If you live in a city then before you look at any other car you should consider the new Smart ForTwo.
Its dinky dimensions mean it is even better suited to tight town streets than its rivals – the likes of the Volkswagen up! or Toyota Aygo – but as a two seater it’s also markedly less practical than its four or five-seat competitors. Still, it’s so short that it can be parked perpendicular to the kerb, so finding a usable parking space in even the busiest city should be easy.
When designing the new car, Smart focused on addressing the complaints made by owners of the old model. The biggest offender was the old car’s automated manual gearbox – its jerky changes could make the ForTwo surprisingly difficult to manoeuvre at low speeds. This new model gets a choice of a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic gearbox with the same number of cogs.
Another complaint was the old car’s bouncy suspension that was stiffened (at the expense of ride comfort) to make the car more stable at speed. It’s been swapped in favour of a system that’s based on the suspension fitted to the new Mercedes C-Class which is much more comfortable than the old setup.
Getting noticed was never a problem in the old Smart ForTwo, which would explain why it appealed to younger drivers. Things haven’t been toned down in this new model and the car is available in a variety of bright colours and with numerous eye-catching accessories. There’s also a version fettled by tuning company Brabus that has the look of a mini AMG Mercedes.
The Smart comes with a basic 1.0-litre petrol engine or a more high-tech 0.9-litre turbocharged unit. Both offer superb fuel economy, but neither are very quick. The tragic old automatic gearbox has been replaced by a newly developed DSG gearbox that is fast and smooth. All models come with stop-start technology to save fuel, daytime running lights, climate control, central locking and electric front windows.
It's a nice car that serves a very singular purpose – be among the best in city centres
It’s a more grown-up second act for the ForTwo and it’s by far the better car for it. It’s nicer to drive and more spacious but no less of a cityscape wonder than it was before. Retaining the hilariously small turning circle means the ForTwo really is the car that reaches the parts other cars cannot hope to reach.
But outside the isolation of its own improvement, it’s still quite a pricey and compromised little beast. Just about anything else on sale would be a more accomplished car on the motorways and rat runs and at this sort of money it doesn’t just have to worry about other city cars but superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2 – before you even get out of the bottom spec Smarts.
You’d really need to want a car less than three metres long and never leave the city to take this into consideration at all because it’s just not well-rounded enough to mix it with more conventional cars. That said, it has a lot of charm that might make it the one for you.