What's good? Good driving position. Perky engine. Lots of equipment. Small!
Ever since Smart has been operated under Mercedes-Benz, the brand has struggled to compete against the likes of Volkswagen-Audi Group and Citroen and Peugeot in the city car market. In 2007, the brand launched the fortwo, a city car that was so small that it could park almost anywhere. At the time, the only real competitor was the Peugeot 107, a low-cost city car that too could park almost anywhere. Despite being similarly priced, the fortwo failed to win the hearts of UK motorists and it's a much rarer sight than the chic 107.
2014 is a different kettle of fish though. In April, Smart launched the fortwo Grandstyle, a new spec for the UK that adds a wealth of extra standard kit, and a number of exterior updates. It now looks like a car ready to take on the latest city cars, so I jumped in a top spec Coupe 1.0 84 Grandstyle Edition 2dr to see if Smart has finally cracked what UK motorists are looking for.
The Smart fortwo might have been launched more than five years ago, but a number of exterior style changes have enabled it to keep up with the ever growing list of city cars on the market. There is now only one specification of fortwo you can buy new - Grandstyle - which was released in April this year to replace all other specifications.
Grandstyle has modernised the fortwo with LED daytime running lights, smoked headlights with titanium-coloured surrounds, black three-spoke 15-inch alloys wheels, and a choice of five colours all coming as standard. It looks modern and chic, and stands out among the sea of Ford Kas, Renault Twingos, Peugeot 107s and other more than capable city cars. My review model was white, and the combination of black alloys, blacked-out headlights and tinted windows looked fantastic.
The Smart fortwo is available with one engine in two tunes - 71 bhp or 84 bhp. My test car had the more powerful version of the fortwo's 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This engine is paired with a 5-speed semi-automatic gearbox that's designed to maximise efficiency, rather than performance, and you can tell, with the fortwo taking 10.2 seconds. In-gear performance is pretty lethargic too, due to the engine only putting out 89 lb /ft of torque. If you're wondering what that means in the real world, it means that the fortwo struggles on steep hills and you will find the gearbox always kicking down to a lower gear to keep you moving.
It's perfect around town though. The turbo spools up really low down in the rev range and because the fortwo is so small it feels very nippy. This is also the smallest car in its class, and this shows when it comes to parking - whereas many cars drive past certain spaces (including other city cars), the fortwo easily squeezes in. This is helped by the steering rack which has a quick turn and the lightweight chassis, which makes manoeuvring a piece of cake.
This is perhaps where the biggest surprise is - the fortwo has a very nice interior. You sit a little too high for my liking, but this gifts you will excellent visibility all around. Space up-front is impressive, with lots of leg room for even the tallest of passengers. There isn't any rear seats and so this car only seats two people (which is why it's called a Coupe), and the rear space is largely taken up by the engine - yep, that's right, the fortwo is rear-engined and it's also rear-wheel drive, although you don't notice that latter spec whatever the conditions.
The quality is pretty good too. The dashboard isn't rubber or plastic, but rather fabric as are the doors cars. This makes the interior feel warm to the touch and it adds something different to the design of the interior. In terms of ergonomics, the fortwo is well laid out inside.
Having such a small car will pay dividends at the pumps. Smart claims that this fortwo coupe in 84 guise will return 57.6 miles per gallon combined with a CO2 output of 115 g/km. That puts this car in tax band B, which translates to £30 annual car tax. That's nowhere near as good as a Peugeot 107 or small capacity diesel. Still, I managed to achieve 53.3 miles per gallon combined on a 150-mile round trip, which isn't to be sniffed out, bearing in mind the majority of my driving was in city centres.
Trim and equipment
The fortwo coupe is only available in one trim - Grandstyle. Just to recap, over the older models this includes with LED daytime running lights, smoked headlights with titanium-coloured surrounds, black three-spoke 15-inch alloys wheels, and a choice of five colours. Standard equipment includes air conditioning with automatic temperature control, central locking, electric windows, automatic hill start assist, ESP, and audio system navigation with iPod interface.
The Smart fortwo is a good option for motorists who want a city cars that's not too common. With the list price of the best version you can buy coming in at £10,650, finance repayments are only going to be around £130 per month, according to figures given by Smart. With that in mind, the Skoda Citigo is a better looking city car than the fortwo and the Peugeot 107 is cheaper. I recommend testing these two cars back-to-back with the fortwo, because each offers something a little bit different.
My money would go to Skoda though. The engine range is more economical and I prefer the style of the Citigo over the fortwo coupe.