric, Renault Zoe or the e-Up. For something seriously spacious for not a lot more money, there's also the MG ZS EV.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
What about charging times? It can charge at up to 22kW from a commercial charging point, which will take the battery from 10% to 80% in 40mins. From a home wallbox you're looking at 3.5hrs to do the same charge, or 8.5hrs from a standard three-pin plug.
We'd suggest sticking with the entry-level Exclusive trim level to keep the Fortwo good value. It comes with LED daytime driving lights, 16in alloy wheels, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and automatic climate control plus the infotainment features, parking sensors and camera.
If you want more gear and don’t mind spending a bit more, stepping up to Exclusive trim isn’t too much of a leap and adds full LED headlights, automatic wipers and leather seats. The Brabus Line trim upgrades the car’s look to something sportier, but even though the price increase isn’t huge, it’s hard for us to recommend it just for cosmetic upgrades.
The Fortwo hasn’t been safety tested by Euro NCAP since 2014, and that was in petrol guise. Back then, it received a four-star rating, which isn’t as good as the five stars (out of five) that the Zoe scored. The e-Up scored only three stars overall, but that was based on much more stringent tests carried out in 2019. Smart gives you automatic emergency braking (AEB) – a feature we consider important on a modern car – as standard on the Fortwo.
The standard warranty is three years with no mileage limit. For comparison, the Zoe's lasts for five years or 100,000 miles. The Fortwo and the Zoe come with eight-year battery warranties, but Smart caps the mileage at 62,000 miles, while Renault gives you 100,000.