Electric drive is the smartest smart car
I'll start with a confession: I generally don't care for smart cars — and yes, that is how the company spells them. They're not bad, I just haven't enjoyed the French-made microcars much.
However, in a week of driving the 2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio, I found it to be comfortable, quick, and well-appointed. I liked it better at the end of the week than I did at the beginning. I'll go over the car point by point and tell you why.
First, the electric smart car feels solid and refined. The electric motor provides good power, and it provides it with no delay. There's no transmission, just a direct drive gear. So accelerator response is instantaneous and powerful. The smart car's short wheelbase means that steering is similarly tight and responsive. The braking system regenerates electricity but it also feels authoritative; when you step on the brake pedal, you get brakes.
The motor in the smart electric drive is a 60 kW unit good for 80 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. That's plenty because the smart weighs in at just 2,383 pounds, and all the torque is available at any speed. The battery pack is a 17.6 kWh unit that will power the smart for about 70 miles on a full charge. That's the absolute max, however, and any brisk driving or running the air conditioner will reduce the range. So consider the smart a car for in-town and short commute use only.
Cabrio in the name means this version is a convertible, and the top works easily. A touch of a button pulls the canvas top rearward to open up. Inside, the top-trim cabrio comes with heated leather seats, a seven-inch touchscreen with a nice JBL sound system. It responds to voice commands and really is as nice as the best sound system in any comparable vehicle. It's also got navigation, which is nice.
Cargo capacity is almost nonexistent. You can't get two people and overnight luggage to the airport in this car. I went and picked up a medium-sized package and that just about filled the trunk.
Charging the smart car is easy. There's a provided cable with a standard 120V household outlet plug. Just plug it in overnight. The battery's not very big, so it charges very readily without investing in a 240V charging station. You can also charge the smart at any commercial or public charging station.
This very nice, very fun smart car retails for $32,180. The smart electric drive is eligible for federal and state financial incentives, so you can knock that down to about $25,000 or even less out of pocket. If you struggle to find parking and do your driving in the city or within a short radius, this smart car could be a fun and functional choice.
2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio
Base price: $28,850
Price as tested: $32,180
Engine: 60kW motor (80 hp, 118 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated mileage: 102 MPGe
Overall length: 106.1 inches
Curb weight: 2,383 pounds
Final assembly: Hambach, France