► Now the cheapest electric car on sale in the UK
► 0-37mph in 4.8 seconds, 70+ mile range
► 80% recharge in less than 40 minutes
Unless you count Renault's soggy, tandem-seated quadricycle, the Twizy, the new smart EQ fortwo, priced from £16,850 (including the £3500 plug-in car grant), would now appear to be the cheapest electric car available in the UK by some considerable chalk.
Should you require four seats, the least expensive forfour variant in the new EQ range will set you back £18,435, which is still cheaper than Renault's admirable Zoe and, undoubtedly, VW's forthcoming e-Up. The Smart will need to keep a close eye on Seat and Skoda offerings from the same stable though, as these will run it close.
Electric smarts have actually been humming about in anything but swarm numbers since 2007, but the arrival of the EQ range, accompanied by a mild facelift and a redesigned cabin, signals the brand's piecemeal shift to all-electric power henceforth. And from 2022, next generation smarts will be jointly developed with Chinese giant Geely, and built in China.
So, what's under the bonnet?
Nothing. The powertrain comprises a 41kW electric motor aft and a 17.6kWh, 96-cell lithium-ion battery under the cab floor which can lob 82bhp and 118lb ft at the rear wheels. Range is quoted as about 70 miles, which doesn't sound much in the context of, say, a Zoe, but is more than enough for a day's bumbling in the city of your choice.
All UK EQ's are fitted with a 22kW on-board charger, which means that recharging from 10 to 80% takes less than 40 minutes using a rapid charger, three hours and 18 minutes using a home wallbox, or eight hours and 30 minutes in the safety and security of your own three pin plug.
The usual electric car driving experience, then?
Yes, only smaller... The EQ fortwo hushes off the line with sufficient alacrity to satisfy amber light hogs - a quoted 0-37mph dash of 4.8 seconds being somewhat more relevant than the 11.6 seconds required to reach 62mph, and entirely more so than the rest-of-your-life required to struggle on to an 81mph maximum speed. It's not quite as urgent as it used to be, especially when compared with the 2017 model we previously tested, but there's still more vigour than a Zoe.
However, abetted by seats firm enough to find little favour with the somewhat hastily constructed, the ride will, I fear, prove pretty tough on UK roads: surely urban thudabouts should major in comfort?
Especially since there's still a dollop of body roll on offer through bends, little can be said of the steering other than it alters your course with ease, and wet tram lines and road paint are enough to set the shirt button tyres stepping sideways -unalarmingly albeit- pretty early on in proceedings.
The brakes meanwhile, are so over-servo'ed that your passenger will be regularly retrieving their tonsils from the glovebox: appositely named because there's only room in it for precisely one glove.
Once you get used to peering round oversized 'A' pillars, the sixpence-shaving, Black Cab-beating turning circle is, however, a guinea a minute - just as well, though, because the EQ's woefully slow and heavily lagging sat' nav' requires its all too frequent deployment...
Do we detect a whiff of on-board tech' trouble?
Hmm... City car, shitty sat' nav' - not a great combination. A cursory glance suggests equipment levels to be fairly wholesome, even the cheapest £16,850 variant of a four grade line-up is awarded 15" alloys, electric windows and mirrors, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Android Auto, and a seven-inch touchscreen housing the smart Media-System which includes said navigation.
And the 'prime exclusive' fortwo we drove further benefitted from goodies such as 16" alloys, full LED headlights, an auto dimming rear-view mirror and leather, heated seats.
However, closer inspection reveals no Apple CarPlay but only Mirrorlink. And though there's a phone app through which you may check on the battery status of your EQ, start recharging and even fire up the air-conditioning, a far more clever 'ready to' services system won't be coming to the UK until something big and pink shoots past the window.
'ready to' will not only find you parking and recharging stations, but also organise car sharing chums for you, and tell you how much to charge them for borrowing your smart. But a sat' nav' dash bitch so far off the pace she must be on a permanent fag break is an issue that needs addressing far more urgently.
You mentioned a facelift and a new interior...
Oh. Yes... The fortwo has been getting progressively uglier since that sharp-suited, first generation styling gave way to its jelly mould 'n' blow torch sponsored successors. And though the width increase visited on a previous generation has eased elbow clonking risk on board considerably, current frontal styling does nothing to assuage the impression that one is living in an over-matey box.
Far more appealing, the new interior is hallmarked by a dashboard assaulted with a giant ice cream scoop (sadly, the UK won't benefit from zanier finishes such as faux carbon fibre and 'Alvar Aalto wooden salad bowl'), the seven-inch touchscreen, Renault switchgear and, oh the nostalgia, just the single crab eye-stalked dash-top dial detailing matters electrical.
smart fortwo: verdict
Does exactly what it says on the box. Electric drive is a good match for the fortwo's bustling urban character, but it's a shame the on-board technology's behind the curve, and the range is only 70-odd miles. Even if it is the cheapest electric car available in the UK, it still seems somewhat pricey for what it offers. The Skoda Citigo-e iV is hardly any more expensive and comes with rear doors and seats, a better claimed 160-mile battery range and a less roly-poly drive. We'd try and catch that instead, before they sell out.