Smart fortwo cdi
Exterior appearance is unchanged on diesel model
- 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
- Tall body sometimes leaves occupants feeling unsteady
- Thrummy engine is noisy when cold
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. Now, to add even more appeal to the range, Smart is offering a diesel engine option for the first time, promising even greater frugality and efficiency.
There's no question that the various changes made to the ForTwo concept have resulted in a better car. The extra centimetres here and there have meant greater on-road stability plus a more comfortable experience for the occupants. The existing 1.0-litre petrol engines are an improvement over the original, but the diesel option turns the ForTwo into a real economy special.
In general you could say that the ForTwo has matured into a more competent car. Ditching some of its less appealing quirks along the way, it's become more enjoyable to drive and own. It remains very much a car you either love or hate, though. Whether it's the car's size, relatively limited practicality or performance, there's always something that could force you to cross it off your shopping list.
That said, there's a lot to recommend with the Fortwo. Urban dwellers will obviously find the car's size a plus, while anyone keen to minimise running costs will find that tax, insurance and fuel all present low demands on budgets. Opting for a Coupe over the Cabrio will also save some cash.
The ForTwo Cdi uses an even smaller 800cc diesel power unit, giving a modest 45bhp but a healthy torque figure on a par with the higher output petrol versions. Still mated to the five-speed semi-auto gearbox, it allows manual and automatic modes easily selected by a button on the lever.
Our verdict on the Smart fortwo cdi
The Smart ForTwo Cdi is an interesting twist on the city car theme, as it delivers remarkable economy and its diesel characteristics are suited to city work. Although a little less refined than the petrol model, the benefits outweigh the downsides. It may be limited in what it can be used for because of its size, but its dimensions are also its greatest virtue.
The purchase price may be a little higher than its rivals, but very low insurance, spectacular economy and the promise of no road tax means it is one of the cheapest cars to run.
Space and practicality
For a small car, the Smart is surprisingly practical. You've got to make a few sacrifices along the way, though. It's only a two-seater so you'll just have to deal with that, but this time around the car's boot is a little bigger, which does make it a lot more useable. Inside the cabin there's enough oddment space so as not to make the cabin feel cluttered, and you're rarely banging elbows with your passenger.
Controls and display
The overhaul of the car sees the introduction of more grown-up switchgear. Some of it will be familiar to Mercedes fans, and the good news is that it all works well although, sadly, the quirky nature of the previous car has been removed. The main dials are easy to read and the audio unit is placed high up in the fascia, making access straightforward.
As far as very compact cars go, the ForTwo performs well. You're not as well insulated from the outside world as you would be in a regular car, but road and engine noise is never overbearing. Spacewise, there's enough room for two, which is all you'll get in a Smart, while the seats themselves are supportive and comfortable. The sportier chairs do a fine job, but anyone wider than average might find them at bit much after a few hours.
You get the usual remote central locking function with the ForTwo, which, if honest, is all you ready need. There's the added bonus of being able to unlock the boot lid from the remote also. The ForTwo is a desirable car though, so a steering lock might be worth considering as a low-cost, visible deterrent.
Despite the car's size, you never really feel vulnerable in a Smart. The car's safety cell is technology and engineering that's been proven over the life of the original car. Then there's ABS and the various stability aids to keep you safe, plus a full complement of airbags. In reality, you're as well catered for as you would be in a so-called regular car.
The Smart already majors on ease of use rather than thrills, and the Cdi version is even better in this respect. There is strong torque available from low revs, and the improved gearbox helps squirt into small gaps. At higher speeds there's performance still available and its compact dimensions make it a pleasure to drive in town.
Family car appeal
As a second car the Smart would make sense but, obviously, it wouldn't be feasible as the sole means of family transport. Even as a second car, transporting pushchairs and the like might still be a challenge. The car's boot is now bigger, but it's still small by general standards.
First car appeal
On a purely practical note, the ForTwo would make a very good first car. It's compact, easy to park, boasts low running costs and isn't powerful enough to scare anyone. The lack of a clutch pedal - and conventional manual gearbox - might actually prove attractive to a new driver.
Quality and image
The incredible following that, well, follows this car perfectly illustrates its popularity. For all its quirks - and there are many - its looks, character and kerb appeal cancel out the shortcomings. On the quality front, this second generation car looks and feels better built than its predecessor. This much is obvious from the materials used in the cabin.
Unsurprisingly there are no real issues here. With only two seats and two doors to worry about, access is straightforward for both occupants. It can be a stretch to reach the seat belt once you're seated, but that's about it. At the back, the Coupe's boot gets the split tailgate treatment, and opens to reveal a now decent size loadspace.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
For a small car such as the Smart there's little need for a complex audio system. As such, the standard unit supplied does a decent job. It has an easy to read display, intuitive and logical controls and, crucially, decent sound quality.
Colours and trim
As you would expect, the car works best if selected in a bright colour; darker hues tend to hide its various exterior design details. On the inside, similarly bold colours for some trim areas can be selected, and this does much to lift the cabin ambience. Overall though, there's a lot of dark coloured plastic to look at.
What is there to say about one of the smallest cars on the market? In truth, the Smart's compact dimensions are a blessing, but there is one niggle in the shape of the car's steering - it's too heavy at low speeds. Surprisingly, you do need a firm hand on the wheel, otherwise you won't be able to take advantage of the car's small turning circle.
Tyre inflation system fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.0-litre (61bhp, 71bhp, 84bhp, 98bhp). Diesel engine options - 0.8-litre (45bhp). Transmission options: five-speed automated manual gearbox. Trim levels: pure, pulse, passion, Cdi.
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