TESTED: THE ALL-ELEC­TRIC SMART CAR THAT NOW SEATS FOUR PEO­PLE

Smart has put an elec­tric mo­tor in its lat­est city car, but does the pow­er­train make sense in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments? Re­becca Chap­lin finds out

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY RE­BECCA CHAP­LIN

WHAT’S NEW?

The Smart Forfour was the first time the brand had en­abled own­ers to take more than two peo­ple in one of their cars. Now, for the first time, you will be able to drive one of these four-seaters with an all-elec­tric pow­er­train, although the two-seater ver­sion did get this treat­ment in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

It gets the same en­gine as was un­veiled on its lit­tle sis­ter, the Fortwo, at the end of last year. With a range of up to 96 miles, it’s good, but it’s not quite up there with some of its ri­vals, so does it make up for this de­fi­ciency in other ar­eas?

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

When Smart cars got an up­dated look, built on the same plat­form as the quirky, small and ver­sa­tile Re­nault Twingo, it was a wel­come change from the old de­sign. The brand has taken this op­por­tu­nity to take some of the fea­tures and re­ally ex­ag­ger­ate the un­fa­mil­iar el­e­ments of this com­pact car. How­ever, in this lat­est facelifted ver­sion, some of the quirky in­te­rior has been toned down. The curvy and bul­bous look of this car re­mains though, with two-tone choices on the ex­te­rior of the car.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

In­side is still de­cid­edly prac­ti­cal – as you would want in a city car. In­stead of opt­ing for a pre­mium feel with con­cealed stor­age op­tions, ma­te­ri­als are de­signed to face a lot of short jour­neys and the as­so­ci­ated stresses of peo­ple hop­ping in and out fre­quently.

Space in the front is gen­er­ous and thanks to those stan­dard sized doors, get­ting in is easy. In the back, the space isn’t quite as read­ily avail­able, but if the driver and front seat pas­sen­ger can af­ford to sac­ri­fice some legroom, you may get two adults in the back. That said, with my seat in po­si­tion, there wasn’t a lot of space for rear seat pas­sen­gers.

In the front there is a small glove­box and a sec­ondary stor­age box within the cen­tre con­sole, while door pock­ets are gen­er­ous. There’s fur­ther space in the arm rests.

Boot space is re­ally lim­ited – this is not the sort of car de­signed to take four peo­ple away for the week­end. With the en­gine in the rear the boot floor is high and flat, but re­al­is­ti­cally you’ll only get one suit­case in or a cou­ple of bags.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

If you’ve started out in the Fortwo, as I did, you’re go­ing to no­tice a dif­fer­ence in han­dling when you take a drive in the Forfour. While the Fortwo feels planted and like it was de­signed to be what it is, the four-seater feels slightly like the ad­di­tion of those two ex­tra seats have messed with its equi­lib­rium and made it far less sta­ble on the road.

The elec­tric drive means power is avail­able al­most in­stantly, although you’re go­ing to want to try and re­sist the temp­ta­tion to plant your foot to the ground. With only 96 miles of range – at the ab­so­lute best – this is not a car for push­ing to the lim­its.

The steer­ing can be light and a bit vague, too, but again, this is only re­ally some­thing that should af­fect you if you’re driv­ing it be­yond what it’s de­signed for.

VALUE FOR MONEY

When it comes to price, well, this is where the Smart Forfour and Fortwo Elec­tric Drive come into their own. Elec­tric mo­bil­ity can be ex­tremely pricey, but if you can af­ford the ini­tial out­lay, you can hope you make your money back in re­duced own­er­ship costs later.

How­ever, com­pared to ri­vals, Smart is rel­a­tively cheap. At around £19,000 for the Forfour, and only a few hun­dred pounds less for the Fortwo, these are very af­ford­able com­pared to ri­vals.

At the mo­ment, you can charge at home, but it’s not par­tic­u­larly quick, tak­ing around six hours to charge to 80%. Later in the year, a fast charger will be avail­able, but cars re­leased be­fore that date won’t be com­pat­i­ble.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

Those who rarely drive more than 30 miles from their house and stay at city speeds for the ma­jor­ity of the time will be fine, if you need to drive fur­ther on week­ends you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to need a sec­ond car – although Smart sug­gests this will be the case with most own­ers.

“WHEN SMART CARS GOT AN UP­DATED LOOK, BUILT ON THE SAME PLAT­FORM AS THE QUIRKY, SMALL AND VER­SA­TILE RE­NAULT TWINGO, IT WAS A WEL­COME CHANGE FROM THE OLD DE­SIGN. THE BRAND HAS TAKEN THIS OP­POR­TU­NITY TO TAKE SOME OF THE FEA­TURES AND RE­ALLY EX­AG­GER­ATE THE UN­FA­MIL­IAR EL­E­MENTS OF THIS COM­PACT CAR.”

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