What is it?
The Smart ForTwo was near ingenious when it was first launched. Tiny high-rise city motoring with character, quality and the crash safety of a Mercedes E-Class. But age has withered it: today, flaws such as an infuriatingly clunky gearbox, rodeo ride quality and a tendency towards terminal understeer shine more brightly.
It’ll be replaced in 2014: as a stopgap, Smart has launched the ED all-electric model that’s been sold on the continent for some time. A more affordable electric-car price tag and city-focused nature means it actually makes sense, even if it is, like all Smarts, hardly cheap.
One point really needs stressing: the ForTwo has some seriously challenging driving traits. Its tiny wheelbase means that it rides appallingly over bad surfaces. The second-gen cars have improved over the first, but it’s still unnerving at speed and tiring in town.
It also continues to suffer from a dreadful auto gearchange that punctuates your straight-line progress and turns driver and passenger into nodding dogs.
Get used to all this, though, and the ForTwo is fun to hurtle about in. Issues with understeer are unlikely to crop up, and the trade-off of being able to park anywhere is worth its weight in gold.
And, you know what? The ED actually improves some of the Smart’s more fundamental foibles. The weighty batteries both smooth the ride and lower the centre of gravity to aid handling, while the single-speed drive is far less jerky.
On the inside
One of Smart’s many strokes of genius has to be to tailor hardwearing but high-end interiors that inject a real sense of fun into their cars without compromising on a vital impression of quality and class. The ForTwo feels premium despite its tiny dimensions, and it’s also still completely unique in the city-car market.
Space is impressive too, with room for the tallest of blokes and enough space in the boot to fit a week’s shopping. There’s little difference between ED and regular models – both are driven in the same two-pedal manner.
The ForTwo remains desirable despite its catalogue of flaws, and, expensive as it is to buy when you consider the shortage of seats and doors, it will likely hold its value as well as anything else in its class.
There is a diesel-engine option with truly monumental economy figures, but the petrol is still frugal and characterful to drive. The introduction of all-electric technology means the green lobby will love it even more: Smart also gives you the choice of renting or buying the batteries.