If you want an electric car, there are now 14 different models with plugs to choose from.

But if you want an electric convertible, there's just one: The 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio.

The little two-seat battery electric vehicle with the roll-back cloth roof is now on sale along with the fixed-roof Coupe model of the same car.

The pair is the latest expansion of the Smart ForTwo minicar range, and in many ways, the electric powertrain makes the Smart what it should have been all along--smooth, quiet, and pleasant to drive around town.

They're not long-distance cars--the EPA rates the range at 68miles--but they're efficient, with an EPA rating of 107 MPGe combined. (The 'MPGe' metric is the distance the car can travel electrically on the same amount of stored energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

In addition to being the lowest-priced electric car in the States, the reduced lease price of $139 a month for the Smart Electric Drive Coupe is lower than most likely any other car on the market.

Under the same scheme, however, the Convertible leases for $199 a month if you put down $1,999 and opt into the Battery Assurance Plus program under which you lease the battery separately.

2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - Quick Drive, May 2013

2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - Quick Drive, May 2013

40 miles left

Last week, we had a chance to test-drive an electric Smart convertible on a mixed route of about 25 miles outside the progressive enclave of Ann Arbor, Michigan, on a pleasantly sunny day.

We were in the second of two drive waves, so after covering the same route in the morning, we got our white Cabrio with red cloth roof with an indicated remaining range of 40 miles.

Along a route that blended city traffic, country roads, and suburban development--but no freeway mileage--we covered 25.4 miles over an hour or so and ended up with 19 miles remaining.

Either we have a lighter right foot than the morning's test driver, or the range calculations are designed to stay on the conservative side.

Either would be fine as far as we're concerned, though the car's Eco Score of 73 percent on delivery had risen to 90 percent by the time we returned the car.

Driving impressions

The Smart Electric Drive doesn't feel quite like any other electric car we've tested (which is to say, almost all of them).

It's heavy for such a small car, and the controls require a certain amount of muscle--including the steering, which isn't power assisted, and the accelerator, which needs a deliberate push to deliver power.

Acceleration is good from a stop, if you peg the needle on the power gauge, but the electric Smart is better from 0 to 30 mph than from 30 to 60 mph, when it begins to lag--though in fairness, that applies to the gasoline version as well.

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

The electric Smart, thankfully, dispenses entirely with the dreadful automated manual gearbox fitted to the gasoline version, which slams in and out of gear and pitches the car back and forth on its short wheelbase. The electric drivetrain eliminates that problem altogether.

The electric motor that powers the rear wheels, located under the load deck and behind the driver's backside, is rated at 35 kilowatts (47 horsepower) of continuous power, with a peak output of 55 kW (74 hp). Its maximum torque is an even 100 lb-ft.

'Kick-down' for boost

There's a "kick-down" function that gives a little extra boost of power for passing, but you won't get it by accident. It requires a deliberate push to floor the accelerator.

If you use the power, though, you'll find you can break loose the inside rear wheel accelerating out of a bumpy corner--which is fun.

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

The ride is firm, and less bouncy than the standard Smart ForTwo--surely due to the extra 300 pounds of weight, and the 17.6-kilowatt-hour battery pack's location low in the floorpan.

With the cloth roof rolled back and both windows down, the electric Smart Cabrio was a bit noisier than the Coupe would have been with its windows up--hardly surprising.

But we enjoyed the open air, and think that in temperate climates, Smart may find its sells a high proportion of Cabrios among its Electric Drive deliveries.

And we'd note that you get more of a wind-in-the-hair feel with the top and windows down in the Smart Cabrio than you do in the Fiat 500c Cabrio. That's a plus in our book.

Random notes

A few random impressions we jotted down during our short test drive:

  • We noticed a handful of squeaks and rattles in our car, which had less than 600 miles on it
  • The little navigation screen works well enough and is fairly intuitive, not always the case
  • The windshield header is low enough--and the front of the car so short--that seeing stoplights overhead requires contortions if you're first at a light
  • The front seat cushion isn't adjustable for angle, and felt slightly tipped forward
  • Rear vision is minimal, with only a narrow slit between the rollbar and the stacked cloth top
  • European control placement has to be learned: ignition key on the tunnel, locks in the dash

High end of the range

Befitting a very small car with a price tag of $25,000, the Smart Electric Drive is a fairly high-level version of the ForTwo range. The drop-top Cabrio starts at an even higher $28,750.

2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - Quick Drive, May 2013

2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - Quick Drive, May 2013

It comes standard with such niceties as a CD player and SD card drive, accessible by pushing a button to flip up the display screen for the navigation system.

The one feature we really missed, however, was cruise control--if our car had it, we never found it.

In the end, we found the Smart Electric Drive Cabrio a fun car that's likely to appeal to the values that Smart buyers treasure: individuality, minimalism, and of course the ability to park almost anywhere due to its 106-inch length..

Will Smart sell a lot of electric cars? We can't say, but given that it's a combination of three very small segments of the U.S. market--two-seat cars, electric cars, and convertibles--it's definitely a unique entry.

Even if you're statistically unlikely to see one near you any time soon.

Smart provided airfare, transportation, and meals to allow High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.


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