The tiny city-driving car is back, with better drivability and thoughtful touches
The new car gets a micro-displacement, turbocharged .9-liter three-cylinder engine. Mounted in the back, this wee engine makes an unremarkable 89 hp. But the Smart only weighs around 2,000 pounds--less than Honda Fit, Mini Cooper, or Toyota Yaris. Powertrain refinement is less than perfect, with notable vibrations while waiting for a stop light to turn green.
The EPA estimates that the new Smart will return 34 mpg in the city, 39 mpg highway. and 36 mpg overall. We've been seeing around 38 mpg. The tiny fuel tank (just 7.8 gallons) also gives it really short range--around 200 miles. Then again, this car is designed for city driving.
Driving the Smart ForTwo just a few blocks makes clear that the new dual-clutch transmission is worlds better than that old five-speed automated manual. That was perhaps one of the worst gearboxes we've ever tested; it routinely produced shifts that were slow and jerky enough to send the car and its occupants rocking back and forth.
Despite the orange and black Halloween-themed colors on our purchased test car, driving the Smart no longer feels scary--it's got enough power to get up to speed and improved isolation reduces noise. But we wouldn't call it exactly quiet, especially on the highway.
Like most small-wheelbase cars, the ride is stiff, jittery, and jumpy. Still, it's an improvement over the last one.
Inside, the driver sits up high with terrific visibility--virtues in a city car that make it easy to spot parking places and zip right in. Likewise, the cabin design remains funky. For example, the tachometer and clock are mounted atop the dashboard and to the left of the driver. The temperature adjustment for the climate controls is refreshingly analog, with a magnifying glass type of slider that easily lets you alter the temperature. The dashboard is covered in soft-touch fabrics. And instead of overhead grab handles to help you pull yourself out of the seats, the ceiling houses dual sunglass holders in their place. Honestly, it's one of the more, shall we say, "original" interiors we've experienced lately (with the same nod to out-there design that we liked in our tested BMW i3).
Overall, the Smart now feels like a real car, with more character than you can imagine.
We'll have more on the Smart as we complete the 2,000 break-in miles and start formal testing. Stay tuned.