It ain't cheap, at a monthly lease price of $599, but the electric Smart is far more livable and pleasant to drive than the gasoline-powered version, simply because it uses a single-speed transmission versus the gasoline Smart's horrible stepped-gear, traditional transmission, which hiccups through the gears so violently that the whole vehicle dips and bobs as you accelerate up to speed.
Anyway, with the electric Smart, you get smooth, linear power delivery up to 50 mph. (The vehicle will go faster than that, and can easily be driven on the freeway, but power comes on quite slowly past 50 mph.) And since no one in their right mind is going to use a Smart for anything other than an urban/suburban runabout anyway, the electric version makes perfect sense: you shouldn't encounter many scenarios wherein you'd run out of power. Let's say you work 25 miles from home; presumably you'd plug it in while you're at the office and then you'd have plenty of juice to get home and run some errands along the way. I think you'd have enough juice for a 50-mile round trip, for that matter, but I didn't have an opportunity to try that.
One nagging problem that was not evident in the gasoline-powered version we drove recently was the pedal placement. It's very hard to get a comfortable position for your foot because of the way the accelerator pedal is very flat to the floor.
I plugged it in overnight at 50 percent charge and the next morning it was fully charged. I used the electric Smart all weekend for my normal routine of errands, socializing, and shopping, and it was great.
Obviously, this is a third or fourth car for the typical family -- very special-use. But if you live in a crowded urban environment and want nothing more than a city car and can handle the $599, hey, maybe you should be one of the 250 Americans who get to lease one this year.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor