Smart Car For Two – What’s keeping you from buying a Smart Fortwo, America? Is the gearbox prone to vibrations? Terrible controls? Are the seats so close together that you can smell what the passenger had for lunch? (And possibly for breakfast?)
If so, we have good news: Daimler promptly addressed each of these issues when designing the third-generation Fortwo, which will arrive here in late 2015 as a 2016 model. It means you have no more excuses and you should go to your local dealer Smarta. And join the growing line outside.
Smart Car For Two
Or maybe not. Because while Smart has clearly highlighted what makes the Fortwo good, we can’t report any substantive changes to the core proposition. Which, we respectfully suggest, may have prevented more Americans from becoming smarter than any of the widely acknowledged flaws of the previous version.
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Credit to Daimler for believing. The new Fortwo is as innovative as ever, with its small three-cylinder engine located under the boot floor, where it powers the rear wheels. The new Fortwo is wider than its tight-fitting predecessor but not anymore, so its overall length of 106 inches allows it to park in half a standard parking space. Engineering and manufacturing costs have been cut by sharing a new platform with Renault – to which the new European Twingo is a sister car – as well as a larger, four-seat four-four, which Smart currently has no plans to bring to the US. .
Let’s try the Forto in the smart Barcelona so we can say that it is definitely suitable for life in a crowded European city. As for life outside a crowded European city, we have to extrapolate – the whole incident took place in the heart of the city and we would have failed if we had not left the way to blow up a small part of the city highway. Disengaging third gear. We can’t think of a single drive event where we’ll spend more time at a red light; At least Barcelona has spectacular buildings and beautiful people to watch.
We had plenty of time to check out the Smart’s cabin, which has certainly been improved. The new car’s electronic architecture comes largely from technical collaboration with Renault, with the central touchscreen and most of the controls being taken directly from the Clio. The quality of the materials can’t be compared to what you’d expect from the Mercedes family of products; Your fingers don’t have to travel far to find greasy plastic. But it’s much better assembled than the last Smart, and the extra width translates directly into better shoulder room. Two adults can sit next to each other without mixing their DNA.
The driving experience is familiar and good. The new Smart is a significant improvement over its predecessor in many driving features, none more so than replacing the old car’s woefully lagging automatic manual transmission. (For those who’ve never driven an original Smart, know that you can utter entire sentences in the space between gears. Often these can be rude expressions about the transmission.) The Smart now offers a choice of a five-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Daimler believes the US will account for about 80 percent of DCTs, a stark contrast to the expected split between manual to automatic vehicles in Europe.
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Both transmissions work well. The five-speed has a nice, light action, certainly once you get used to the relatively abrupt clutch engagement point. Although the turbo motor’s non-linear response makes this more difficult than it should be, the pedals are well spaced to match heel and toe rotation. We only got to drive a prototype version of the DCT – it’s still not as advanced as the rest of the car – but it shifts smoothly when left to its own devices, and quickly if you nudge the gear lever towards it. Manual’ position. The lack of standard steering wheel paddles is a clear confirmation that this is a dual-clutch automatic transmission, not a manual.
The controls are also significantly improved. The combination of the old Smart’s sluggishness and uncomfortable understeer means that at any speed it feels like you’re trying to control a runaway minecart. The new electric-assist rack is faster; The front end responds lively and has enough grip to deal with Barcelona’s goals at decent pace. It makes no sense for a car to have its engine in the rear or send power through the rear wheels; Don’t expect a small Toyota MR2. When you reach your limit, the front widens. The Fortwo also has a cool party trick with a turning radius of 7.5 metres. That’s two feet tighter than a London taxi or, more appropriately for America, three feet tighter than achieved in the Scion IQ.
Once we get to the new engine, the praise will diminish. In the US, only the more powerful, turbocharged version of the 89-horsepower transverse three-cylinder engine would be available, which felt too slow and sluggish at low revs. We also managed to drive the naturally aspirated 70 HP model, which, despite taking four seconds longer to reach 62 mph (14.4 seconds for the Smart), wasn’t overly smooth and underwhelming at city speeds. It will not appear in our offer, but supporters of low-speed driving can wait for the new version of the fully electric version. This will appear after some time, just like the convertible model.
The new Smart is just as smart as its predecessor, slightly more comfortable and built to a higher standard. It’s a favorite city companion, but it still feels like it’s answering a question that some US buyers will soon be asking.
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Our man across the pond, Mike Duff, lives in the UK but reports from all over Europe and sometimes beyond. He has previously held staff positions at British titles CAR, Autocar and evo, but his motoring interests lean Germanic, owning both a 987-generation Porsche Cayman S and a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16.
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When I first went to Europe, I was already thinking about the car and knew that I would be in for a special surprise when I arrived. For a young car junkie like me, raised on European car magazines,
, majorette diecast models, nightly WRC broadcasts on the Speed Channel and numerous car chase scenes on winding European roads – Europe was the Holy Grail. It wasn’t just about super and sports cars – we had most of those at my place, but more about the Peugeot 206, Renault Méganes and Vauxhall Astra (yes, those too). These were cars that felt much cooler than their North American counterparts.
I was particularly impressed with the headroom; Despite the panoramic sunroof ($390 option), the 1,008mm of headroom was fine by me.
However, this one car, which I had seen very little of in all my research, struck me the most. When I first encountered the Smart City Driver, nothing quite prepared me for the surprise that struck me.
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The fact that I was then walking on the carpeted pavement of Monte Carlo’s main street made the experience even stranger, even more extraordinary; After all, this was a playground for playboys in their Astons and Lambos, not worker bees in microcars! I was lost for words. Then, when I met my first Smart dealer – the stock was stacked neatly, one on top of another, 10 units outside Paris – I felt it again. Questions arise: Who makes it? What engine do they have? Can you park perpendicular to the curb? (Dwellers of Rome, yes, I tell you.) It was a cult of smarts, and aside from buying a (of course) scaled-down version of Baburago for my brother, I wanted to find out more.
My research turned up even more juicy stuff that blew my teenage mind: “A three-cylinder diesel engine? do they “Replaceable plastic body panels? What?” “I’m sorry, could you repeat that? Are you saying they were jointly developed by Mercedes and the Dam Watch Company? “There’s a four-door model? And a roadster? The Brabus version?!?! What’s up? On?” It was one of those European gems I was hoping for and it was on its way to North America.
Fast forward a decade and here we are. The
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