Road Test: Smart ForFour Electric Drive
Smart’s first four-seat EV is clever, but compromised, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR City Car PRICE £16,915-£17,510* ELECTRIC RANGE 100 miles CO2 0g/km
Within a decade, electric vehicles have changed beyond recognition. No longer city runabouts or pricey hand-built specials, longer ranges and wider choice mean they need neither look extraordinary, nor be difficult to live with. And that’s even trickled down to the Smart line-up.
For a start, the third generation of its electric offering has four seats, and that’s before you factor in its ability to go further and get there faster. Those green panels may still be optional, but there’s a palette of more sedate hues if you don’t want to shout so loudly about your eco credentials.
In theory, city cars are ideally suited to electrification. In practice, they’re less well suited to the extra cost it brings, and that’s probably why Smart has this drivetrain rather than the platform-shared, but more price-sensitive, Renault Twingo. Going electric adds £2,000 to the price, even after the Plug-in Car Grant. And the ForFour isn’t cheap anyway.
Still, it’s a neat conversion, slotting an 82bhp motor under the boot and a 17.6kWh battery under the cabin, both without compromising passenger or cargo space, or losing the clever rotating rear bench. It’s more powerful than the heavier Renault Zoe, turning circles are incredibly tight and it’s great for carving silently through city traffic. Just avoid the large wheel options if you like any semblance of ride comfort or high-speed refinement.
On the downside, it’s easy to spot cost-cutting measures; a fixed steering wheel position, analogue radio and no rapid charging, unlike the Volkswagen E-Up. Without it, an 80-90 mile typical range confines the ForFour to city use and, in fleet, a life with couriers and urban businesses wanting to make a statement, as well as green-minded company car drivers. It’s clever, but there are more versatile options if you’re going electric.