Smart ForTwo review
The Smart ForTwo is one of smallest, most frugal cars on sale
The Smart ForTwo is instantly recognisable thanks to its unique size and shape, and it's ideal for urban driving. It's just 2.5-metres long, so it can be parked dead on to the kerb in the smallest of spaces. Coupe and cabriolet versions are available, plus a sportier Brabus performance edition. The 54bhp CDI diesel is efficient, with CO2 emissions of just 86g/km, but the jerky automatic gearbox spoils the driving experience. For that reason, we would go for the Electric Drive model, despite its limited battery range, as the electric motor suits the ForTwo's urban nature, although it does take a long time to recharge. With the exception of the slightly bigger Toyota iQ, the Smart has no real rivals.
Our choice: ForTwo Electric Drive 2dr
The compact one-box design of the Smart is very striking, and it's an unmistakable sight on the roads. The contrasting roofline sweeps down into the side sills, and the tall shape actually means visibility is better than you'd expect. Three trims levels are offered, but all get alloys wheels as standard. The performance-oriented Brabus edition also gets a set of twin-exhausts and a mesh grille up front. Inside, entry-level Pulse models feel a little basic, with functional plastics on all the main surfaces. Mid-spec Passion trim adds leather to the steering wheel and gearknob, but can be had only with an automatic gearbox. Electric drive models can be specified with a white and green colour scheme to shout about its electric power.
All the cars in the range perform at their best in town, and provide nippy performance up to around 40mph. Petrol versions use a 1.0-litre engine mounted in the boot, available with either 71bhp and stop and start - otherwise known as micro hybrid drive - or turbocharged to give 84bhp, or 102bhp in the flagship Brabus model. The tiny 800cc cdi diesel is the slowest, taking 16.8 seconds to reach 0-62mph. Power steering is optional on the Smart ForTwo, and without it the steering is surprisingly heavy for such a small car, so its worth taking. Pulse models come with a self-shifting manual gearbox, which is smoother than the automatic – that can be jerky and slow unless you back off the throttle during changes. The pick of the range is the Electric Drive model. This does without the jerky gearbox and has power steering as standard, while the instant throttle response means it feels fast off the line. All of this is accompanied by a distinctive whistle from the electric motor.
The Smart ForTwo performs reasonably well in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring four out of five stars for adult occupants and two for pedestrian protection. This isn't a bad score in isolation but its way off the class best. Traction control and driver and passenger airbags come as standard, but side impact airbags are an optional extra. While there were some electrical problems with earlier models, no major problems have been reported on the current crop. Buy an Electric Drive model under sale&care, and the battery capacity is guaranteed for the duration of the battery lease.
Despite its incredibly short length, the ForTwo offers more boot space than much bigger four-seat rivals. The 220-litre boot is bigger for instance than both the MINI hatchback and the Fiat 500. If you fill the stubby boot to the roof, it offers as much as 340-litres, but the shortness of the loading bay limits the type of objects you can carry. Handily, the split tailgate opens out into a bench seat, and can be used to carry odds and ends – it houses the charging lead on the Electric Drive model – while the passenger seat back folds down too. The Electric Drive has the same amount of space as the standard car.
Whatever engine you go for, the ForTwo is very efficient, with every version returning well over 50mpg. The most efficient is the tiny diesel, which emits just 86g/km of CO2 while managing a combined 85.6mpg. The micro hybrid drive petrol is nearly as frugal and both are exempt from road tax and the Congestion Charge, which you'll have to pay if you opt for either of the turbocharged petrols. The Brabus is particularly inefficient, with an emissions figure of 119g/km. The Electric Drive model is the most expensive model in the range, but it's the cheapest electric car on the market. Smart offers its sale&care battery lease scheme that cuts the car's list price even further.