The third-generation smart complements all the weak spots of the previous model and the Renault partnership brings only advantages. The first test with a smart fortwo 71 HP 1.0 liter engine.
Launched in 1998, smart has become a symbol of urban mobility. Mercedes-Benz has had the innovative idea of a small urban car ever since 1972, way before developing in 1994 a joint-venture with watch manufacturer SMH (future Swatch Group), owned by Nicolas Hayek.
The 1991 NAFA concept had the same overall size as the first smart generation: 2.5 meters length and 1.5 meters, which was also converted into electric drive.
Exclusively owned today by Daimler after SMH receded from all the shares in 1997, the smart brand highlights its traditional values. After the failure of the previous smart forfour, build between 2004 and 2006, the new smart family makes no compromise anymore. Both models – fortwo and forfour – use the same layout – rear engine and rear wheel drive.
We present you the first test with smart fortwo, 1 litre aspirated engine that delivers 71 HP, combined with a five speed manual transmission.
The new generation brings considerable advantages in every aspect: more space, more colour, more standard equipment and more driving pleasure in the city. As for the driving enjoyment, the main culprit is the five-speed manual gearbox that exploits much better the resources of the small, 1 litre aspirated engine, compared to the sequential gearbox from the old generation that was way too slow when shifting the gears. A new dual-clutch six-speed twinamic gearbox manufactured by Renault will also be available really soon as an option.
Compared to the previous generation, the new smart fortwo is 10 cm wider and this brings important benefits.
The interior width has been significantly increased so the passengers has more space. Taking this into consideration, there is no difference anymore if we were to compare it to a car from the mini segment. The seats are larger and much better configured compared to other mini models.
The space in the front is rather generous so you won’t suffer from claustrophobia in this car, especially because you have a polycarbonate panoramic sunroof, like the version we tested – Smart 1.0 Proxy. The driving position is comfortable, the pedals are perfectly aligned on the driver’s axis, and the steering wheel is at an optimal angle in relation to the vertical axis. Mercedes-Benz even confirms that the body space index that points to the ratio between the interior space and car’s exterior length reaches maximum values in the segment.
- More interior space
- Safer road holding
- Improved comfort
- Elegantly Custom Proxy Trim
- Agile engine
- Fun to drive in the city
- Large boot for its class
- Good modularity
MAX vs MIN
- High price
- Some details of Renault origin
- No fuel consumption improvement
Even though we shouldn’t have any assertions regarding the space in this small urban car, smart fortwo never ceases to amaze us. 260 litres is the boot space, with 40 litres more compared to the previous model and considerably bigger than most mini models available on the market. The contents of a shopping cart can easily fit in the trunk. Furthermore, the backrest of the passenger seat can be completely folded and you can load longer objects that we would have imagined, up to 2.22 m length. The access to the trunk is quite good, the tailgate in two pieces is still available and the lower part can support up to 100 kg.
The new smart fortwo shares the same platform with Renault Twingo and smart forfour. Many subassemblies and the multimedia unit (optional at proxy version for 670 euro) were produced by Renault. The aspirated and turbo engines, the manual and the twinamic gearboxes were originally manufactured by Renault.
According to Mercedes-Benz, 95% from visible parts for the clients are different between smart and Renault Twingo. It’s rather hard to check it, but some elements from the dashboard are clearly shared with Renault like the ignition key, the gear shift knob, the hazard button, the interior door handles and the multimedia system, all of them come from Renault Clio and Captur, with the same design and layout/graphics.
There isn’t another solution because in a global world the development costs are extremely high due to the more and more severe standards regarding safety and emissions. For the critics, I shall remind them that 70% of Porsche Macan is built with parts from Audi Q5, while Mini isn’t such a unique car anymore since the new UKL platform used for Mini is similar to the one from the new compact range with front wheel drive from BMW.
The interior is classic for smart if we notice the steering wheel, the dashboard in two colours, elegantly textured in blue combined with white parts in case of Proxy trim, the rev counter placed above the dashboard, on the left side of the steering wheel, or the spherical air vents. Undoubtedly, the interior is funky and it really justifies its premium price.
The exterior is also representative for smart, with the visible Tridion safety cell. The cool silver colour for the Tridion safety cell is available without extra price, while the grey Titania panels cost an extra 500 euro.
But something else is more important when we talk whether or not the visible parts of the Renault Group are damaging or not the smart brand reputation. The third smart generation maintains the solution that consacrated this brand: rear engine and rear wheel drive plus the visible Tridion safety cell. Thus, the Renault partnership has brought many advantages.
We tested the 1.0 aspirated version with 71 HP combined with the Proxy top trim.
The small three cylinder 1 litre aspirated engine delivers 71 HP and in a couple of months it will be available another version with 61 HP . If smart forfour with the same 71 HP aspirated engine seems a bit underpowered, on the fortwo model it is indeed the ideal choice. At 880 kg, fortwo is 95 kg lighter than forfour and this brings only advantages to the dynamics. Fortwo reaches 100 km/h in 14.4 seconds, 1.5 seconds faster than forfour. Who wants to be more agile has to chose the 0.9 turbo version with 90 HP that goes from 0 to 100 m/h in just 10.4 seconds, 4 seconds faster.
The aspirated engine is not exactly the most economical one. The announced fuel consumption of 4.1 l/100 km is impossible to reach. In the urban congestion, despite the standard start & stop system, it’s hard to obtain figures under 6.5 l/100 even when you want to get better values from the eco indicators that are being evaluated by the multimedia system from the dashboard.
There will be no diesel version because it would be way too expensive and the price difference compared to the petrol engine would be considerable, thus, it wouldn’t be covered by 8.000 km per year, a value estimated by Mercedes-Benz for smart owners.
In the city, fortwo with the aspirated, 1 litre engine that delivers 71 HP reaches extremely fast 60 km/h and it’s very agile. The wider tracks in the front and in the rear have contributed to improving the road holding. Together with the drive train, still a little bit firm, even though it was adjusted in order to be more permissive than the previous generation, the smart fortwo has a minimum body roll in bends and it’s more safer when driving. Fortwo can better absorb all the short bumps on the road even with the Sport package offered standard for proxy trim that includes a 10 mm lowered sport suspension, sport tires 185/50 R16 in the front and 205/45 R16 in the rear.
It is a pleasant surprise the way the engine revs up with the catchy sound of a luxury scooter. Basically, the engine incites you to rev it and the power follows in-line.
In the city, fortwo is extremely agile and manoeuvrable. The Direct Steer steering with variable assist is lighter and more agile, while the 6.95 m turning circle is the smallest one from the mini segment.
But why is smart so heavy? 880 kg at only 2.69 meters is huge, especially when the front hood, the doors and the fenders are plastic made. The explanation is simple – the Tridion safety cell mostly made from high strength steel provides the same level of protection in case of a frontal impact as the S-Class or C-Class.
The test model was available in Proxy top trim, which adds 3,390 euro to the base price of 10,895 euro. 14,285 euro are a lot of money but this trim already includes more equipment over the standard than we would have imagined: synthetic leather/ white/blue fabric tapestry, passenger seat with completely foldable backrest, an active and passive safety package that’s rather impressive (lane departure warning system, tire pressure monitoring system, crosswind assist) automatic climate control, the panoramic roof made from polycarbonate and the sport package with sport suspension, stainless steel pedals, 16 inch black alloy wheels and a multifunctional 3-spoke leather steering wheel.
VerdictSmart fortwo is exactly what it should be: the ideal solution for urban mobility. As safe as the C-Class with a safer road holding, superior comfort due to the increased track and a special interior ambience, smart fortwo is a colourful splash of joy in the mini segment. Of course, for 15,000 euros you can buy a Ford Fiesta or a VW Polo, but they sure don’t have the smart’s unique emotional element.
Foto: Ovidiu Tăbăcaru
|smart fortwo 1.0
|Max. torque/revs (Nm/rpm)
|rwd, 5 speed manual gearbox
|Boot capacity (l)
|Kerb weight (kg)
|Maximum speed (km/h)
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)
|Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)
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|Price (euro with VAT)