Smart’s Fortwo has always stood out in the city car market, even after Toyota launched the similarly pocket-sized iQ in 2009.
Where some city cars fade into the background, the Fortwo’s upright stance, two-seat cockpit, rear-mounted engine and ‘Tridion’ safety cell couldn’t be anything else.
Breaking the norm to such a degree will always have its detractors. But whether in madcap BRABUS cabrio form or as an eco-conscious electric car, our previous drives of the Fortwo have revealed it to be flawed, but ultimately charming.
Until we drove the Fortwo in 71-horsepower, MHD ‘Micro Hybrid Drive’ spec, that is.
Refreshed last year, it’s still little different from the Fortwo that arrived in 2007. The badge has migrated to the front grille, the front and rear bumpers are different and the interior has seen subtle design and quality improvements, but largely it remains unchanged.
To its credit, neither exterior nor cabin have really aged. The inside is still easily big enough for its two passengers, made pleasantly airy by the glass roof on our Passion-spec test car. Even the boot is reasonably-sized for such a small car – what it loses out to the Toyota iQ on seats, it more than makes up for in luggage space.
Start to drive it though, and its talents dissipate. The Fortwo’s automated manual gearbox has always been fairly bad, but without turbo-assisted performance the languid shifts seem to take twice as long. There’s not enough torque to avoid changing gear as you might in the turbocharged cars, and not enough performance to make up for the length of time each gear takes to change.
Left in automatic, rather than changing yourself, it’s even worse. With no acceleration to enjoy you’re then left to mull over the dead steering, poor refinement and ride quality akin to bumping down a staircase on your arse.
At least indicated economy was good. Despite a healthy thrashing, the computer showed 57 mpg at the end of our drive. There’s zero road tax, too.
Price as tested: 11,220
Combined MPG: 65.7
CO2: 98 g/km