New Smart Fortwo EV: fewer dollars, more miles

Mercedes-Benz announced the price of its new electric 2017 Smart Fortwo: $23,800 for the hard-top coupe and $28,000 for the cabrio with a sliding canvas roof. The new coupe’s price is $1,200 less than the outgoing model, but the cabrio’s price is exactly the same.

Besides the price, there are some practical improvements for the new Fortwo EV. There are a few more batteries on board — 96 lithium-ion cells versus the old 93 — though the battery capacity stays the same at 17.6 kWh. The on-board charger is more powerful, so the charging time drops in half, to three hours or less. The range gets a little bump from 68 miles to 70-80 miles, enough for daily urban commutes.

The 2017 Smart Fortwo EV will be available in the United States this summer, but these tiny two-seaters have had a tough time finding a niche in America, the land of SUVs and wide roads. Parent company Daimler decided to discontinue sales of gasoline-powered Smart cars in the States this year to focus on the EVs. It also decided to stop using Smart cars in its Car2Go point-to-point car-sharing service, with Mercedes-Benz cars replacing fleets in the U.S. beginning in 2017.

Smart doesn’t intend to compete with SUVs and pickup trucks, so who is the competition? The Tesla Model 3, the forthcoming small (but not micro) car, will have a 215-mile range for $35,000. The Chevy Bolt starts at $37,500 and has a range of more than 200 miles. The Volkswagen e-Golf gets 83 miles per charge, which is similar to the Fortwo’s range, but it starts at about $29,000 before tax incentives are applied. The new Hyundai Ioniq has more miles per charge, at 124, but its price starts at $29,500.

So for shorter-range emissions-free commuting and errand-running, the Smart Fortwo is an inexpensive option. But for carrying more than two people — or if you have a near-crippling case of range anxiety — you’ll need to pay more for one of the other EVs.