At long, long last, it’s the all-new Smart
ForTwo. It’s been developed with Renault, and shares much with the new Twingo and a very-soon-to-arrive Smart ForFour.
The ForTwo retains the two-seat, rear-engined configuration and 269cm length of its predecessor, but swells in width by 11cm.
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 arriving a five-speed manual gearbox. A Renault-sourced six-speed DCT is a £995 option.
So what’s it like?
Vastly, vastly more acceptable on the road. The outgoing ForTwo, though an indubitably clever piece of packaging, has always been let down by its oafish road manners at anything above walking pace, that head-nod gearbox, stumpy wheelbase and sloppy steering combining to induce seasickness in all but the hardiest travellers.
But the new car is a whole lot better. Admittedly our test route incorporated little more than a spot of dual carriageway followed by a lot of downtown Barcelona (TG’s request for Smart to launch the car at the Nürburgring Nordschliefe was, for some reason, not granted), but the ForTwo acquitted itself more than adequately. 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.
It’s still not what you’d call a focused drive. Presumably to mitigate against potential toppliness, the steering – though far better than before – errs towards the lazy, while big crests still set the ForTwo pitching on its wheelbase. Such, unfortunately, is physics.
And the new transmissions?
The five-speed manual is, um, a five-speed manual. Fine. Beyond reproach. Nothing to argue with here.
The double-clutch option is, on the plus side, at least four million per cent better than the old robotic effort, flipping ratios without a pause that can be measured in epochs. By modern DCT standards, however, it’s merely acceptable. In standard ‘Eco’ mode, Smart has engineered in a surprising degree of what feels like clutch-slip, we’d guess in a bid to iron out any unseemly jolts that might set the stubby ForTwo rocking on its springs.
Things are better in ‘Sport’ mode – especially if you override the changes using the gear-shifter (no steering-wheel paddles here) – but unless you’ve (a) an auto-only licence or (b) an aversion to left-foot labour, we’d recommend saving a grand and sticking to the manual.
Which engine do I want?
The perkier turbo engine commands a premium of around £600, but to be honest it’s probably not worth it. The base three-cylinder is sprightly enough to haul anything you might reasonably fit in a ForTwo, and offers fractionally better economy and lower emissions into the bargain. And, let’s be honest, if you’re buying a ForTwo for sports-car-bullying performance, you probably ought to reassess your priorities.
Does it still do the city stuff well, though?
Better than just about anything out there. Deformable plastic body panels will resist bumps and scrapes, while, like ForTwos before it, this remains a joy to finagle into microscopic parking spaces, that slight increase in width doing nothing to harm the Smart’s magnificent maneuverability. The turning circle – the narrowest of any car on sale, no less – is hilariously tight, allowing you to spin round virtually in the width of the chassis.
But such parkability comes with inevitable compromise. The only luggage space is behind the seats, where there’s room for a couple of decent-sized weekend bags or a mildly obese Labrador. Those fat B-pillars, too, make for surprisingly large blind spots.
How much does it cost?
Per square metre of footprint, not cheap: prices start at £11,125 for the 71bhp engine with manual gearbox (which is the one you want, anyhow). That gets you 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and, um, that’s about it. If you want your ForTwo with a decent smattering of kit, you’re looking at spending over 12 grand. You could get a bigger, better-equipped Skoda Citigo for less.
But you don’t buy a ForTwo because you want more for less: you buy it because, to some extent at least, you want less for more: the ability to smugly park where most cars can only dream.
Is that enough? TG, for one, would love to have seen the Smart ForTwo
go further, to radically rethink how very little a city car can be, in the manner of Gordon Murray’s T25 project
Realistically, this was probably too much to wish for. The ForTwo’s brief remains much as it ever was: a posh, hyper-maneuverable pod appealing to well-off urbanites with very specific parking requirements. At last, that brief has been properly executed.