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Smart ForTwo ED

Road Test

Smart fortwo ED

Driven March 2008

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You try to be forward-thinking and responsible and what do you get? Forced into a rolling laboratory or some wayward, almost deliberately odd, tiny plastic go-kart. The furious ducking of tax laws and deliberate obfuscation of crash tests mean that you invariably end up in something that is a cross between a mobility scooter and a quad.

So the Smart ED appeals immediately. Here is a car that we understand. A car that is packaged well, can seat two generously proportioned adults and some modest luggage with ease and doesn't require the sacrifice of every shred of credibility. Lob in a small but powerful electric motor, ditch the need for the Smart's slightly annoying semi-auto gearbox and you've gotthe perfect commuting car.

It felt good picking the Smart ED up from Mercedes-Benz, freshly plucked after recharging from Merc's new super-efficient wind turbine, mainly because it just looks like a normal Smart, albeit the last-gen bodyshell. But the heart of the matter is the pacemaker slung in the back.

So, undo the plug from the charging point where the fuel cap usually sits, and the Smart just slots into 'D' and toddles away with the usual electric hum and whine.

OK, so it's not quick, but 0-30mph it's actually faster than the fossil-powered car, so in town you'll only notice the silence and slightly heavy feeling, thanks to the extra weight of the batteries. Top speed takes an age and is around the 62mph mark, but again, you're looking for urban commuting miles so that's by-the-by.

The problems arrive fairly quickly after that. Smart is quoting a 60-mile range on a full charge, but I only managed 22 before the indicator was reading a paltry 30 per cent. What was more worrying is that as the charge decreased so did the Smart's performance.

Trying desperately to return to base, I found myself doing 15mph on a dual carriageway, being overtaken by cyclists, pigeons and lost tortoises. If you take into account that if you have the heater, lights and radio on you'll further deplete the charge, then the Smart looks less appealing than a bike.

The car isn't on general release at the moment - Smart is trialling 100 vehicles with various companies in the UK instead. Smart thinks my car was probably ill, but we're still waiting for a mainstream ED commuter that really works.

Tom Ford

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