Smart ForTwo 54bhp

Super-frugal diesel has landed

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

The ForTwo is a clever package, but has barely changed since its introduction in 1998. Although it created a niche back then, it now faces stiff competition and really needs to raise its game. The new engine is extremely economical, yet better steering and a smoother gearbox would make a world of difference. A city car needs to perform well in town – right now, the Smart just isn’t up to the job.

The tiny ForTwo city car has Smartened up its act! This new entry-level model gets an upgraded interior and a more powerful 799cc three-cylinder diesel engine, which now puts out 54bhp – that’s 9bhp more than the outgoing car.

Despite the extra go, it’s no hot hatch, as you’d expect. The benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes 16.8 seconds, and top speed is 84mph. So while the ForTwo can keep up with traffic on city roads, it struggles a little at motorway speeds.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Smart ForTwo

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Nevertheless, it remains the most economical combustion-engined car on the market. Claimed economy is 83.1mpg combined, and we averaged very close to that figure. Road tax is free, too, thanks to CO2 emissions of only 89g/km.

The compact dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre the Smart through busy city traffic, while fitting into tiny parking spaces – even at right angles to the kerb – is a breeze. But the short wheelbase also leads to a jarring ride on anything but the smoothest tarmac, and it’s especially tiring trying to negotiate speed bumps.

Inside, the layout has been refreshed with new black dials. The switches and buttons feel solidly built, and the generous standard spec includes auto air-con and electric windows.

Unfortunately, the ForTwo is let down by the way it drives. For such a small and light car, the steering is heavy and slow, and low-speed manoeuvring quickly becomes tiresome. Even at higher speeds, the wheel feels unresponsive.

It’s a similar story with the brakes. The stiff pedal offers little in the way of feedback and doesn’t inspire confidence. Throttle response is jerky, and this is compounded by Smart’s Softouch semi-automatic box – which is slow to change and causes the car to lurch when shifting. Although drivers can use the steering wheel paddles, the gearchanges don’t get any smoother.

For a city car, the driving experience is fundamentally flawed. It isn’t enough for the Smart to be compact and fuel efficient – it needs to be comfortable and easy to drive, too.

Rival: Toyota iQ The iQ is a brilliant all-rounder. While it’s not as small or efficient as the ForTwo, it does have more space and can take motorway journeys in its stride. With prices starting at £9,974, the Toyota is only £500 more than the Smart.

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