The new Smart Fortwo is the old Smart Fortwo, only better.
– Montreal, Quebec
Canadians love small cars, but the Smart Smart Fortwo's extreme European approach to subcompact motoring wasn't enthusiastically embraced on this side of the Atlantic when the first-generation coupe and cabriolet originally went on sale. The 2016 Smart Fortwo aims to remedy several of the sticking points that held it back from mass acceptance, with a redesign aimed at quickening the vehicle's pulse, improving its interior room, and rendering its styling something more than a cute caricature.
Fundamentally, however, the new Smart Fortwo is the old Smart Fortwo, only better. What that means is it hasn't strayed from its mission statement of serving buyers who in truth only need an occasional car, and even then, exclusively in a city environment. With two-passenger seating and a tiny, urban-friendly footprint, the Fortwo remains a unique niche player with no real peers in the North American market.
- The Smart Fortwo retains a 3-cylinder engine, but the unit is now smaller (just under 1-litre) and gains a turbocharger that significantly boosts performance. Horsepower rises from 70 to 89, and torque is close to double what it was in the old car, settling at 100 lb-ft. This translates into livelier acceleration, especially from a stop, and fewer panic moments when dealing with fast-moving traffic.
- The old Fortwo's most egregious flaw - its lurching semi-automatic transmission - has also been corrected by way of replacement. Buyers can now choose between a standard 5-speed manual or optional 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, both of which offer a smoother, more natural driving experience.
- The Fortwo is wider than before, but not longer, which ensures that it maintains its nimble character. You can park the Smart coupe just about anywhere, and u-turns on tight streets are also in the cards. Designed for much smaller alleys and parking lots than you will find in Toronto or Vancouver, the Fortwo cuts through traffic like a bike courier.
- We have a sneaking suspicion that whoever drove the 2016 Smart Fortwo immediately before us made the mistake of filling its tank with regular fuel, instead of the premium it requires. This would explain the rough idle and occasional shaking when accelerating from a stop, characteristics that we haven't noticed on past Smart drives.
- Disappointing fuel efficiency also pointed towards bad gas, with a 9.0 L/100 km week of driving standing in stark contrast to our dual-clutch car's combined rating of 4.1 L/100 km.
- We couldn't pin the electrical gremlins we encountered with the Smart Fortwo on fuel, however. Climate controls frequently refused to respond to button pushes, or even activate the heating and cooling system, until the coupe's ignition had been switched on and off again. This also happened - repeatedly - with the Fortwo's stereo.
- Our tester's near-$22k price tag means it's up against well-equipped subcompact contenders like the Ford Fiesta, the Hyundai Accent, and even the Nissan Micra, each of which is much more practical in terms of seating and cargo, almost as frugal at the fuel pump, and all are considerably quicker to drive.
Photos: Benjamin Hunting