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
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.”