Right, let’s answer that burning question right from the off: how many miles will you get out of the Smart Fortwo EQ on a full charge? Officially, Smart says 99 miles, but in the reality you’ll struggle to match that. In fact, the EQ managed just 59 miles in our Real Range tests, which replicate real-world driving on a mix of road types. To put that into context, with its much bigger battery, the Renault Zoe managed 146 miles.
On the road, the EQ is the pick of all the Fortwo models. Its 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.
Officially, the EQ Coupé takes a leisurely-sounding 11.5sec to hit 0-62mph (11.8sec for the Cabrio), but the instant hit of torque from the electric motor the minute you put your foot down makes it feel much zippier than the numbers suggest. And besides, that’s quicker than the Zoe and e-Up can manage. It feels less adept at motorway speeds, though; its rate of acceleration drops off markedly the nearer you get to its top speed of 80mph.
Be warned: on the motorway, its battery power will disappear rapidly. You see, electric cars maintain charge best at lower speeds, when they can also regenerate electrical energy under braking that would otherwise be lost, feeding it back into the battery. A side effect of this, though, is an often inconsistent-feeling, grabby brake pedal, something that the Fortwo is not immune to, although it falls short of being as sharp as the Zoe’s.
The Zoe – and the e-Up, for that matter – ride better, mind. While the Fortwo EQ is more composed than the regular petrol version, it still bounces and jiggles over broken town roads as a result of its short wheelbase. Both its rivals feel more settled, especially the faster you go.
The EQ’s handling is a little better than that of standard Fortwos, too. That’s thanks to a lower centre of gravity gained from having the battery under its seats; you still get a fair amount of body lean through corners, but not to quite the same alarming angles as the petrol versions manage. It’s still not as good as its rivals, though.
What the Fortwo EQ gives away to better-handling rivals such as the e-Up in cornering dynamism along twisty roads, it pulls 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 Smart, that’s all undone by the shrill wind noise, especially from around the roof of the Cabrio model, and plenty of road noise. The Renault Zoe isn’t that quiet in this respect, either, but it’s better than the Fortwo.