2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive: Fun or Not?

Can a two-seater Smart electric drive vehicle (EV) really be worth the price and “trouble” of going green to completely resist the all-powerful petro dollar? In a week-long road test I took the next-gen Smart electric drive on a road test to discover the answer.

Certainly Smart’s new EV wundercar is unlike any other. Headquartered in Hambach, France (known in Europe as “SmartVille”) Smart builds its tiny cars as green as possible from the ground up. Surprisingly, the electric drive turned lots of heads. Somehow, this petite screaming crimson vehicle really pops on the street with its face-like grille and hood, long silver stripe from top to front wheels and blunt backside. The glaringly red interior was also quite shocking. Still, the bright red cloth seats and somewhat disturbing matching red cloth dash was certainly cheery and oh-so bold. The two exceedingly red captain chairs are wide, plush and look even better with black fabric in-lays.

Performance may be the most entertaining aspect of owning a Smart ForTwo electric drive. You’d think driving this tiny EV wouldn’t be thrilling, but that would be a lie. I could hardly believe the super tight cornering and responsive handling when hitting the curves around Newport Beach’s Back Bay. Also, the 55 kW electric motor goes from 0-60 mph in less than 12 seconds. Smart claims its new electric drive gets a top speed of 78 mph, but I pushed it to 83 mph on an empty straightaway. What’s not so fun about smart performance? The rather bumpy suspension and too direct regenerative braking. Though, charging the vehicle is easy and saves cash. All I had to do was steer my vehicle into the garage and plug it up. The following morning the Smart had another 70+ miles (or 122 MPGe) on deck. Plus, Smart claims it only takes 3.5 hours to charge its newest EV from depleted to full on a 240-volt outlet.

If locating parking with ease gets you absolutely giddy then I definitely recommend seriously looking at the Smart squad. Parking such a tiny, blunt vehicle really makes parking a joy. Worried about safety in this teeny EV? Mercedes-Benz is Smart’s parent company, meaning the vehicle is designed with eight standard air bags and a technology called “tridion safety cells.” In fact, it was awarded 4 stars overall in NHTSA crash test ratings.

Smart’s audio infotainment system could use an upgrade. While the 6.5-inch touchscreen was attractive, the technology overall isn’t the best. However, its multi-media system is geared towards iPod and iPhone users and has the ability to play both your music and video libraries. Lastly, the cargo area of course isn’t exuberant. But on several shopping trips the trunk did fit more than enough shopping and book bags quite handily.

Ready to go green and join the Smart electric drive revolution? Smart electric drive starts at a base MRSP of $25,000 ($28,000 for the cabriolet model). The good news is buyers may be eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other state and local tax credits, which could see your price dip below the $20,000 range. For more information on Smart and Smart electric drive, visit http://www.smartusa.com.

Sheryll Alexander is an automotive journalist, professional road test reviewer, lifestyles writer and editor based in Costa Mesa, Calif.