Smart ForTwo

It's easy to forget where it all began for Smart. Not so long ago, the firm was so small it didn't even need names for its cars, trading exclusively on the two-seat coupe and cabrio.

Offering the best bits of the Brabus in a more basic package has made the most powerful engine more accessible to Smart buyers. The extra performance makes a real difference out on the road, and the neat alloys give a sharp finish. The only problem is the price - the ForTwo is still expensive for a city car.

It's easy to forget where it all began for Smart. Not so long ago, the firm was so small it didn't even need names for its cars, trading exclusively on the two-seat coupe and cabrio.

How times change. The Mercedes-owned brand has now grown to the extent that it's had to rename everything it sells, bringing us the ForTwo, ForFun and ForFour. It's even announced plans for a ForMore SUV, due in 2006. Prices have climbed, too - drivers can spend more than £20,000 on the flagship ForFun.

So to remind people of what Smart's all about, a top-value special edition has arrived. Sounding a bit like a Seventies TV show, there's more to the ForTwo Nightrun than an extra badge and some trim upgrades. In response to criticism of the flagship Brabus's price, the car offers the tuned engine in a cheaper package.

Mounted in its usual place between the rear wheels, the Nightrun's 698cc unit delivers 74bhp - 13bhp more than lesser models. That may not sound like much, but given the car's low weight, the difference is noticeable on the road.

While a 0-62mph time of 12.3 seconds is sluggish, this is due to the slow automated manual box. In-gear pace is more impressive, and this Smart easily keeps up with fast-moving traffic.

So what else has the Nightrun got to offer? Along with the modified engine, it has Brabus-badged extras including 16-inch alloys and a sports exhaust. Combined with the black paint of our test car, the Smart looks great, especially without the Brabus's garish bodykit.

Inside, buyers get a leather steering wheel with paddleshifters, plus Brabus-badged instruments, air-conditioning and a glass roof. The subtle changes add to what is already a beautifully designed and surprisingly spacious cabin.

Available as a hard-top only, the ForTwo Nightrun costs £10,425 - £2,350 less than the Brabus. But it's only cheap compared to other Smarts. A basically equipped MINI One is £355 more, and offers greater practicality and versatility.

The ForTwo's charm is as strong now as it was when it was launched as the City Coupe in 1998, and the Nightrun provides the ideal spec for many. If only it was less expensive, the ForTwo would still be the pick of Smart's range.

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