As the world comes to terms with alternative energy vehicles, it is clear that there is going to be resistance to change, especially where utility, range, charging time and opportunity cost are concerned.
While most hybrid cars are more or less direct replacements for the pure internal combustion engine versions of the same vehicle, a city car, and especially so an electric car, has to be good enough as a stand alone vehicle to make people want to own or lease it.
The smart Electric Drive, especially in Cabriolet form, is such a car, and its appeal is broadened by the fact that it is also available as a personalised smart Brabus electric drive in both Coupe and Cabriolet versions.
The roads in downtown Miami are not as smooth as they look, and are littered with plenty of imperfections that you feel rather than see. Where the previous smart (451) electric drive, which I tried in New York a few years back, would have crashed and banged over these bumps, I was pleased to note that the all-new chassis of the latest smart (453) takes them in its stride.
Cruising on fast moving freeways is now actually an enjoyable experience, the strong torque of the three-phase synchronous electric motor quickly whisking you up to highway speeds with plenty in reserve.
Push the right pedal down firmly from 100km/h and you feel that plateau of torque pushing you smoothly forwards at a pace that allows you to exploit gaps in the traffic with no stress.
The electric motor in the standard car has 55kW (75hp) and 130Nm of torque, which allows it to scoot to 100km/h in 11.7 seconds The Brabus version has 60kW and 135Nm for a 10.2 seconds 0-100km/h sprint, and the same 130km/h top speed.
This enhanced power does not chip into the cars range, which remains between 145km and 160km on a full charge. Using the air-conditioning and cruising at 120km/h results in a realistic range of around 120km.
While not exactly sports car grade in fingertip communication, the electric power steering has sufficient feel and feedback to let you know what the front wheels are doing. Importantly, the back axle follows the front wheels into a bend with a feeling of both agility and stability that engenders a high level of driver confidence.
The improvement in stability at highway speeds over its predecessor is also very apparent. Because top speed of the ED is limited to 130km/h to conserve battery charge, the Electric Drive operates well within the capabilities of a chassis designed to cope with much higher speeds in its conventionally engined versions.
Today, every single small car espouses Sir Alec Issigonis’ space efficient packaging concept of front-wheel-drive and a transverse engine, first presented to the world in 1959 in his legendary Mini.
However, over half a Century on, the one consistent failing of every front, and indeed four-wheel-drive car, is the physical constraint that having front axle driveshafts imposes on its turning circle.
With a rear positioned engine driving the rear wheels, and front wheels in housings designed for maximum articulation about the horizontal plane, the new smart fortwo boasts the best turning circle in the business at 8.75m. You can consider its ability to turn on the proverbial dime a badge of honour for the quintessential two-seat city car.