Back in June we wrote about the start of production of the next generation Smart Electric Drive (found here). Already available in Europe, look for this new electric vehicle (EV) to show up in the states next spring.
Our first acquaintance last January with the electric Smart car didn’t impress (found here). In fact far from it. We found little to recommend about the car, which seemed uncivilized, uncomfortable, and under powered. Noisy cars and harsh bouncy suspensions don’t create fans, and we fell into that “not a fan” camp. Then came generation three.
The car that we drove last January is the second generation electric Smart. Not available for purchase by the public (in electric form), it can be found at Car2Go car sharing service in San Diego, where it has been undergoing an extensive real world field test for almost a year. Gathering data and consumer feedback was the purpose of this exercise. Based on the third generation vehicle that we drove in Los Angeles, they learned a lot.
In a word, getting behind the wheel of this new car was delightful. Which is not a word that we typically use. Granted, the expectations bar was set pretty low based on our previous experience in the car. It is a totally different car than the previous generation. Quick and comfortable are two words that come readily to mind. It also seemed quieter, although it is a challenge to remember long ago impressions.
One of the most favorable aspects of the drive experience that we enjoyed was the regen. Much more significant than that in the LEAF (which should offer an option just like this), but not as strong as the vertigo inducing brake regeneration system found in the Mini e. There is no selection of various regen modes, but we did not really see the necessity as it seemed to be dialed in just about the right amount for our taste. That said, some may find it to be just a tad too aggressive – so perhaps a slightly lighter option would suit a more conservative audience.
Power is up significantly from the current car – 55 kilowatts vs. 30 kilowatts – with a lithium-ion battery pack of 17.6 kilowatt hours. That amounts to about 73 horsepower now compared to about 40 before. But as we have said in the past, it’s not really about horsepower – it’s about torque. Torque is what makes a car fun to drive, and torque is up to about 96 lb-ft. When tasked with carrying around such a light car (roughly 1600 pounds), that amount is adequate to the task providing brisk acceleration when asked, but without stress or strain. We suspect that gearing may have been tweaked as well. Delightful. Expected EPA city driving range numbers are around 76 miles, with 68 combined city and highway. As always, your mileage will vary.
If you had any driving experience with the current car, and it left you wanting, driving this version should definitely be placed on your to-do list. Expected pricing is $25,000. With the current $7,500 Federal tax credit, and the additional $2,000 offered to Californians that brings the price of this electric option to $15,500. While the interior is spartan, that price does get a navigation system. For someone that does not need to carry more than two at a time, this might deserve some serious consideration. Now if we can only wrangle a little more time behind the wheel.