Smart EQ ForFour review
Smart has always been associated with innovation and its tiny city cars are among the most distinctive on the road. It comes as no surprise, then, that the brand should want a slice of the electric city-car pie, and the Smart EQ ForFour fights to attract buyers away from the similarly sized Volkswagen e-up! and slightly larger Renault ZOE.
One thing it has in its favour – unusually for the otherwise upmarket Smart brand – is price. It substantially undercuts the e-up!, despite being rather better equipped, and does the same with the Renault ZOE once you take account of the latter's battery leasing charges. Those tempted away from the Renault have to manage their battery range expectations, though – the EQ ForFour can travel only around half as far as the ZOE on a full charge.
There are many for whom this won't matter, though, and the tiny, easy-to-park EQ ForFour occupies a definite niche for those who make lots of short, door-to-door urban trips. It makes particular sense as a business vehicle, either as a company car – where the low Benefit-in-Kind tax levied on zero-emissions vehicles makes for big savings – or as a cheap-to-run and environmentally friendly promotional, advertising or delivery vehicle.
Although the boot is a fairly tight 185 litres in size, the versatile rear-seat configurations are handy and wide-opening doors make for easy access for parcel couriers or rear-seat passengers alike. Business and private owners will both enjoy the remarkably long list of standard equipment; it runs as far as sat nav and a remote-control app that lets you pre-heat the EQ ForFour's interior before you set out. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is standard, too.
We reckon the EQ ForFour is more enjoyable to drive than a petrol Smart, and it arguably has the edge on the Renault ZOE, too. On paper, its acceleration is slower, but it feels very sprightly from a standstill and easily has the legs on urban traffic. Its accelerator is very linear in operation, too, which makes it easy to maintain a very slow crawl without jerking passengers' heads back and forth.
The electric Smart feels rather more stable and planted than its internal-combustion-engined stablemates – a consequence of the firm suspension needed to carry a power pack that makes the EQ far heavier than a petrol ForFour. The downside of this is a rather firm and fidgety ride, which never really settles down when you pick up the pace.
With a 0-62mph time of 12.4 seconds and a top speed of 80mph, the Smart doesn't feel out of its depth on faster roads, but prolonged high speeds will see the range rapidly tumble and send you searching for a charging point where – with the optional 22kW charger – you can restore an 80% charge in less than 40 minutes. Charging cables are provided to suit a home-charging wallbox, public chargers and domestic three-pin sockets, and a 7kW charger is standard, taking the EQ's 17.6kWh battery from 10-80% charge in a claimed two-and-a-half hours from a domestic wallbox.
With its limited range and compact interior, the Smart EQ ForFour's limitations are obvious, but it's a desirable little car nonetheless, with a characterful design, perky driving experience and lavish standard equipment. It has a real sense of fun to it, and may well be the right zero-emissions commuter tool if range and versatility aren't top priorities. If you need to regularly carry four passengers or bulky loads for longer distances, a Renault ZOE will suit you better, but you'll need to reach a little deeper into your pockets.
Smart hasn't always returned the most inspiring results in our annual Driver Power surveys, and the petrol ForFour received a lacklustre four-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating back in 2014 – the EQ has yet to be tested, but standard safety equipment has been increased since then.
For a more detailed look at the Smart EQ ForFour, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.