If short trips are your thing, it could be.
Where I live everyone has one in their driveway: The station car. It’s a necessity; it gets you to and from the train station or airport for the daily commute or regular business trips, but mostly, it sits parked. The last thing you want is an expensive monthly payment on this car, but it also has to be reliable. If it breaks down you miss your train or worse, your flight.
The other car in our driveway does the opposite: short trips around town all day, never going more than a few miles and often only carrying one or two passengers. It’s almost ironic that the cars that do this work are large, seat 5 or more passengers, have a lot of space and use a lot of fuel when really, a scooter would do the job. Except: handbag, groceries, book bag, yoga mat. Scooters can’t carry all that stuff, too.
The Smart ForTwo Electric car might be the perfect answer.
I was recently hosted by Smart ForTwo Electric Drive for a tour of San Diego in this small two-passenger electric car and got to sample its capabilities first hand.
Who This Car is For
- Singles or couples who drive short distances
- Small business owners who drive a lot of short distances for work
- Commuters who drive less than about 50 miles between charges (the Smart car has a capacity of about 60 miles on a full charge)
- Buyers who want an electric car and can benefit from the tax credits
- Drivers who have easy access to car chargers or can charge at home
What This Car Costs
- Base price: $23,900
- Base price for the Cabriolet convertible: $28,100
- Heated seats, energy efficient climate control and heated steering wheel: $440
- Media system with navigation, live traffic and a 7” touch screen: $1290
- Delivery: $750
- Price of the model we drove: $32,380
The Smart ForTwo Electric car also qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500 and state credits, which of course, vary by state. Credits are for purchasers, so if you lease a Smart ForTwo, your credit should be built into the monthly lease price.
Soon, Smart ForTwo Will Only Be Available With an Electric Motor
Shortly after Mercedes-Benz, which owns and builds Smart ForTwo, introduced the car, an electric version was introduced. After making improvements in charging time and distance driven on a charge, the company decided to streamline the brand to all electric cars. No more new models with gas engines will be available once the current inventory sells out. This makes sense for the global market, which loves small electric cars. And it makes sense for urban or suburban solo drivers who need a quick, agile easy-to-park car and never want to stop at a gas station.
It Only Seats Two But It’s Much More Versatile Than You Think
Everyone loved the Smart car when it was introduced. This small, efficient car stood out for its unique look and premise: an ideal car for one or two people, easy to park, easy to drive and with a hefty steel frame, stronger and safer than regulations require. It has a super-tight turning ratio–it can make a u-turn in a parking spot. And it’s always also been very well priced; currently lease deals hover around $150 a month, amazing right?
It also has a small trunk that can hold an average size roll-aboard bag, and a shelf behind the driver and passenger seats where you can stow things like a tote bag, a handbag or a yoga mat.
How Many Miles Does This Car Get to a Charge?
Well, depends on how you look at it. First, on the Monroney window sticker the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive states it gets 112 MPGe. That is not the miles on a charge, but rather, if this was a gas car, it would get 112 miles per gallon (‘e’ stands for equivalent). But it’s not, so it won’t.
What it does get is a minimum of 57 miles to a full charge. But it can get more. In fact, you can drive around all day and still have 30 or 40 miles left on your battery. That’s because the car constantly recharges the battery, redirecting unused energy back into the battery. So as you brake, idle and drive at high speed, power not needed to propel the car is flowing back into the battery.
We drove around for about 3.5 hours (2.39 hours of driving time) and covered about 30 miles around the city of San Diego and still had 33 miles left on the battery.
More seasoned electric car drivers have figured out how to recoup even more battery charge. Things like reducing drag —would we have done better if we’d put the top up on the cabriolet we test drove?— increasing braking and avoiding the use of climate control can significantly add to the battery range.
And recouping that 30 miles of charge should be easy. The Smart ForTwo will fully charge in 3 hours on a level 2 fast charger. Level 1—a standard household outlet— will take longer, probably about 8-10 hours.
What’s the Smart ForTwo Electric Like to Drive?
In a word, great. If you didn’t know you were in a tiny two-passenger car, you’d never know. The cabin is comfortable and while it’s small and makes accommodations for size, it doesn’t feel like a compromise.
The electric engine makes the car quiet and quick; cars with electric motors tend to be a bit faster at the start and responsive when you hit the accelerator. This makes it zippy around town and easy to keep up with traffic on the highway.
Even on some steep hills the Smart was completely capable; it didn’t roll back or feel sluggish when I hit the accelerator.
Upgrades Make This a Premium Experience
You might have noticed I mentioned Mercedes-Benz earlier in this story, and the Mercedes-Benz ingenuity is clear in the Smart ForTwo. Starting with the sport trim and premium infotainment system, there are some nice touches. But the Cabriolet soft-top convertible may be nicest. First off, you can retract the top partially with the touch of a button. The top also retracts fully, resting just above the lift gate, and restores easily and quickly, too.
To get the full convertible feel you can remove the roof rails, which store in the lift gate. It was nice to take them off and let the wind whip through my hair (though I wore a baseball cap to keep the sun off my face). Or, leave them in place and retract the roof. With the windows down you get the full feel of wind and sun on a beautiful day, but on a cool day keep the windows up and put the roof down for the full effect of the sun.
After all, even short trips around town or to the train station can be fun and filled with a little sunshine.
Disclosure: I was Smart’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided. Opinions expressed here are my own.