2012 Smart Fortwo Electric

NEW YORK — The 2012 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is best described as a two-person golf cart that’s not big enough to carry any clubs. A group of auto journalists were given the opportunity to be among the first to test the all-electric car.

It can actually seat two Big & Tall guys in relative comfort. And there’s a storage area above the rear bumper that will hold a backpack and computer bag if it feels like it.

Being electric, this vehicle is obviously quiet. On acceleration the only noise heard is the whine you’d notice with the aforementioned golf cart. It actually handles fairly well and in its own way is kind of swift – able to go from 0-40 mph in 6.5 seconds. We did not drive the vehicle on a freeway – only around Brooklyn neighborhood streets. Other than the fact you’re not going to carry much stuff, city streets are the geographical demographics for this vehicle. Rear visibility is not too bad. A full battery charge is good for about four to five hours and gives you a range of about 84 miles. It takes three hours to recharge.

You have to be a well-heeled tree hugger to consider paying for an Electric Drive Smart Fortwo. They’re not available for direct sale. They can be leased for 48 months – at $599 per month – and at the end of 48 months they go back to Daimler. What this means is that you’re paying about $29,000 for a $20,000 vehicle for a 48-month operating cycle. There are federal and local tax benefits depending on the state or city you reside in.

The best thing the electric version of Smart has going for it is that it’s not the gas-powered model. While the transmission in the electric model is basically sound the unit in the gas-powered Smart is one of, if not the worst transmissions we’ve ever had the displeasure to drive. And from what we were told this was an improved unit!

We’ve seen some Smart cars out on the highway, with some very courageous or stupid people behind the wheel. Maybe you can get away playing with the Kenworths or Peterbuilts or even Daimler’s own Freightliners with a gas version, but it strikes us that the electric version drive out there could be shocking.

— Al Vinikour