Smart ForTwo Brabus Coupe
Chunky bodykit transforms the ForTwo's exterior
- Cheeky looks are appealing
- Impressive performance from small engine
- Excellent economy
- Compact dimensions are a real plus
- High purchase price for its size
- Transmission is hesitant in automatic mode
- Standard car is virtually as capable
- Increased road tax is the price of performance
There is no smaller car on sale in the UK than the Smart ForTwo and its diminutive size and remarkable packaging are the chief reasons for its appeal. That doesn't prevent it from being a car that can entertain however, which is where the Brabus version comes in. Designed to offer fun as well as the same practical benefits, the ForTwo Brabus is a mini performance car.
The starting point for the Brabus is the standard ForTwo Coupe, which in terms of appearance is relatively understated notwithstanding its jaw-dropping dimensions. The transformation from standard to Brabus is most noticeable from the outside. Gone are the cute, friendly features, replaced by chunky alloy wheels, an aggressive bodykit and body coloured panels. The finished article definitely has a strong appeal even though it may not be to all tastes.
Inside there are changes too. Both driver and passenger sit on sportier heated leather seats with more side support, while the driver grasps a chunky leather-bound steering wheel and operates metal-finished pedals. The Brabus also benefits from the full range of standard equipment, including a CD/tuner with MP3 compatibility and air conditioning.
In keeping with its sporting aspirations, the Brabus has a number of mechanical changes compared to the standard car. Most important is the power output, which climbs to 98bhp, an increase of 27bhp from the 999cc turbocharged engine. To harness the extra power, there are larger wheels and tyres front and rear and the suspension is significantly firmer compared to the rest of the range. A sports exhaust is also fitted, allowing more of the engine note to be heard and also increasing performance.
Despite these quite significant changes, the Smart ForTwo Brabus loses very little of its efficiency and economy. It can still return an economy figure in excess of many cars on the market, few of which can also offer such impressive performance figures.
Our verdict on the Smart ForTwo Brabus Coupe
The Smart ForTwo Brabus is an interesting twist on the city car theme, as it delivers the performance one might expect from a junior hot hatch. It offers an engaging drive within its dynamic limits, yet it is no more difficult to drive than the standard car and offers the same benefits of high economy and compact dimensions. The only downsides are the substantially increased purchase price and higher road tax, but for some buyers this will not be an issue.
The ForTwo Brabus is not quite as cost effective as lesser models in the range. Although it promises very impressive fuel economy, the increased purchase price and C02 emissions do mean increased costs for the buyer.
Space and practicality
For a car of such minute exterior dimensions, the ForTwo has an impressive amount of interior space. Although a strict two-seater, both occupants have good head and legroom. Elbowroom is at more of a premium, but only larger occupants may struggle with this. The boot space is also decent with 340 litres available when packed to the roof.
Controls and display
The layout of the ForTwo is very simple, with all the major controls cited in the small centre console. The ventilation controls are made up of easy to operate sliders and rotary knobs, while the few switches are laid out clearly beneath. The large central speedometer is complemented by the pod-type clock and rev counter mounted on top of the dashboard, which is an appealing feature.
Comfort levels are a little compromised over the standard car, thanks to the stiffer suspension and bigger wheels, but this is a fair price to pay for the increased performance and improved handling. Noise levels do increase at motorway speeds, but considering its city car status it is more than acceptable.
All ForTwo models are fitted with remote central locking and immobiliser as standard, although an alarm system is an optional extra.
For a small car the ForTwo excels in terms of safety, with a proven safety cell and standard ESP. The Brabus version is even better, with improved grip and braking performance from the uprated systems.
The driving appeal of the Smart is a combination of two attributes: the performance and fun on offer and the advantages of the ForTwo's compact dimensions. The 1.0-litre powerplant has ample torque and acceleration is strong at all speeds. The automated gearbox is best in manual mode as there can be long pauses between gearchanges in automatic mode. The steering, although relatively low geared, is accurate and offers good feel while the low weight and stiff suspension make it a fun car to drive. In town, the ability to nip through small gaps and park almost anywhere is a real advantage and the Smart feels most at home here.
Family car appeal
The ForTwo is not suited to family duties due to the compact boot and two seat configuration. The passenger airbag cannot be deactivated, which means a child's car seat cannot be fitted.
First car appeal
The ForTwo in standard form is an ideal first car, but the Brabus version is not quite so suitable. Its performance and price may put it slightly out of reach, while the automated gearbox may also take some time to master.
Quality and image
Although the Smart ForTwo is in the city car class, from the inside it feels like a good quality product, particularly the enhanced cabin in the Brabus version. The Smart's image is also unique and its status as the smallest car on the road gives it a cache unmatched by its rivals.
Although short, the ForTwo is quite tall, and the wide opening doors make access straightforward. At the rear, the split tailgate is a useful feature and increases access to the rear.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The Brabus comes with a CD/tuner as standard, which offers respectable sound reproduction although it is slightly hampered by the fact that there are only two speakers fitted as standard.
Colours and trim
The ForTwo is designed to appeal to style-conscious market, so the interior and exterior are quite vibrant. Brabus models are only available in silver or black, much more sober than the standard car. Inside the cabin benefits from smarter trim, with leather and aluminium accents although the quality of the plastics is identical.
This is the ForTwo's trump card, as its minimal length allows it to not only park in the smallest of spaces but even park nose in to the kerb should conditions allow. The excellent visibility is also a boon, although the automated transmission does make slow speed manoeuvres tricky at times.
Tyre inflation system fitted as standard.
Petrol engines - 1.0-litre (61bhp, 71bhp, 84bhp, 98bhp). Transmission options: five-speed automated manual gearbox. Trim levels: pure, pulse, passion, Brabus. Brabus.
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