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The Smart Fortwo was one of the first cars to be offered with electric power and made its debut appearance on the streets of London back in 2007.
Being one of the best all-round city cars money can buy, adding battery power to the Smart seemed like the perfect combination, even if the range in first-generation models left a lot to be desired.
Since then, battery technology has evolved massively, and now in its fourth generation, the Smart Electric Drive is available in two-, four-door and cabrio guises and boasts a larger range, new technology and the latest family design. We travelled to the South of France to get an early drive to find out how the new car performs on the road.
The ultimate city car
Head to any major city in Europe and you'll likely come across a Smart car. They're an ideal choice thanks to its compact dimensions and small turning circle - a miniscule 6.95m in the Fortwo's case. With legislation getting tighter for combustion engines within cities, the electric Smart offers a solution for businesses looking to future-proof their fleet.
As a four-door the Smart makes even more sense. Costing just £500 more for the extra doors and two extra seats, the Forfour is 800mm longer than its two-door sibling and because it has two extra seats, offers more boot space too - up to 975 litres if you collapse them down.
The interior boasts the best quality and fit and finish of any other city car on sale, which is a good job because the Smart carries a premium price tag. There's a host of equipment on offer to help justify the price, though, like LED running lights, sat-nav, automatic climate control, cruise control, heated seats, electric windows and Bluetooth. You can also download an app that will allow drivers to precondition the car or charge remotely.
Officially, the Smart Forfour Electric will travel up to 96 miles per charge according to the NEDC cycle, and with 81hp (up 5hp on the previous version) and 160Nm of torque on offer, will take 12.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph.
These figures don't really do the car justice, though. Because of its lightweight design and immediate torque, 0-30mph feels very quick indeed and on the road the Smart Electric Drive is as nimble and fun to drive as the standard car.
There's plenty of grip on offer too, the steering is light and responsive, and although ride quality is not one of the car's key strengths there's been a significant improvement over the previous model. The car proved comfortable on the motorway too, with little road or wind noise entering the cabin.
You're not likely to take the Smart Electric Drive on the motorway often, though. The firm predicts a real-world range of around 75 miles in normal driving conditions. Accelerate hard or travel at 70mph for a length of time and expect this figure to reduce dramatically.
Charging the car will take two and a half hours from a wallbox or public charging points, or six hours from a domestic socket for 80% battery life. Disappointingly, we'll have to wait for a 22kW fast-charger version, which is expected to arrive in the autumn next year and will charge 80% of the battery within 45 minutes - expect a price rise when this version comes out, though.
When the Smart Electric Drive was first launched it moved the electric game forwards considerably. The biggest problem with this new car is that the competition has caught up, and in some cases overtaken the once revolutionary Smart. Volkswagen's e-Up offers a better range, despite being on sale for three years now, and the bigger and more versatile Renault Zoe is similarly priced. Yes the new Smart Electric Drive is an improvement over its predecessor, but you can't help but feel disappointed that it fails to set new standards for the market, something we've come to expect from the iconic city car.
Exact pricing and full spec details will be announced for the new Smart Electric later this month. We're expecting P11D prices to start around £21,000 for the Fortwo and £21,500 for the Forfour.