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The Top Gear car review: Smart ForTwo
For:Vast improvement over the old ForTwo, better drivetrain
Against:Still too impractical for many, hardly cheap, design purity has been lost
1.0 Passion 2dr
Much better than before, but not the city car revolution we hoped for. Nor cheap.
The all-new version of the tiniest two-seat city car is here. Sam Philip hunts down microscopic parking spaces
For offering this sort of clean motoring to the world, it’s worth 17/20. But the execution is a bit lacking.
Was my particular test car broken? Or was it just absolutely useless, bordering on the downright dangerous?
What we say:
No, we’re not sure what happened to the front end styling either. Be thankful the rest of it is better
What is it?
The all-new version of the most compact city car out there. Born of Smart’s tie-up with Renault, a marriage that’s also yielded a new ForFour and Twingo, the new ForTwo retains the 269cm length of its predecessor (despite the addition of a small safety-inspired ‘bonnet’) but gains 11cm in width.
The outgoing ForTwo, though an indubitably clever piece of packaging, was always let down by its oafish road manners at anything above walking pace. The new car is a whole lot better. With new suspension – MacPherson strut up front, de Dion axle at the rear – it feels better planted on the road than before, absorbing bumps and bends without tilting alarmingly, and it cruises easily at speed. But it’s still not what you’d call focused. Presumably to mitigate against potential toppliness, the steering errs towards the lazy, while big crests set the ForTwo pitching on its wheelbase.
The engines are all new, too: a 71bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder, and a turbocharged 90bhp 898cc unit, also with three cylinders. And, mercy of mercies, Smart has ditched the woeful, clunky robotic transmission of the old ForTwo, in its place fitting a five-speed manual gearbox. A Renault-sourced six-speed DCT is a £995 option. The latter is acceptable but far from stellar: we’d say the base petrol with the manual ‘box is the ForTwo you want.
On the inside
That increase in width means a useful chunk of extra space in the cabin for knees, elbows and the like. The Benz-like feeling of quality remains as well, helping set the Smart apart in the sector. Luggage space, however, remains necessarily limited: tucking the engine down on the rear axle still doesn’t yield any loadspace up front, with the only room for your weekend bag a slender cavity behind the seats. Need more seats, space and practicality? Then have a look at the ForFour
You don’t buy a ForTwo for Nürburgring-pummelling performance or wardrobe-swallowing capacity. You buy it because you want to finagle your way into city spaces of which even a Twingo could only dream. And to that end the ForTwo remains unsurpassed: that slight increase in width has done nothing to harm the little Smart’s magnificent manoeuverability. With the tightest turning circle of any car on sale, you can spin it through impossible gaps, and still park it nose-on to the kerb. Whether your local traffic warden approves is another matter entirely. But be warned: with prices starting at £11,125, the ForTwo isn’t a budget way into tiny-footprint city motoring.