Smart’s roofless Forease concept is a sun-loving city car

Smart has reduced its trademark city car to an absolute minimum with the new Forease concept. The Forease, which debuted at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, is essentially a Fortwo with the roof completely cut off.

The Forease is the successor to wacky Smart concept cars like the 2001 Crossblade (which also went into production) and the 2011 Forspeed. The roofless design should add some drama to the design, while removing every last shred of practicality from the tiny car. The concept car lacks a convertible top, so drivers better check the weather forecast before setting off. The low windshield and paneling behind the seats mimic classic speedsters, although the Forease is probably not as sporty.

Smart didn’t talk about the powertrain other than to say it’s electric. The production Fortwo EQ’s current electric motor (formerly called “Electric Drive”) produces 80 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. While current Fortwo models are rear-wheel drive, that lack of power makes for light acceleration, even in such a small car. Smart quotes zero to 60 mph in 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 81 mph for the Fortwo coupe. The Fortwo Cabrio needs 0.7 seconds longer, with the same top speed.

Parent company Daimler plans to make Smart a fully electric brand globally by 2020. Smart began selling only electric cars in North America starting with the 2018 model year. It may seem like forward thinking, but Smart’s petrol cars have never been so popular on this side of the Atlantic. Most American and Canadian car buyers don’t live in city centers, the only places where the Fortwo’s excellent maneuverability matters. Everywhere else the car just feels slow and impractical. Low gas prices have also crushed sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Smart is celebrating its 20th anniversary at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, and it’s unclear what the next 20 years will bring. Being an all-electric brand may not be a distinguishing factor for long as established automakers ramp up their electrification plans, and Smart’s focus on small cars means it’s likely to remain niche in any case. It’s possible that Daimler will adapt the Smart to the much-discussed future of autonomous shared vehicles. Maybe that will make people worry about Smart again.

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