2017 Smart Electric Drive Review

The One to Get.

Smart has been an interesting experiment in urban mobility. On paper, these tiny runabouts are an ideal transportation option for residents of densely packed megalopolises around the world.

But reality is often strikingly different from theory. In practical terms, these cars haven’t been all that popular, at least not in North America.

All told, some 2 million have been sold since Day One, but regrettably for parent company Daimler, a sparse handful of those have been in the U.S. Fewer than 7,500 left dealerships in all of 2015, a year-over-year decrease of more than 28 percent. In comparison, Toyota delivered about that many Corollas every single week last year.

Still, hurricane-force headwinds haven’t stopped this brand from continuing to forge ahead in North America. Its totally redesigned Smart coupe debuted last year, the Cabrio version of this car just hit showrooms and now it’s time for the all-new Electric Drive model to take a stab at amping up sales.

Best of its BreED

The Smart ED (Electric Drive) offers the same unprecedented agility, minuscule turning radius and youthful demeanor as its gasoline-powered sibling, combined with emissions-free operation and startling off-the-line punch.

2017-Smart-ED-Main-Art

Indeed, the combustion-powered coupe’s severe turbo lag is nonexistent, as it punches hardest at a standstill. There’s no waiting, no stuttering, no shuddering, just bury the accelerator and this EV storms ahead on a wave of torque.

When it comes to driving, this is unquestionably the best Smart available, responsive, smooth and quiet, all things the combustion-powered version isn’t because of its laggardly engine and sometimes-brusque dual-clutch transmission.

Inside, you get the same decently trimmed cabin, with respectable materials and switchgear throughout, save the headliner, which is noticeably cheap, appearing to be made of reclaimed dryer lint.

Special EDition

Replacing the combustion model’s generally uncouth propulsion system is an all-electric drivetrain. A three-phase synchronous motor provides the punch, delivering a veritable stampede of ponies, 80 horsepower in total. Torque measures 118 lb-ft, 23 percent more than the 96 available in the previous Smart ED.

Engineers corrected the gasoline-powered model’s less-than-perfect six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox by dumping it entirely. That baby got tossed out with the bathwater, rubber ducky, and tear-free shampoo. Guaranteeing that the Smart ED will never have any shift-quality woes, it has no transmission at all; a single, fixed ratio drives the rear wheels.

2017-Smart-ED-Battery-Gauge

Providing this car with an estimated driving range of between 70 and 80 miles is a 17.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This rectangular electron reserve is mounted right beneath the driver and passenger’s feet, providing a low center of gravity, which should help improve vehicle handling.

Liquid cooled for enhanced performance in a wide range of temperatures, this 96-cell unit was developed and manufactured by Deutsche Accumotive, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler. Beyond the Smart ED, they also produce batteries for Mercedes-Benz.

Helping extend the length of time it can go between recharges is radar-based regenerative braking. A sensor monitors surrounding traffic and automatically alters how aggressively the Smart ED stores energy while decelerating, which is enormously clever, though curiously it’s something that will not be offered in U.S.-market vehicles, at least not at launch.

Standing behind its product, the ED’s lithium-ion battery is guaranteed for eight years or 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). Should more than 30 percent of its capacity diminish during that warranty period, the company will replace it.

2017-Smart-ED-Charging

As for charging times, this Smart’s battery can be fully replenished in 16.5 hours using a standard 120-volt, 12-amp electrical outlet. Speeding things along, customers with access to a 240-volt, 32-amp outlet can achieve the same feat in a scant three hours.

Helping you keep an eye on this progress is the Smart Control app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. Like other systems from competing automakers, it allows you to keep tabs on tire pressure, stay on top of the service schedule and even pre-condition the vehicle’s interior so it’s at a comfortable temperature when you’re ready to set out on a trip.

2017-Smart-ED-Smart-Control-App

Regrettably, the Smart car has gained a bit of weight during its transformation into an electric vehicle. An official curb weight is not available at this time, but we’ve been told the car is roughly 300 pounds huskier than a standard coupe, which clocks in at around 2,050 pounds.

ThE Drive

As mentioned several paragraphs ago, the Smart ED’s drivetrain is a massive improvement over its combustion-powered counterpart. Smooth, silent and responsive, it’s everything you expect in a modern motorcar.

This urban runabout accelerates briskly off the line, where it’s abundant torque punches like an MMA fighter. This makes the ED feel quicker than its acceleration numbers would suggest. The car will scamper to 60 miles an hour in a claimed 11.4 seconds, which is adequate at best.

2017-Smart-ED-Interior-02

Fortunately, most Smart ED owners won’t be racing for pink slips on Saturday nights or blasting down the freeway at extra-legal speeds. Like its brethren, this car is most at home in congested areas where it’s incredibly tight turning radius (a claimed 22.8 feet) and minuscule footprint are huge assets. They make it a snap to maneuver around lumbering traffic or park in spaces that would be tight to squeeze a bicycle into.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio Review

As with the Cabrio model I tested a couple months ago, Smart’s latest ED pitches over bumps and rolls generously through corners. Its body motions over rough pavement are somewhat exaggerated, likely due to its ultra-short wheelbase, which measures a curt 73.7 inches; overall length is just 106.1 inches, less than nine feet! On the plus side, the battery pack’s added mass seems to provide a more compliant ride, though the tradeoff is dubious as it’s really heavy.

The transition from regenerative to friction braking is smooth. Overall, there’s nothing to complain about here.

2017-Smart-ED-Drivetrain

ThE verDict: 2017 Smart Electric Drive Review

With an all-new drivetrain, the Smart ED Coupe is simply the best version of this super-compact car. Its refinement and performance are leagues ahead of what the gasoline-powered model can muster.

However, this car is not for everyone. It’s most suited to urbanites that desire personal transportation but don’t want the hassles of parking or fueling a larger vehicle. For these customers, the Smart ED Coupe is ideal but for drivers residing the vast swaths of red-state America, it’s simply not an option.

2017-Smart-ED-Rear

If you’re considering a Smart car and understand its unique benefits – and challenging downsides – the ED is the one to get. The coupe version is set to launch in the U.S. next spring, with a sporty Cabrio variant following in the summer, just in time for drop-top driving.

Official pricing has not been announced at this time, but the 2017 Smart ED Coupe starts at around $23,816 in Germany. Despite the inclusion of that country’s 19 percent value-added tax we’ve been told this is a reasonable estimated base figure for the American version. Look for more detailed information on this subject closer to the car’s on-sale date.

Discuss this story on our Smart Forum

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    I agree that the electric version is better than the gas variant, but I still think they’re both over priced and I kinda feel bad for people who fall for what they’re selling. Not good value either way, and the repair costs and long term reliability are brutal from what owners have been saying for years.

  • sɐıqoʇ

    Jonny, I have owned and driven a smart fortwo since 2008 and the repair cost have been near zero (a replaced driver side seat belt). Reliability has been perfect otherwise, and at 40 mpg average, I have saved a lot of fuel over most other available cars (not to mention tires and other wear items), certainly at this price point. Driving it in the city (and parking it!) have no equal in their delight. I will very likely be buying another one and it will be the ED version.
    Its use case certainly works best for urban dwellers, and it will remain a niche car in the US, due to the obsession with everything large here, but it works for me.
    I continue to be amazed by detractors (such as yourself), who claim to know a lot about it, using generalizations without proof (“…brutal from what owners have been saying for years…”?). More folklore than fact from my actual experience, and knowledge of many fellow owners who swear by the fortwo.
    There is no doubt that the smart polarizes (as being different always seems to), but so do many other cars. I would be curious to know what vehicles you drive and deem “worth the price”?
    Don’t feel bad for me, I have been very happy with my smart, as I have been with a Honda I used to own as well (not so much with a Ford before that). YMMV, but don’t slam it without actually knowing it/having lived with it.

  • jstack6

    The range and low price for a local use car is one of the best. The faster charging is also good. 2 seats covers about 90% of many drivers. With liquid cooled batteries they should last 20-30 years like most others.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    I’m glad to hear that you are having a positive experience with your Smart. I’ll admit to only having driven one for a year as a part of a drive share network (not actually owning one) but I think being a victim of that first gen transmission for a year qualifies me to comment =P. Despite that, I liked the idea of the new one, was considering picking one up because I too live in a busy city where parking is at a premium, and I also like niche cars. I wanted to believe the mechanical changes were good too so I went into research modes and spent some time on the owner forums. What I found out about the outgoing model (from owners) was not encouraging and it did sadden me, because I really wanted to believe in the possibility, and hopes of a new one (which wasn’t released yet) were also dashed because of it’s price. I just couldn’t see the value. As far as Vehicles I have driven that were good value, ’89 Micra (used) ’90 Corolla (used) ’96 Civic (new) ’00 Civic (new) ’15 Micra (new) I left out a few because these are the cars I deemed good value vs. a Smart, no offense. The point is, for the price of a new smart, one could buy any other sub compact on the market and get more for their money with a better track record, and many compacts as well. I also like to think I learned from youthful mistakes which is why I’m not driving a Dodge Challenger right now as it would not really fit my lifestyle at this time, and by the same logic it’s why I don’t drive a Smart. I wouldn’t mind throwing money away because of the Dodge, I’d be expecting that, but with the Smart, there’s no excuse.

  • porsche

    I must say, while I certainly haven’t lived with one, I really just don’t get this car at all. The gas version makes no sense. From what I can tell, it has only one advantage over any other car; it’s small. It weighs much less than a Honda Civic, has a tiny engine, but somehow gets worse gas mileage? Actually, no better than any regular compact car. I would expect this car to get 60MPG. It’s practically a motorcycle. Two seats, limited cargo, poor driving dynamics, in exchange for poor fuel economy (relatively speaking). My Honda Civic beats it in every single single metric, every single one, even price. The only thing it has going for it is, it’s small. With none of the advantages of a small car except that it’s easier to find parking in the city. Or am I missing something? And for a pure electric, it’s also offering 1st generation performance, limited range and long charging time. I would think a Mitsubishi i-MiEV would be a better choice, more room, faster charging, and less expensive.

  • sɐıqoʇ

    “Every _single_ metric”? 🙂

    Honda Civic: starting MSRP: $18,740; MPG: 28 (city)
    Smart Fortwo: starting MSRP: $14,650; MPG: 33 (city)

    Truth, not hyperbole …

  • hard at work

    My 2008 Smart (US) today has 151,000 miles the last three fill ups 8 gallons. I got over 38 miles per gallon, 1. 39miles per gallon. 2. 41.5 miles per gallon. 3. 38. 8 miles per gallon. Yep really enjoy my SMART ForTwo. it is a passion that cost $15,000. This is me driving 50 miles one way to work on interstate doing 70 -75 mph. and highway doing 55-65 mph.

  • hard at work

    I have a 2008 with 151,000 miles still getting over 38 miles to a gallon. when I drive the highway to work 50 miles from home speed 55 -60. The only thing I’ve done is change oil and filter every 10,000 miles. use prem fuel, change brakes once and spark plugs once. replaced windshield wipers and tires. Once I got bold enough to change the oil my self everything else came natural. The only Two gripes I’ve ever had is the small sun visors and the head light bulb burns out every year. easy to change out with a clip that holds it in place.

  • David West

    I have a 2008, love it, best car for around town, parking in spaces they keep making smaller, have a Dodge Ram pickup that barely fits in…….have had no problems except the latch for the rear window had to be replaced, just put some new tires on, original ones had 60,000, have taken two fairly long trips in it, but prefer my truck, around town is unbeatable……..

  • greenmama

    I will never complain about mileage or weight or cost of my Smart car. Most of the problems noted by others comparing Smarts with other small cars are not taking safety, a crucial factor for a small car, into account, My Smart car actually had a serious accident one of the first times I drove it. thanks to its powerful engine and insanely tight turning radius, (and really bad roads – and one of those chaotic panic driving situations) sailed through the air and down a steep bank – side scraping a couple of trees (thank goddess!)- and landed twelve feet below my starting place. BUT I walked away! The tridiron steel shell – and the airbags – which – unlike those in other cars – surrounded me – allowed me to survive with minimal physical damage.

    We are seriously considering replacing our late, lamented,and totaled ‘Pumpkin’ (gas powered 2016 Smart car) with a 2017 ED. But we live in a hilly area with poorly designed and poorly maintained roads. I could live with a rough ride, but going down a steep hill, I shift into second gear to avoid riding the brake. This braking power downhill is never mentioned in specs which boast of time to reach 60 mph. How does a 2017 ED cope with hilly, steep, bumpy narrow dangerous roads?

  • porsche

    from mfr’s website:
    smart fortwo (base model) 31 city / 39 hwy
    Honda civic LX 32 city / 42 hwy

    Your civic pricing is for 2017, your smart pricing, 2016. I couldn’t confirm smart pricing for 2017, but from Truecar’s website, it appears to be about 2k$ higher. You are still right about the slightly lower price, but it’s not a comparable trim level. The smart car at the corresponding trim level is priced comparably or higher. I must admit, I didn’t realize that Honda discontinued the DX and base trim levels, which, when they did exist, had prices that supported my comments.

  • thx1200

    Really cool, but 70-80 mile range makes it uncomfortably tight range for my daily commute of 50 miles total. Add in a doctor visit or grocery run with no way to charge at work and it’s just outside what I think is realistic for me. Dang, I had hopes it would be in the 100+ mile range.

  • sɐıqoʇ

    All pricing I provided is current (directly from manufacturers’ websites). Your claim for a $2,000 price increase on the smart for next year is baseless and incorrect. The mpg you quote for the civic is for the higher priced CVT LX model (adding another $1,000 to the price I quoted in my earlier e-mail). I can buy a lot of gas for $4,000 or $5,000 🙂 …
    In either case it is clear you are trying hard to make your theory stick, it just doesn’t hold up in practice.
    The Civic is a very nice car, it just doesn’t compete with the smart. It’s an entirely different segment (it has put on a lot of size since it’s original introduction), and hence is more expensive. The Honda Fit gets closer at just under $16,000, but its gas mileage is not as good…
    I understand that many people don’t like the smart, it polarizes. But for a certain use case (city commuting, single driver/one passenger), there simply is no better alternative, or even one that gets close.
    I’ll be buying another smart, you will never, and that’s ok, but please stick to facts, when trying to talk people into what you believe to be the better option, and don’t be so absolute in statements that are absolutely incorrect.