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Expert Review

Smart EQ ForFour hatchback (2019 - ) electric review

Electric version of Smart ForFour plays to the car’s city-friendly size and style for appealing zero emissions urban transport

The Auto Trader expert verdict:

3

The transition to pure electric power has been relatively straightforward for Smart, the ForFour’s mechanical layout perfectly accommodating the battery and motor where the fuel tank and petrol engine used to be. As such it retains the tiny on-road ‘footprint’ that makes the ForFour perfect for tight city streets, the rear seats meaning it's also more practical than the ForTwo. The simple electric powertrain addresses our previous criticisms of the petrol version’s sluggish response, while tech and safety features have also been upgraded, though the Smart is now pushed hard by fresher EV rivals like the Mini Electric, Honda E and Mazda MX-30 that can all take your electric driving beyond city limits.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickFunky looks
  • tickA breeze in city driving
  • tickEffortless electric power

At a glance:

Smart EQ ForFour electric

Running costs for a Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

The small battery may limit the range for journeys beyond city limits but will be quicker and cheaper to charge up
The upfront price of the Smart EQ ForFour is pretty chunky for what it is but, like any electric car, it has the potential to recover that through its cheaper running costs. While government grants are now a thing of the past you could save money through a a salary sacrifice scheme if your employer offers it, while tax, low emission zones and congestion charging will also play in your favour. The small battery, meanwhile, may limit the range for journeys beyond city limits but will be quicker and cheaper to charge up, whether you’re doing that on a home point or (more likely for urban dwellers) relying on the public network.
Expert rating: 4/5
Smart EQ ForFour electric

Reliability of a Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

The electric version should have less to go wrong on it than the previous petrol model
Smart is owned by Mercedes, which sounds like it should be a good thing but, in fact, the parent brand’s reliability record isn’t that spectacular. For its part the last time we looked Smart was actually doing OK on reliability surveys and the electric version should have less to go wrong on it than the previous petrol model. While the car itself is backed up by a pretty standard three-year warranty (the battery has eight years, or 62,000 miles of cover) Smart offers free breakdown cover for this period as well, which automatically renews for up to 30 years if you commit to having your ForFour serviced at a main dealer.
Expert rating: 3/5
Smart EQ ForFour electric

Safety for a Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

All versions now get automated emergency braking to slam on the anchors if the car thinks you haven’t responded to an upcoming hazard
We criticised the petrol ForFour’s level of standard safety equipment but, thankfully, this has been improved in the transition to electric power and all versions now get automated emergency braking to slam on the anchors if the car thinks you haven’t responded to an upcoming hazard. There are plenty of airbags up front, though rear seat passengers are less well protected in this regard. Given that it’s perhaps just as well the child seat mounts are on the front passenger seat, with manual deactivation as required. Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard, as is a crosswind assistance feature that may come in useful given the ForFour’s tall stance and lack of weight could see it being blown about in a gale.
Expert rating: 3/5
Smart EQ ForFour electric

How comfortable is the Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

The small size makes threading the Smart through gaps very easy while the surprisingly tall seating position is confidence inspiring as well
For their tiny on-road size Smarts have always been surprisingly comfortable for those up front, and we’re pleased to see height adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel are now standard, addressing a criticism in our review of the petrol version. The rear seats are, of course, the main difference over the ForTwo and, while they are on the cosy side for taller adults, unlike the Mini Electric, the Smart has rear doors to make accessing them somewhat easier. They also have a neat folding system, the seat cushions flipping into the floor to create a tall load area while the seat backs can be flattened individually for maximum flexibility. Which is handy, given the boot on its own is pretty small and shallow. On the road the electric ForFour rides city streets pretty well, the longer wheelbase meaning speed bumps are dealt with much better than the shorter ForTwo. The small size makes threading the Smart through gaps very easy while the surprisingly tall seating position is confidence inspiring as well. The incredibly tight turning circle is a real bonus, too, though the slow steering means a lot of arm-twirling to exploit it and robs the ForFour of the agility you might have hoped for.
Expert rating: 3/5
Smart EQ ForFour electric

Features of the Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

Standard equipment is also decent, with climate control, heated seats front and rear and a panoramic roof all included
Smart has updated its tech, with a standard central touch-screen through which you can use your phone apps via CarPlay or Android Auto for all your navigation and other infotainment needs. This is a big step up from the slightly clunky previous set-up where your phone was simply held in a cradle. Standard equipment is also decent, with climate control, heated seats front and rear and a panoramic roof all included where many were previously cost options. Upgrading to the higher of the two available trim levels gets further luxuries like leather upholstery, ambient lighting inside and fancier LED headlights.
Expert rating: 4/5

Power for a Smart EQ ForFour hatchback

Using the Eco mode seems to improve your range by about 10 per cent while switching the air-con off added nearly 20 miles
Swapping the petrol motor for an electric one is nothing less than a game-changer for the ForFour, given the previous car’s soggy throttle response and sluggish gearbox were real issues. That’s all replaced with smooth, sprightly acceleration in the kind of 0-30mph range you need to keep pace in busy city driving. While it’s hardly what you’d call fast nor does it entirely run out of puff on faster roads, either. There are no fancy regeneration modes to fiddle with (the car manages this itself) and you can’t drive it on one pedal as you can some other electric cars but the Smart is very simple to operate, a bit of tyre roar the only real annoyance. Range is a limiting factor, though, and you won’t really want to commit to journeys of more than 75 miles in one hit. Using the Eco mode seems to improve your range by about 10 per cent while switching the air-con off added nearly 20 miles, so you may have to wrap up when driving in winter! Alternatives like the Vauxhall Corsa-e and related Peugeot e-208 offer much more usable range and a more conventional small car feel but in the city driving the Smart is optimised for this will be less of a concern and, as mentioned above, a smaller battery does mean faster and cheaper charging, which makes a difference on the slower public points you’re more likely to find around town.
Expert rating: 3/5

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