The Smart fortwo is a cute car and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The short, stout little nugget is like a cute version of South Park’s Eric Cartman cross-bred with a Pokemon. It’s an adorable little tyke that you would like to hug but know that you wouldn’t be able to get your arms quite all the way round it.
The Smart fortwo has been around a long time – 10 years now – and with only slight design tweaks, it still looks distinctive. There is no denying that it is a very small car, but with petrol prices going up and up, it makes sense somewhat to have a smaller car that’s easier to park if you’re in the big city.
The fortwo driving experience is different in that with such a short wheelbase, you can really feel the forward and backward pitch when you accelerate or brake. It feels a little strange at first but you get used to it quickly and my fear that the Smart would forward-roll down the road when I braked never came to fruition.
Highway driving is not as scary as you would think and the Smart can keep up with, and overtake other cars quite well. It’s in the city where the car excels though.
Parking is great fun in this car and the game of ‘will it fit?’ is endlessly amusing. The length of the Smart even makes it possible to park straight into the kerb instead of parallel parking, although the legality of this move is questionable.
The 999cc, 52kw, triple cylinder engine provides decent stonk and dragging off unsuspecting taxis from the traffic lights becomes addictive with the rear-mounted engine sounding like a bite-sized Porsche 911. The sprightly nature of the Smart is quite surprising and once discovered it is very difficult to stop yourself from giving it the berries.
It is difficult to get into serious trouble with the little fortwo as the combination of un-switchable ESP and wide tyres at each corner plants the car on the road firmly. The handling is good despite the fact that going over speed humps feels like you’re travelling over a mountain.
The interior is comfortable and the fit and finish is good. The seating position is a bit high and the steering wheel isn’t adjustable for reach which makes for a slightly strange driving position for tall drivers but, again, it is something that you get used to. Storage space in the cabin is OK despite the lack of a glove box, and boot space is useful and can swallow a decent amount of groceries or bags. There is a boot blind provided as standard, but it was not included with our test car.
The heater and stereo controls are excellent to use because they are so simple, which makes a welcome break from the over complicated all-in-one set-ups in many other new cars. The gauges are all easily readable and the full-length sunroof makes for a more spacious feeling inside the cabin. The wiper stalk is very different to the indicator stalk in terms of feel. It is not nearly as smooth as the indicator; in fact the noise it made when I first used it led me to believe it was broken.
The only real problem with the Smart is the transmission. The 5-speed, with steering wheel-mounted paddles, is so slow to change that in the time it takes to swap cogs you could easily write a letter, lick the stamp, post it to yourself, wait a week and then read all about your skiing holiday before the gear has hit home. Also whenever you start the car, you have to press a button on the side of the gear shift to engage automatic mode which is annoying in that it doesn’t remember your preference. In addition to this on a couple of occasions, the gears failed to engage on start-up in either forward or reverse. At that time all that was needed was to put the lever back into neutral and back into gear.
The factory stated fuel consumption of 4.9l/100km sounds about right, as we did over 180km in our time with the Smart and the fuel gauge only dropped 15-20%. The absence of a full trip computer makes it difficult to get an exact consumption figure.
The Smart fortwo is a great little car in many respects. I like the parking ability, sporty engine note, thrifty nature and the quirkiness of having such a small car. The gear change however is too slow and a ‘normal’ manual would make this a great little car.
This is one car I really want to love but I just can’t get my arms all the way round it.
What we like
- Easy to drive and park
- Nippy handling at city speeds
What we don’t like
Smart ForTwo Specification
Engine/type: 3-cylinder in-line engine
Engine capacity: 999cc
Max. output in kW (bhp) at rpm: 52 (71) / 5,800
Max. torque in Nm at rpm: 92/4,500
Bore x stroke: 72 x 81.8mm
Compression ratio: 11.4:1
Multipoint fuel injection with electronic accelerator
Maximum speed: 145km/h
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 13.3
Engine position/drive: Rear
Transmission Automated manual: 5-speed transmission
Fuel consumption (urban cycle): 6.1
Fuel consumption (extra-urban cycle): 4.0
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 4.7
Fuel type: Premium unleaded
Exhaust gas purification/exhaust gas standard 3-way catalytic converter/EU4
Combined CO2 emissions: 112 g/km
Brakes/dynamic handling control system esp® with hill start assist; abs with electronic brake force distribution; acceleration skid control; electronic brake assist; disc brakes at front, drum brakes at rear
Wheels/tyres: (front; rear) 5.0 J x 15//175/55 R 15; 6.5 J x 15//195/50 R 15
Vehicle length/width/height: 2,695/1,559/1,542 mm
Track width front/rear: 1,283/1,385 mm
Wheelbase: 1,867 mm
Turning circle: 8.75m
Kerb weight (without driver)/safe load: 750/270 kg
Luggage compartment capacity: 220—340 lt
Permissible total weight: 1,020kg
Tank capacity: 33 lt
Service interval 20,000 km/1 year
Warranty: 3 years
Words Ben Dillon, photographs Darren Cottingham