Daimler has been offering very smart transportation for years now, and has done so succesfully for over 1,6 million users so far with its iconic two seater.
Now it is taking the smart experience a big step higher, with a totally new Smart fortwo. To tell you right away: the car has grown so much in smoothness, surefootedness, effortless open road performance, manoeuvrability, and even looks.
It has not grown in actual dimensions, except in 100 mm much needed width. Bravo!
We really enjoyed driving this new fortwo, just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The designers have successfully retained the original looks and character of the car, with the front end styling now giving the Smart a more "adult" look, suggesting it has grown in the way it moves and drives, and this indeed it does.
Stepping into the car, one has the typical cabin feel of the original Smart, and congratulations that this has been retained. Also the way the wide door opens, the feel and positioning of the door handle, it is all there. But sitting behind the wheel, one immediately notices an extra airiness: indeed, the Smart got wider.
This is exactly what the Smart needed. Instrumentation and dashboard layout is typical Smart, but everything is more adult in the central console, with less flimsy commands for heating and ventilation, and neat sliding commands for the cabin temperature selection.
We also found the very handy and practical grip stand for our smart phone, and of course the neat round ventilation openings in contrasting colour are still there, we found them also endearing in the previous Smart.
An excellent manual gearbox...
When your hand slides on the gearlever, there is a nice surprise: a proper gear knob, reminiscent of what you find on a compact Renault: indeed, some good co-engineering has been done in designing and building the Smart.
Actually, Renault builds the forfour on the same assembly lines as its Twingo in Slovenia, but the fortwo is built in France by Daimer, in its 'Smartville' plant, a dedicated Daimler assembly plant in Hambach. The amount and extent of co-engineering and exactly who did what in designing the new Smarts fortwo and forfour is something both Renault and Daimler rather keep to themselves... But the important thing is the result, and, we can assure you, mission accomplished!
Well, a manual gearbox thus, and we were very glad to have it. Let's admit, it was very hard to get a really smooth drive and sporting pleasure with the former sequential automatic designed by Getrag, and so manual it is, and this lets you shine with all your driver skills. A smooth box it is, and in combination with the willing 999 cc 3 cylinder engine with some 52 kW/71 hp at your disposal, it offers so much driving pleasure.
Like with boxer engines, we also are very fond of the sound and character of three cylinder engines, as they have the undertones of a (rough) boxer six, and we love the staccato when they really are revved up under wide or full throttle.
You can therefore imagine that we truly enjoyed spirited or brisk Smart driving. Never mind the car takes a little more time to accelerate from 0 to 100, the joy of hearing the engine do it is just a little bigger.
The Smart is no sluggard in that respect, with an acceleration time of around 14,9 seconds. Top speed is a good 150 km/h. Torque is sufficient, with 91 Nm at 2850 rpm, although we found it useful to keep the unit in its proper rev range.
We just mention here that maximum power is developed at 6000 rpm, so you understood it, it likes to rev a bit…
Engine sound is never really obtrusive, and yes, it is very well possible to listen to your favourite classical music when cruising at 120 km/h or so.
We mention here further that the engine has been canted by 30 degrees, and this meant also redesigning the lubrication and cooling system. The engine now sits at an angle of 49 degrees.
Fuel consumption? One can expect the Smart to be truly frugal, and our test consumption of 4,7 litres per 100 km proved this point.
There is also a six speed automatic transmission introduced now, and we are anxious to test it...
Road behaviour transformed
Where the Smart really has truly grown up is in road behaviour. In terms of comfort, gone is the jittery ride on uneven tarmac due to the short wheelbase.
The new Mc Pherson front suspension now successfully irons this out. This is also thanks to an increased suspension travel, by 30 mm to 160 mm). The 4 inch bigger width of the car also makes all the difference in cornering stability. Indeed, the car now corners and steers like a thoroughbred coupe, and this also thanks to the De Dion type rear axle suspension.
Tyres are also wider and bigger: 185/60 R15 (previous: 175/55 R15) at the rear, 165/65 R15 (previous 155/60 R15) at the front.
This means that the Smart can be driven with confidence in a rather more spirited manner. Of course, one uses the brakes now more intensely, and we found that braking at (high) speed caused the rear end to waver a bit and show some vagueness in its rear end suspension movements. Not that it impaired straight line stability very much however, and ABS, ASR en ESP® keeps the Smart well on track. Cross wind sensitivity is also kept to a very manageable level thanks to the side wind stabilizer which functions in combination with the ESP®.
The Smart now has cruise control for those longer journeys...
Motorway cruising is now an unspoilt pleasure with the new fortwo, and cruising at 120-130 km/h is a tempo which can now be kept on for hours. Of course is the city the true element of the Smart, thanks to its light and precise steering and its amazingly small turning circle of a mere 6,95 metres.
One can opt for a more sporting suspension, which is lowered by 10 mm, and is offered as standard setup in the “proxy” version. As said, there are three equipment levels on the new Smart, Passion, Prime and Proxy.
Ideal for narrow parking spaces: the top lid of the luggage compartment can be opened separately...
The Smart fortwo is now a more versatile urban cruiser than it ever was. It now can deliver undistilled driving pleasure, together with unequalled urban practicality and usefulness. It now also shows mastery on the open road; Add to this the wide array of colour combinations, the easy to replace body parts which make urban use and parking a worriless affair, the impeccable finih, build quality and its unmistakeable character, and one can easily understand that we are convinced that the fortwo will have a brilliant (genius) career ahead…
Hans Knol ten Bensel