We drove a $24,000 Smart car and a $15,000 electric 3-wheeler to see which tiny vehicle is better — here’s the verdict
- The Smart Fortwo and the new Electra Meccanica Solo are two of the smallest vehicles I’ve ever driven.
- Comparing the two is a bit of a loaded deck for the Smart because it’s a bona fide car, while the Solo is an electric urban autocycle.
- The Smart takes it, but the vehicles have also been around since the late 1990s and have never sold well — so the field is open for fresh ideas!
Big SUVs and large pickups might be dominating the US auto market these days, but hope springs eternal for smaller rides.
Daimler rolled out one of the most familiar micro-cars in the late 1990s, under the Smart brand. The idea was to offer ultra-compact transportation to city dwellers. And the vehicles are still around. I sampled a sassy convertible in 2016.
Of course, these vehicles haven’t exactly caught on: only about 100 of the gas- and electric-powered vehicles sell per month in the US.
But on paper, very small city cars still make sense, and a new player, Electra Meccanica, recently asked me to sample its all-electric three-wheeler, which can cover 100 miles on a charge and is aimed at commuters and urban inhabitants.
The Solo seats just one and costs $15,000. The Smart Fortwo has a base price of less than $19,000, although the drop-top I tested came in at $24,000.
Given that there are so few micro-cars out there, I figured it might be worth it to compare the two, although it isn’t entirely fair. The Smart is, after all, a proper automobile with four wheels. I also dared to take it on the highway, while I only drove the Solo for a few hours, in Manhattan.
With that in mind, each vehicle has its virtues. Read on to learn more about them.
A Canadian company, Electra Meccanica got started in 2015 and recently began to deliver $15,000 examples of its all-electric three-wheeler to customers in the US (the firm is descended from an Italian maker of relatively obscure sports cars, Intermeccanica).
It’s not large. Not large at all. In fact, I think it’s the smallest product vehicle I’ve ever sampled that wasn’t a motorcycle. It’s ten feet long and four feet wide, according the company.
Also, it has not four, but three wheels. This means the Solo is classified as an autocycle.