smart fortwo review

Are you fed up with urban runabouts pretending to be more than they are? Then you probably might be interested in smart's third generation fortwo. June Neary reports.

Will It Suit Me?

Horses for courses and all that. Citycars should be designed for the city in my view, not be scaled down superminis with 'jack of all trades' remits. A real urban car doesn't have to have a huge amount of interior or luggage space, for though that's always nice, it usually means exterior dimensions larger than you would like. By the same token, a real urban car doesn't have to have a 0-60mph time under 14 seconds or a top speed approaching 100mph. If you've read this far and clocked the picture at the top of this story, you'll probably see where I'm going with this. Yes, the third generation smart fortwo is, like its two predecessors, a real urban car. Of course, the smart people will tell you that it's a lot more user-friendly in MK3 model guise, should you decide to venture further afield. But, thank goodness, the basic recipe hasn't changed - nor should it. If the smart brand had always stuck to producing fortwos and models like it, the marque would never have had the struggles it's had in the last decade. Let's try its latest and smallest offering.

Practicalities

Whereas the second generation fortwo looked very similar to its predecessor, this MK3 model has marked a bit more of an aesthetic departure for the brand. Still, the tridion safety cell - something of a Smart trademark - remains present and correct, so people won't be confused about what they're looking at. Where previous fortwos have been quite slab-sided, Smart's designers have this time attempted to massage a bit of shape into the flanks that gives the car a bit more character. Side rubbing strips shuck off car park knocks. The cabin is still a two seat-only affair and features as many quirky touches as I could stomach and it's good to see Smart pushing the boat out a bit with colours and textures, including a 'technical mesh' finish. At the prices charged, this should be a car that feels premium and different to the usual citycar norm. There's even a bit more luggage space on offer than there was before, with a capacity of 260-litres to the parcel shelf and 350-litres when stacked to the roof. Mums can still forget trying to get pushchairs into the back but you can at least get a mid-week shop into the boot of this car if they don't go too mad at the checkout.

Behind the Wheel

While I generally liked the driving manners of the two original fortwo models, there were some things about them that were absolutely hateful. The jerky automated gearbox for example. Oh and the steering, which our Road Test Editor Andy Enright described as feeling as if it was "attached to the front wheels by bungee cords." The good news is that both of these issues have been addressed in the MK3 model fortwo. The suspension delivers far more refinement than before, which belies the fact that the car's length hasn't changed at all. What has changed is the fact that it's 11cm wider, and that extra track width offers a bit more of a reassuring feel when cornering. The turning circle remains tiny at just 6.95m, and because there are no driveshafts going to the front wheels, they can be angled right out to 45 degrees, which makes the fortwo able to undertake even the most optimistic-looking parking manoeuvre. The car is offered with a choice of two engines, both three-cylinder petrol-powered units. The 899cc turbocharged powerplant develops 89bhp, while the 999cc normally aspirated engine a mere 70bhp. Even the 999cc powerplant isn't very quick. The 'sprint' to 62mph is a leisurely 14.4 second amble but the throttle response is a bit more faithful than in the more surging turbocharged car. That makes city driving that bit more relaxing, as indeed does the updated transmission. Gone is the vile robotised manual change I mentioned earlier that had your head jerking about like a Thunderbird puppet with each gearchange. In its place comes a much preferable five-speed manual 'box with a six-speed twin-clutch automatic offered as an option.

Value For Money

The fortwo range opens at just over £11,000 for the 999cc models, with the 899cc turbo versions starting at a little under £12,000. Those figures are both for cars with the manual gearchange as standard. Choose to opt for the dual-clutch and that'll add around £1,000 to the asking price. Already the fortwo is starting to get into the realms of a very respectable supermini; something like a Volkswagen Polo for instance. So a fortwo may be small but it isn't especially cheap, especially when you start to factor in the accessories that most smart owners tend to specify with their cars. But in any walk of life or corner of the High Street, the best is never cheap. And this, in my humble opinion, is the best urban runabout you can buy. Assuming that's all you want. *Could I Live With One? If I was completely town-bound, I'd probably buy a smart fortwo without hesitation and park it front-on to the pavement as a statement of urban intent. Imagine doing that in a supermini: you never would (or at least, you'd never get away with it.) And therein lies my point. Horses for courses and all that.

Could I Live With One?

If I was completely town-bound, I'd probably buy a smart fortwo without hesitation and park it front-on to the pavement as a statement of urban intent. Imagine doing that in a supermini: you never would (or at least, you'd never get away with it.) And therein lies my point. Horses for courses and all that.