Reviews

2018 Smart fortwo Introduction

For the 2018 model year, every Smart fortwo model runs on electricity alone. In that battery-only respect, the minicar emulates Tesla, but at the other end of the price and size spectrum.

Gasoline-powered Smart two-seaters were previously available, but sagging sales prompted Mercedes-Benz, its parent company, to abandon that powertrain and turn strictly to battery power. So, all 2018 Smart fortwo models are electric cars.

Coupe and a soft-top Cabrio versions are available in the newly simplified lineup. A 10th Anniversary package is offered.

Three trim levels are offered: Pure, Passion, and Prime.

A 60-kilowatt, 80-horsepower electric motor powers the Smart fortwo. Developing 118 pound-feet of torque, a significant increase over last year, it drives the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. Rated 17.6 kilowatt-hours, the lithium-ion battery pack sits beneath the passenger compartment.

With the onboard 7.2-kW charger, a full charge takes 3 hours. Although the Smart Company claims a range of 70 to 80 miles before recharging is needed, the EPA estimate is lower than 60 miles.

Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the fortwo retains its status as the easiest U.S.-market car to park on crowded streets. With electric drive, the Smart car becomes what it should have been all along: quirky, with limitations, but smooth, quiet, and eager to zip around town.

On the downside, few active-safety features are available, and up-to-date crash-test data has not yet been revealed. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2017 gasoline version four stars overall, that federal agency specifically avoided the electric model. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 Smart car only two ratings: both Good, for side-impact and moderate-overlap frontal crash tests.

Smart cars are built with an extremely stiff safety cell. Eight airbags and a rearview camera are standard. Crosswind Assist can brake and steer the car automatically, to counteract gusty conditions. Newer electronic safety systems, such as automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning, are not available.

Built in France, Smart models are eligible for a federal income-tax credit up to $7,500, a $2,500 rebate in California, and various other state, local, and corporate incentives. Still, the fortwo ranks as basic compared to electric cars that cost only slightly more.

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