Has the second generation Smart car grown up into something better to drive than the original?
The second-generation ForTwo is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. It’s more comfortable, has slightly better dynamics and a stronger engine – plus it’s frugal, and promises to be cheap to run. The original’s visual charm remains, and fans of the brand will still love it. But the jerky semi-automatic gearbox remains a frustration, and when compared with more practical five-door city cars such as Toyota’s Aygo, it’s very pricey
Bigger, better equipped and with a new engine line-up... A great deal has changed about the second-generation Smart ForTwo, even if it doesn’t seem so from the outside of the car.
When Auto Express tried an early left-hand-drive example in Issue 965, it wasn’t a huge leap forward. Is this UK-spec version any better?
The ride has certainly improved – thanks to a small increase in wheelbase. The steering is sharper, too, but gets heavy when cornering at speed.
Still, the new Mitsubishi-developed 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is welcome. It’s more refined than before and, with 71bhp on tap, the Smart is very perky in town. Posting 60.1mpg combined, it’s frugal as well.
What lets the car down, however, is the shortage of front-end grip. Even though stability control is standard, the narrow front tyres slide much too soon for comfort. And unfortunately, the semi-automatic gearbox remains as jerky as ever, whether it’s being used in manual or automatic mode.
Even if the ForTwo is dynamically disappointing, it makes a lot of sense for urban drivers. The dimensions have increased slightly – it’s 195mm longer and 42mm wider than before – but the new car still slots into small parking bays. It should be cheap to run, too, as it falls into the £35 VED band, and is likely to be exempt from Lon-don’s revised daily congestion charge.
There’s more space inside, and the finish is much better, thanks to the fresh dashboard. So although there is still plenty of room for improvement, the ForTwo remains a great concept.
RIVAL: FIAT 500
There's no doubt about it – the new 500 sets the standard in the small car style stakes. It looks great, is well built and has plenty of kit as standard. At a starting price of around £11,000, it’s not cheap, but residuals are likely to be strong.