by Roger Biermann
The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive takes on the Fiat 500e for electrified micro-hatch honors – but electric cars often take the whole green eco-warrior thing a bit too seriously. Add a little sunshine with the ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, with its retractable soft-top roof that slides back to reveal a targa-esque experience in a compact electric package. Originally envisaged by Swatch but now under Mercedes stewardship, the ForTwo Electric Drive shares its underpinnings with the Renault Twingo – including rear-wheel drive. But let that lead to no false ideas of grandiose slides and sports car poise, the Smart is happiest in the city.
The highlight of the Smart ForTwo is its brightly colored and identifiable Tridion safety cell chassis. But in this guise the safety cell houses just two occupants inside its body. It does so in an upright manner with a commanding view over a tiny hood, and incredible visibility to all extents of the ForTwo's tiny body. Perched atop the side-support lacking seats, leg room is ample, and shoulder room narrow. Headroom is decent, but slide back the soft-top roof and the sunshine is yours to enjoy. Appointments inside are of a decent quality, and central to the dash you'll find a touch screen infotainment system with full Smartphone integration.
Cargo volume is limited, primarily due to the ForTwo being packaged in such a short space. You can reach out and touch the tailgate from the driver's seat – that's how close it is – with the trunk affording 9.2 useful cubic feet, or 12.2 stacked to the roof.
It might seem a little at odds that an eco-warrior such as this would be at home in the built up city. But it would be of little use anywhere else. The tiny turning circle of just 22.8 feet, and the 106.1-inch length makes it possible to find parking spots others might ignore as mere pedestrian walkways. The electric power assisted steering offers no feedback and has little to no weight, but it's direct and aids maneuverability greatly – though aggressive self-centering isn't enjoyable.
But because the ForTwo is so small, it gets wholly enveloped by potholes and completely lifted up by speed bumps. Any small bump feels like a large one, and the excessively firm springs send the ForTwo hopping upon encountering any large bump. On broken tarmac, the ride is jittery, and through cornering the bodyt lean feels exaggerated by narrow proportions. It's best to keep this one confined in the city.
A mid-rear mounted drivetrain and rear wheel drive sound like Porsche territory – but they're the standard layout of the ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio. A 17.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack is paired with an 80 horsepower electric motor that offers 118 lb-ft of torque, channeled through a single-speed gearbox. A full charge of the battery takes 3 hours on 240-volt hardware, with 120-volts extending that time to 16.5 hours. There's an all-electric range of up to 80 miles, and an EPA rated MPG equivalent of 112 in the city and 91 on the highway.
The ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio can be had in two trims, Passion and Prime. Both models are similarly equipped, with the Prime offering equipment as standard that's optionally available on the Passion, such as fog lamps, rain and light sensors, heated seats, and ambient lighting. The combustion powered ForTwo has been rated 'Good' in crash tests by the IIHS, but the Electric Drive has yet to be tested. Features like ABS and 8 airbags are standard, along with stability control, cross-wind assist, and hill start assist.
The open-top addition to the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive range is notably fun, but the ForTwo is still in essence limited to city confines. The decision to drop petrol-powered derivatives means this is as good as it gets for Smart fans – and some might be disappointed.