Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good This second generation Smart fortwo arrived Down Under in February 2008, with a number of changes over the ground breaking original model. It’s now 20cm longer, however at just short of 2.7 metres it’s still Australia’s shortest car by a considerable margin. The unique design and layout continues – how many other Supermini’s feature an engine mounted behind the front seats, rear wheel drive and a standard automated manual gearbox? Answer – NONE.
Not so good The design is more of an evolution than a revolutionary change over the previous model. However you could argue if you’re onto a good thing, why change as the styling is still fresh. At just over 750kg this is a lightweight vehicle so even with an impressive passive safety thanks to the unique Triton safety cell we wouldn’t want to come face to face with a large 4x4 in an accident (however to be fair we can’t think of too many vehicles that would want to).
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good A truly roomy interior for two, legroom is impressive (even for taller folks), the high seating position creates a commanding view, frontal vision is great and when sitting in either of the front seats looking forward, you never feel like you’re in such a short vehicle. The thick rimmed, three spoke steering wheel is great to hold and lovely to look at, the seats offer adequate comfort (but are on the firm side) and the fortwo has good storage up front with a lockable glovebox, door pockets and a couple of little cuppy holes in the dash. Innovative touches such as the ignition key mounted between the seats and a rev counter and clock styled in funky circular pods sitting in the middle of the dash on stalks help create a warm environment. The boot is a decent 200 litres (70 litres larger than the previous fortwo) and the passenger seat folds flat, necessary when carrying a longer cargo load.
Not so good The interior plastics are harder than the more premium soft touch variety, which feel so much nicer to touch and unfortunately this model has lost one of the unique features of the previous generation model – funky circular air vents. The steering wheel misses out on rake and reach adjustment and whilst the wheel itself does without any audio control buttons, this isn’t a big deal as the audio controls in the centre stack are close by. Rear three quarter and rear vision is limited by the high backed front seats and the rear hatch isn’t a simple one piece opening affair, as first one must open the glass hatch, before unlatching and folding down the lower hatch section.
Performance

Performance

Good The little 1.0L, three cylinder petrol engine is offered in two tunes, a naturally aspirated grade with 52kW of power and a turbocharged 62kW grade. Both are a big improvement over the previous model’s even smaller again 0.7L engine. Both choices offer more than enough ‘oomph’ in an urban environment and we’ve gotta say, it’s even kind of fun scooting past larger vehicles in a vehicle with such a small footprint. The 62kW engine is smooth and sounds great – like a hive of friendly bumble bees at high revs!
Not so good The naturally aspirated 52kW engine is a little slower than the turbo option and out on a single lane highway, overtaking maneuvers should be thought out in advance. The fortwo would benefit from the option of a regular five speed manual gearbox as the standard sequential five speed Automatic can feel slow in changing gears. The pause between gear changes is frustrating at times.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Both ride and handling are significantly improved over the even more compromised first generation model. Not surprisingly, the optional electric power steering is far lighter and recommended over the regular non assisted steering (which is very unusual for a car in this day and age).
Not so good Dynamics are still compromised. The suspension is overly firm, resulting in a less than plush ride; the super short wheelbase also plays a part and over rough surfaces the fortwo loses its composure, crashes over potholes and can jiggle a little too much for our liking. The brake pedal feels overly long and takes some getting used to initially. Without power assistance, the steering is heavy when negotiating a tight parking spot (however this should not be a common occurrence as the Smart easily fits in a regular car park bay!).
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Tick the safety box with standard Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and four airbags. The ‘Tridion’ safety cell, which forms the structure of the Smart, is no marketing gimmick - playing a key role in the fortwo achieving a high safety rating in independent crash testing. Impressive fuel consumption - whilst not Australia’s most fuel efficient car – combined figures of 4.4L per 100kms (52kW grade) and 4.9L (62kW) are nothing to sneeze at.
Not so good Questionable value for money with many larger Supermini’s and even a number of Small sized family cars costing less; expensive options and having to pay extra for power steering seems rough; standard features list is only average considering the vehicles asking price.