2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio Review – Take Two

DEC 20 2017 BY STEVEN EWING 13

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

One car, two very different reviews.

*Editor’s note: Earlier in December, we presented our first Smart Fortwo Electirc Drive Cabrio review. Here we present take number two.

One car, two different drivers, two very different reviews.

Fun as it may be, Smart’s cute little cabrio is an EV argument that’s tough to justify.

– San Diego, California

Zipping along the San Diego harbor on a sunny SoCal day, it’s hard not to love the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabriolet. There’s an instantaneous gob of torque as you scoot away from every stoplight. The canvas roof folds back to let the warm sun fill the cabin. You can hilariously whip U-turns in the middle of the street. There’s great visibility from every angle. Really, it’s a great way to get around town.

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

It’s not until you begin to unpack the details of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive that the cute little runabout begins to lose its luster. The range is the lowest among all electric vehicles. There’s hardly any cargo space. And holy crap, it’s expensive. Smart will only sell the ForTwo as an EV in the U.S. (in all 50 states) from here on out, and all I can say is, well, good luck.

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

Pros

Coupe and cabrio. I’ve always thought that if you’re going to buy a Smart, just get the Cabriolet. The power canvas roof slides back along the rails to give a sort of “big sunroof” effect, or you can detach the roof bars above the side windows completely, fold the top all the way back, and have a full convertible experience. When the roof is back up, it’s no louder inside the Cabriolet than in the regular ForTwo Coupe. Why choose one body style when you can have both?

City slicker. Drive any version of the Smart in a big city, and you’ll see why the thing’s so popular in Europe, or in congested American markets like San Francisco. You can park it anywhere. The incredible 22.8-foot turning radius means it can pretty much turn around in itself. And with steering that’s both light in weight and super direct in action, it’s great for quick-dash maneuvers through traffic. If your daily commute is from one end of Manhattan to the other, you’ll love having a Smart.

Safe and secure. People make a lot of assumptions about the Smart’s drivability and safety simply because of its size. As for on-road manners, even at 80 miles per hour on the highway, it doesn’t get blown around by crosswinds or feel frighteningly undersized compared to other cars. You sit up high, with a commanding view of what’s ahead. It’s stable, quiet, and easy to use on all types of roads. And while I can’t personally speak to the effectiveness of Smart’s Tridion Cell body structure, this video of a ForTwo crashing into a fullsize Mercedes-Benz S-Class should provide proof that it’s a totally tough little guy.

Cons

Dat range, tho. Because the Smart is so small, there isn’t a ton of room for big batteries without totally eliminating cargo space. That means you’re left with a 17.6-Kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that’s rated at just 57 miles of electric range in the Electric Drive Cabriolet (58 in the Coupe). Smart officials say real-world driving tends to yield several more miles of usable range, but you can’t slap an official number of “57” on a window sticker in a time when most EVs are getting at least double that number.

Way too expensive. I could maybe forgive the 57-mile range if this car was like, $20,000. But in fact, only the very base Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Coupe is a bargain, at $23,900 to start, before available EV incentives, making it the cheapest brand-new electric car you can buy in the United States by a long shot. If you want the Cabrio, that’ll be an extra $4,200, and adding options like heated leather seats, touchscreen infotainment with navigation, upgraded audio, and more, bring the as-tested price of the Cabriolet you see here to – wait for it – $32,180. That’s as much as a Volkswagen e-Golf, which amply seats four adults and all their luggage, and carries it 125 miles before needing to be plugged in.

Too many compromises. The ways in which the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive charms me are not unique to itself. Drive any small EV and you’ll be rewarded with fun-around-town handling. The Smart’s party trick of being easy to park and fun to U-turn can’t outweigh all the other sacrifices you have to make to live with one every single day. As a second, urban car, it makes sense. But only if you get the cheapest one possible. And even then…

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

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13 Comments on "2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio Review – Take Two"

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James
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James

2014 used ones are being sold for 6k in Florida.

SparkEV
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Without DCFC, this is non-starter. 57 miles means 25 miles range from home after leaving some margin, and that’s when new. If it has DCFC, range could be 300+ miles since they are at most 30 miles apart in SoCal. Painful, but you don’t get range anxiety by going 30 miles to the beach if it came with DCFC.

IanL
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IanL

I can see that that would be a problem in the US.
However, the Smart works a lot better in continental Europe where it’s available with the optional 3-Phase 22kW charger, where also a lot of homesteads have a 3-Phase supply, and (thanks mostly to the popularity of the Zoe that’s also 3-Phase capable) there’s quite a bit of public 22kW charging.
On a 22kW charger, my 22kWh Zoe takes about an hour to get from under 20% to 99% at about 10C or above (if I were to stop at say 80-85%, it’d be more like 40m). Obviously, the 17kWh Smart would be quicker than this…the kind of time-frame that I don’t think would be that far removed from 50kW DCFC kind of charging times?
I admit, not really viable in America though, where it seems that it’s either DCFC or nothing and I’m not aware of any EVs that can take more than 7.2kW AC.

I’d say that I don’t understand why they’re trying to sell the EV Smart in the US, but to tell the truth, I never understood why they ever sold the Smart there in the first place.

ItsNotAboutTheMoney
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ItsNotAboutTheMoney

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For Europe there’s an option that can take advantage of 44kW AC, but here there’s nothing.

DCFC is much more important for North America and the lack is going to be a sales killer.

Tom
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Tom

So basically the retirement communities in Florida now have a substitute for the GEM NEV that can get them out on the highway for a bit.

Dav8or
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Dav8or

The Smart car has never been a very smart choice for most people, even in ICE form. It has one trick. It can park in small spaces and that is very, very useful in certain parts of the world, but everything else about the car is substandard. The battery version has no value proposition. It’s a nearly useless compliance car.

It may not be popular here on this blog, but IMO what Daimler should do with Smart in America is lower the cost of the standard ICE powered version to be the cheapest car in America, offer it in gas, or diesel with either a good old fashion manual shift, or a CVT, ditch the hideous manumatic POS and drop the BEV version. The car does have value to some buyers, but the cost is too high, the benefits too low and the driving experience too miserable with it’s current transmission (non EV version).

Bill Howland
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Bill Howland

There’s plenty of SMART 42 cars in my area- of course what I believe is the largest Smart (Diamler) dealership in the States is down the street only a few miles.

The vast majority of the Smarts around here are the 3 cyl gasoline jobs – and even though the performance and mileage ain’t that great – people seem to like them.

The convertible will be attractive – and the combined state and fed incentive would be pushing $8500 so that makes the car relatively cheap.

You could do worse, except when it comes to range. 57 miles in ideal weather sounds like around 25 miles maybe during the winter…

Incidentally a German Survey firm called yesterday and I took their extended survey on the BOLT.

Usually J.D. Power sends you $1 for taking their survey, but supposedly they’re sending me a check for $140.

They must have liked my answers. You could tell it was a German firm since slowing the car was ‘Recouperation’.

JyChevyVolt
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JyChevyVolt

BEV without DCFC. Are you kidding me.

Mart Shearer
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Mart Shearer

Battery size remains unchanged from the 2014 version, but the EPA has revised it’s scoring methods. Most people will see the earlier 68 mile average range driving through tn owif not more. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/09/26/epas-gas-mileage-ratings-dropping-some-2017-models/91127240/

JyChevyVolt
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JyChevyVolt

Take the door off and put this in a golf course.

Don Zenga
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Don Zenga

Ideally this For-2 should have been priced at $20,000 and launched the For-4 at $22,000. How long can they sustain this make with just 1 model and 27 dealers in the whole country. They launched the MY-2018, but many of MY-2017 is still available for sale. No idea as what will happen when those cars are sold.

EVsmarter
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EVsmarter

My record in the 2017 smart Electric coupe was 110 miles in the city during summer and 45 miles on the highway during winter blasting heat. Both times I was trying to get the maximum and minimum range possible, respectively. Most of the time I get 70-80 miles one a charge which gets me back and forth to work for 2-3 days before recharging at home. Lease was $139 a month for a second car with no gas/maintenance to pay for and Massachusetts paid for my $2500 down. It was an easy choice. If we need to go somewhere further, take the wife’s SUV. If leasing, who cares about the higher “sticker price”? As for “hardly any cargo space”, I had my golf clubs in the back this fall no problem, and we use it for our weekly shopping trips (local Whole Foods has free charging stations).

mzs.112000
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mzs.112000

57 miles on a 17.1kWh battery?
Spark EV has similar battery size and can go 84 miles per charge. Chevy Volt has 14.7kWh usable and can go 53 miles. Fiat 500e has a similar battery and can go 87 miles.

So where is Smart/Mercedes pulling this 57 miles from?