Smart choice: EQ ForTwo is nimble, easy to drive and quick to charge
In a motoring world quickly converting to electric, Smart has been ahead of the game. In fact, it was the first manufacturer to announce it would be moving from an all-combustion engine to a vehicle line-up consisting of only fully-electric cars.
The EQ ForTwo is an all-electric version of Smart's iconic two-seater city car. It makes sense - the ForTwo has always been designed as a city car, and electric cars benefit from being used in cities where charging points are more abundant than in less populated areas. But how does the Smart EQ do as a complete package? We lived with it for a week to find out.
If you took the Smart on face value alone, you'd think very little had changed over the regular, petrol-powered ForTwo. The dinky proportions remain, the minute turning circle is still delightfully present and the bulbous, rounded looks are in keeping with past generations of Smart cars. But look a little deeper and you'll notice the smoothed front grille, and underneath the petrol cap there's a charging point, rather than space for a fuel nozzle. Though this may appear like a traditionally powered Smart, the reality is far from that.
What's under the bonnet?
The Smart gets drive from a three-phase synchronous motor, linked to a lithium-ion battery. The combination produces 81bhp and 160Nm of torque. The sprint to 60mph may not be quick at 11.6 seconds, but it feels pacier than that thanks to the immediate delivery of that torque. All in, you'll do 80mph.
When it comes to range, Smart claims 99 miles on a full charge, and it'll take 40 minutes to charge up from flat via a wall-box, or six hours through a three-pin domestic socket. Is that range achievable? Not exactly - in fact, the range displayed on the dash plummets like a stone when travelling on the motorway, which is certainly a little disconcerting.
What's it like to drive?
The hallmarks of the Smart driving experiences are still present in the EQ ForTwo, and that's no bad thing. The nimble handling is ideal for darting in and out of traffic, while the almost incomprehensibly small turning circle is great for general manoeuvrability. The steering itself actually has some weight to it, and this gives a little added confidence at higher speeds.
The torque you get from an electric powertrain is especially useful in a car of this size, and up until the 40mph mark you're quicker than the vast majority of cars. Granted, after this, it begins to become a little breathless, while the narrow wheelbase is makes larger potholes quite apparent.
How does it look?
The Smart ForTwo ticks all of the styling boxes for a city car. It's compact without appearing too dinky, has premium styling touches, such as 16-inch alloy wheels, and features fibre-optic running lights. It's a (ahem) smart-looking thing and should appeal to those who want a stylish inner-city mode of transport. Our test car came in cabriolet form, which was a welcome addition during the hot, sunny weather in the summer.
What's it like inside?
Though rather compact, the Smart's dimensions aren't translated into a cramped cabin. In fact, there's a lot more space here than you'd expect, with a general airiness to the cabin - surprising given the car's tiny footprint. There's not a huge amount of storage to be found, although there is a useful drawer underneath the gearstick for hiding away items from prying eyes.
Boot space is not what you'd call cavernous - particularly if you store the variety of charging cables needed to replenish the car's battery back there - but there's around 300 litres to play with, which is more than enough for a few shopping bags.
Accessing it is only done through quite a narrow opening, which can be a bit of an issue when your loading bulkier items.
What's the spec like?
Prices for the Smart ForTwo EQ start at £27,135, or £22,635 when including the plug-in car grant. For that you get a rear view camera (not exactly essential in a car of this size), heated seats and ambient lighting. You also get Smart's media system, accessed via a seven-inch touchscreen. In practice this system didn't impress. Numerous times it locked completely and wouldn't allow us to even play a radio station, and even switching the car off and back on again failed to rectify the issue. When it did eventually work, however, it operated well - but it still lacks the ease-of-use that we'd like. There's a good variety of kit fitted here as standard, but the niggles surrounding the infotainment are a bit of a let-down.
As a prospect for an inner-city driver, the Smart EQ makes sense. It's nimble, easy to drive and quick to charge via high-output charging points. However, those looking to travel further afield may find it a little too limited, with a range that can't quite make longer journeys a real-world possibility. At speed, the range drops far too quickly to inspire confidence in how far the car can travel, and this really does restrict the car's all-round usability, as well as its appeal to more rural electric car drivers.
Facts at a glance
Model as tested: Smart EQ Cabriolet
Price: £27,430 (£22,930 with Plug-in car grant)
Engine: Electric motor linked to lithium-ion battery
Power (bhp): 81
Torque (Nm): 160
Max speed (mph): 80
Range: 99 miles
Emissions (g/km): 0