AS CAR niches go, this has got to be one of the narrowest. First take a Smart Fortwo, the two-seater supermini that’s not without some appeal but certainly isn’t without its drawbacks.
Then make it a convertible, thus reducing some of the already limited practicality the Fortwo has to offer.
Finally, remove the petrol engine and replace it with a 60kW electric motor that gives it a 96-mile range on a full charge.
To be fair, while Smart proudly claims that this is the only electric cabriolet currently on sale in the UK, even the Mercedes-owned manufacturer doesn’t deny that this car will only ever have a narrow appeal.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have any appeal, mind you. After all, this electric version of the Fortwo Cabrio means that Smart is the only car firm to offer all its model range with traditional combustion engines or battery power; which is no small claim.
Between the rear wheels of the Fortwo Electric Cabrio is a 60kW motor linked to a 17.5kWh lithium-ion battery giving it a 0 to 60mph time of 11.8 seconds and a limited 80mph top speed. Given the immediate acceleration of all electric cars, those figures aren’t much of a surprise, although it’s the 0 to 37mph figure of just 4.9 seconds that’s the most impressive.
If nothing else, that figure highlights just how rapid the drop-top Smart feels in that initial part of its acceleration, especially in an urban environment.
Ultimately, that’s the real appeal of the Fortwo Electric Cabrio. All electric cars have a great point-and-squirt ability, thanks to the motor’s lack of any need for a build-up of power. It’s just instantly available as and when you want it.
However, with this Smart’s diminutive dimensions, your senses are heightened by the fact that you’re so close to the action, making it great for nipping into spaces and through traffic.
That there’s no roof above you just increases that feeling, as you can hear so much around you (thanks to the lack of any engine noise).
If there’s one drawback to the Smart’s dimensions, however, it’s that the short distance between the front and rear wheels means it can sometimes crash into potholes and road imperfections a little harder than even most superminis do.
Tackling speed bumps requires almost coming to a complete stop and progressing at less than walking speed.
However, the direct steering and plentiful amount of grip from the tyres ensures that any twisty B roads are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
While the Smart isn’t without its flaws, there’s no doubt that it’s fun to drive with a capital F.
The 23-ft turning circle is the same as the petrol-powered model and is so hilariously small that even London cabbies would be impressed.
We wouldn’t mind more control over the regenerative braking system though, as in VW’s e-Up or the BMW i3.
In standard mode it’s simply not present, while in the Eco mode it’s almost too powerful; so much so that it even manages to bring the car to a halt while cruising downhill.
The roof itself can be lowered in just 12 seconds and can retract in two stages, either just above your head like a giant sunroof or all the way down behind and below your shoulders.
The roof bars above the door windows can also unclip and be stored in the boot to increase the open-air feeling still further.
Talking of boot space, you’d better not have too much luggage for a 260-litre boot with the roof down.
Its awkward shape means anything more than two small soft bags will have to be squashed into the additional small spaces behind the seats.
Make no mistake, this is not a practical car, but what did you expect? The same goes for that claimed 96-mile range.
That’s likely to be the maximum you’ll achieve, although the reality is that it will probably be closer to 70-80 miles in real-world driving or when using the air conditioning, while in the winter months that will tumble still further.
At least one saving grace is that the Fortwo has a smartphone app that can precondition the vehicle’s interior temperature before you leave in the morning and also allow you to see the level of charge in the batteries.
There are also screens within the infotainment system to tell you how efficiently you’re driving and how to save extra battery power.
As stated earlier, we’re not about to pretend that the Smart Fortwo Electric Cabrio is for everyone, but for those looking for a second car for urban use there’s no doubting its appeal or its ability to make you smile.
Better yet, few cars can better underline the growing popularity of electric cars and their ability to extend their appeal than this.
The electric convertible market will always be a narrow niche, but we’re very glad this Smart exists all the same.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Smart Fortwo Electric Cabrio
Price: £18,560 (after Government grant)
Power (bhp): 82
Torque (Nm): 160
Max speed (mph): 80
0-60mph: 11.8 seconds
Charge time: 8 hours at 240V
Range (NEDC): 96 miles
Emissions (g/km): 0