When it first came to the U.S. nearly a decade ago, the diminutive Smart Fortwo had an unusual moniker and looked like a mini-car designed for the Hello Kitty product line or a kitschy parade car. And, although uniquely cute and appealing, there were a few rough spots that needed attention -- particularly in its power delivery and comfort.
Times have changed. Smart-marketer Mercedes-Benz has now redefined its Smart Fortwo, after selling 1.5 million models in 46 countries around the globe. Today's Smart Fortwo has grown up, even though it remains the shortest car sold in the U.S.
The newest version gets more width, more standard and optional equipment, more powertrain options, and comes in more exciting colors. The miniscule model takes less space to turn, boasting an impressive turning circle of 22.8 feet (the compact Honda Fit turns in 35.1 ft. by comparison), while its length and state-of-the-art safety engineering stay the same.
The 2016 Smart fortwo comes in four trims called Pure, Passion, Prime, and Proxy that arrive with a mix of different features and unique exterior and interior trim and fittings that give each a distinct character. A special Edition #1 trim package will only be available for this model year.
Pricing for the updated runabout starts slightly below $14,650 while a fully loaded model with multiple high-end options is priced between $20,000 and $21,000.
For 2016, the Smart Electric Drive version, powered by a battery and electric motor, will continue to use the older design and be updated the following year. A Cabrio model with a roll-back cloth roof will be offered for the 2017 model year, as well.
The two-door body shell is constructed of ultra-high-strength steel and has been engineered for crash protection with larger, taller vehicles. Onboard are a host of safety systems, including eight airbags and some advanced assistance systems, typically reserved for higher classes of vehicles, like standard Crosswind Assist and optional forward collision warning.
The slab-sided two-seater sits tall and appears wider rather than long; it keeps its 8.8 feet of length, but grows 3.9 inches greater in its track width, which translates to more elbow and cargo room inside. The rear-engined coupe's silhouette is outlined by the trademark "Tridion" safety cell that generally comes in one of four contrasting colors to the body panels that can be ordered in more than 40 palettes. Mercedes-Benz calls the vehicle's unique and creative design "FUN.ctional."
It keeps its ultra-short overhangs and Smart's distinctive headlamps, while wearing a new, slightly larger honeycomb front grille with a bigger Smart logo in the middle, a higher hood for greater pedestrian protection, and wheels that are pushed further outward. Its large doors with frameless windows extend into the B pillars, and a twin-section tailgate is beset by sporty rhombic taillamps.
Designers describe the updated styling of the funky and fun interior as "Loop." High-quality materials trim the doors and the sculptured two-section dashboard, where the instrument cluster and infotainment center appear to hover in front of the dash. Spherical air vents are attractive and easy-to-use and a centrally positioned air conditioning control unit features a sliding magnifying glass to set the desired temperature.
Sporty seats have mesh inserts similar to modern sports shoes; behind the seats is a luggage compartment that can hold up to 9.2 cu.-ft. of goods. Notable is the folding front passenger seat backrest that also aids in stowage.
Under the urban warrior's hood is a new three-cylinder turbocharged engine that gets 89 horsepower and 100 lb.-ft. of torque matched to a choice of two transmissions: a five-speed manual transmission or a Twinamic six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (the DCT is a $990 upcharge). Combined EPA fuel economy for both versions is 36 mpg says Mercedes-Benz.
We drove the new automatic model in Portland, Ore., a locale that Mercedes has identified as having the greatest potential for Smart Fortwo sales, along with 16 other cities in North America. By comparison to the previous generation, we found the drive more zippy, with its 0-to-60-mph acceleration time 10.5 seconds for the DCT (10.1 for the manual).
It also offers a quieter, smoother ride as a result of upgrades to the chassis and suspension, the standard direct steer variable-ratio electric power steering, and tires with higher sidewalls. Most impressive is the mini-car's ability to practically pirouette to maneuver and park. Also of note are the hill-hold function and brake assist that are integrated into the brake system.
Copyright © 2015 Motor Matters
|Base price||$15,640 (as tested: $16,390)|
|Curb weight||1,984 lbs.|
|Engine type||12-valve turbocharged 3-cylinder|
|Epa mileage rating||33 mpg city, 39 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||7.7 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||89 at 6200 rpm|
|Overall length||106.1 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||100 at 2500 rpm|
|Vehicle type||2-passenger subcompact RWD two-door|
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