First and foremost, if you live outside a major metroplex or a resort area this car probably won’t work for you. If you do, then the Smart Electric may be something you need to look at. Hear me out.
Smart brought us to San Diego to have a go with the 2018 Smart Electric Cabrio. To explore the car, we had to explore the city by way of a scavenger hunt. Being San Diego, the weather was board of tourism perfect. That means 80ºF and sunshine all day. No roof required.
We were given three hours to dash in and around the city to find 19 different spots. Then we had to shoot photos in some of these and check in at others. Most people had a second person with them, I did not, so thankfully all the spots were programmed into the nav which made things much easier. As a side note, I finished third, even having missed one spot because I was running short on time.
Dashing around on surface streets, the all-electric Smart Cabrio was just fine. With 80 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque available from the tip in, and a curb weight of 2,383 pounds, acceleration to 40 mph is brisk. It’s not OMG slam you into your seat quick, but you’ll be getting away from just about everything at the stoplight. Acceleration from 40-60 is fair. From 60 mph onward it starts to fall off.
While the main focus of the drive was on surface streets and speeds under 50, there were a couple of points where I had to jump onto the freeway. Smart lists the top speed of the Electric Cabrio at 81 mph and I saw at least an indicated 80 on the 805 as I moved to over to get a left-hand exit that came up quickly. It did not feel as if the vehicle was straining to get to that speed. Instead it felt as if this ultra-compact was electronically governed at that speed.
It’s a cozy coupe, but it’s more than that thanks to the action of the roof. There are three configurations for the Cabriolet. Smart call it a “Tri-top”. You start, of course with it fully enclosed. Then you can move it into a Targa position. You have a Convertible configuration where the top is all the way down. Finally, there’s Roadster, where the bars connecting the A and B pillars are removed. These bars can be stowed in the trunk, which can hold two standard sized backpacks with a little extra room, and will not affect the torsional rigidity according to Smart officials. With the top in it’s Targa configuration and the windows down, the buffeting at highway speeds was not bad at all.
With an overall length of 106.1 inches and a wheelbase of just 73.7 inches, you’d expect the Smart to be highly maneuverable. It is. The turning circle of the vehicle is just 22.8 feet. Given a few of the spots where I was snapping photos, being able to turn on the figurative dime and leave seven cents change was very handy.
The battery in the Electric Smart is a new 17.6kw, 96-cell pack, which is up from 93 in the prior version. It’s the same physical size yet weighs 44 pounds less. You’ll find an eight-year, 62,000-mile warranty attached to it and it’s designed in-house by a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. The range when new is rated at 65-70 miles (EPA rated at 58 based on 5 years of use) and EPA rated at 112MPGe on the combined cycle. Recharge time is three hours on 240v.
If you live in a colder climate, Smart will offer a cold weather package which consists of a heated steering wheel and additional insulation in the doors and floors. Coming around Q3 of 2018, there will be an app to go along with the car so you can preheat the cabin while it’s still on the charger.
In its natural environment as an urban car and commuter, the Smart Cabrio is fun. It’s nimble, carves up traffic like an Iron Chef does ham, and can park this motoring box in the tightest of spaces.
Look at your normal daily use, not at outliers or the two or three trips a year you take. If you live and drive in an urban or highly congested area and your round trip is under 60 miles, then this may be worth a look. The Smart Cabrio will have an MSRP of $28,850 with destination and delivery. Nearly 90% of Smart cars, however, are leased. That means it’s possible to drive one for less than $150 a month.
Sure there is a level of absurdity to the car, but that is the appeal. The worst that can happen is that you confirm your biases. What may happen though, is that once you get behind the wheel and step on the throttle, especially with the top down zipping through a city, you realize it’s a much more enjoyable experience than you thought.
[Disclaimer: Smart flew us to San Diego and put us up in a hotel. There was food and drinks as well.]