Who would have thought that we would have an electric car with so few electronics inside of it? Compared with its more affordable, better thought-out competitors, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive seems like an afterthought. The only indication of range is an analog gauge that measures the battery state of charge as a percentage of full. The Nissan Leaf does it much smarter, with a readout of how many miles the car can cover based on weather, the battery charge, and how much energy is being consumed by accessories. Taking it one step further, the Leaf even has a navigation system capable of determining if the battery has enough juice to get you to your destination.
In an ideal world where everyone is 5'7", the roads are liquid smooth, and our entire lives take place within a ten-mile radius, the Smart would be an interesting car. But that's not the world we live in. As a taller person, I can barely tolerate the goofy driving position enforced by the fixed steering wheel and the minimally adjustable seat. The short wheelbase and stiff suspension make rough roads unpleasant. And unless they live within fifteen miles of the office, I imagine buyers will want access to a 240-volt charging line both at home and at work. The city/highway combined range of 63 miles will accommodate longer commutes, but when roadside refueling is impossible, it's comforting to have a full charge almost every time you get into the car.
As a smaller and lighter vehicle, you'd expect the Smart to consume less electricity per mile than the Leaf, but the opposite is true. The EPA says that the electric ForTwo consumes 39 kWh per 100 miles while the Leaf is rated at 34 kWh per 100 miles.
Smart dealers are leasing the ForTwo Electric Drive for $599 per month, while a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt can be had for $350 per month. Marry all of these compromises together and it's clear that the Smart is not one of the intelligent electric vehicles we were promised.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor