2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio First Drive

Smart in Name Only

By their very nature, so-called city cars are limited in both capabilities and appeal. Smart's super compact vehicles have been emblematic of those city cars with all of the benefits and drawbacks. The 2018 Smart Fortwo lineup gets even more limited since the traditional combustion engine has been discontinued, leaving the Electric Drive as the only choice. We spent a day with the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio, the convertible alternative to the coupe, to see if the balance of advantages to shortcomings has changed.

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

The two-passenger 2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive coupe has a starting price of $24,650. This base model in Pure trim comes with 15-inch wheels, cruise control, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, a flat-folding passenger seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and streaming audio and an infotainment system that uses your own smartphone as the touchscreen controller. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio starts at $28,850 in the midgrade Passion trim and adds a powered three-position soft top with removable roof bars, power-adjustable and heated mirrors, and a height-adjustable driver seat.

Stepping up to the Cabrio Prime trim costs an additional $1,000 and includes upgraded LED exterior lights, automatic wipers and headlights, leather upholstery, heated seats and LED interior ambient lighting. Other bundled options include the $200 Climate package (a heated steering wheel, an energy-efficient climate control system and additional insulation), the $1,780 Smart Media System (a 7-inch touchscreen, a navigation system with voice control and live traffic, an additional Eco driving display, and a six-speaker JBL audio system with a removable subwoofer in the trunk), and the $450 Sport package (16-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and metal pedal accents). Other stand-alone options include a center armrest and rear parking sensors. A well-equipped Smart Fortwo Cabrio will run just over $32,000.

With an electric vehicle, it's important to consider substantial incentives from both federal and local governments.

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

The Positive Lead
Powering the 2018 Smart Fortwo lineup is an electric motor fed by a 17.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It's rated at 80 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque that is sent through a single-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. With a full charge, it's estimated to return 57 miles of range with a top speed of 81 mph. Charging times from an empty battery will take three hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charger. Charging with a typical 120-volt household outlet will take 16.5 hours.

Smart estimates the Cabrio will accelerate to 60 mph in 11.7 seconds, which is slow by almost any current vehicle standard. Since this is intended to be a city car, power to merge onto a highway isn't nearly as important as in the typical car, nor is much more range. With specs like these, you certainly can't expect to be impressed by the Smart's performance, but it's not as disappointing as you might think either.

In congested metropolitan settings, power isn't a priority, maneuverability is, and the Smart Fortwo is as maneuverable as cars get. It can make a U-turn in a space that is only 22.8 feet wide. Compare that to the typical midsize family sedan's 35-foot turning circle. Slipping the Smart, which is shorter than 9 feet in length, into a standard parking space is effortless and stress-free.

Actually living with the Smart Fortwo Cabrio, however, comes with its own set of drawbacks.

Negative Ground
The tiny Smart gives passengers the visual impression of more space than it actually has, but some limitations simply can't be overcome. The seats provide just an acceptable amount of comfort due to the firm padding and minimal adjustments. The front wheel hump intrudes into the cabin, leaving barely any room for a driver's left foot. Average-size or taller drivers will also note the lack of a telescoping steering wheel, which might force them closer to the wheel and dash than they'd prefer. Hard touch points for your elbows further hamper comfort. One could argue that these comfort issues are forgivable for a city car intended for short trips, but we would counter with, "Why not make it comfortable anyway?" Ride quality also suffers as a result of the Smart's tiny proportions. Rough pavement has a tendency to transmit considerable jolts into the passenger space, and larger undulations can cause some uneasy jostling, too.

The Cabrio's power-folding fabric top may give the Smart Fortwo some added appeal, but it, too, has some significant issues. We like that it has an intermediate position where the roof folds back for a Targa-like experience with the roof rails stored in the trunk. When the roof is fully retracted, however, the view rearward is mostly blocked by the folded top.

The Cabrio's cargo capacity is only 8.7 cubic feet with the top up. Top down, the space is even more restrictive. We were able to cram only two small backpacks in the trunk in full convertible mode. Grocery bags would be a problem. That hatch is also rather heavy, requiring an unusual amount of effort to close.

There is some space behind the seats to store limited cargo overflow. But in terms of interior storage, there's not a lot for your personal effects. There's a tiny glovebox, a pair of small cupholders and door pockets that aren't much more accommodating.

The interior itself is also far from impressive, especially considering the price. The abundance of flimsy materials and hard plastics remind us of far less expensive and much older economy cars. The available touchscreen is easier to use than the standard smartphone substitute, but it still falls well short of expectations set by almost any other built-in infotainment system. The navigation includes turn-by-turn directions but does not include street names, which can be troubling in densely populated cities with short blocks.

2018 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio

Smart or Not?
It would take many special circumstances for us to recommend a 2018 Smart Fortwo in either coupe or Cabrio body style. The advantages it reaps in maneuverability are overshadowed by its driving dynamics, limited range, comfort issues and compromised practicality for the vast majority of shoppers.

We're much more inclined to steer potential EV owners toward alternatives such as the Chevrolet Bolt, Fiat 500e and the new Nissan Leaf. Yes, these cars are more expensive and less maneuverable than the Smart Fortwos, but you're also getting a lot more car for your money.

Leave a Comment