Overall rating: 4/5
This is the third generation Smart Fortwo, and it's genuinely a brilliant city car that doesn't feel like a fish out of water when on the motorway or a country road. It's of higher quality and is far better to drive than its predecessor too. Shame it won't be offered for sale in Ireland.
In the metal 3.5/5
The new Fortwo is far more distinctive than its predecessor from all angles, though there are still a few awkward ones - and how the exterior is finished (there are 40 possibilities) has a large bearing on its attractiveness. Its predecessor was taller than it was wide, giving it a gangly appearance, but thanks to a 104mm increase in width the new car's stance is far better and the LED daytime running light signature helps give it real presence too. The 'tridion' safety cell construction is carried over.
Two long doors allow access to a significantly improved cabin. The extra width is welcome - and allows the seats to be mounted alongside each other instead of offset - but it's the enhanced feeling of quality that really stands out. Sure, there are loads of hard plastic surfaces, but they're all textured, while the dashboard itself features a tactile textile covering. A lovely three-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel is standard too and the sporty looking seats are comfortable.
There's plenty of space for two tall adults in terms of legroom and headroom, though as the Fortwo's length is unchanged the boot space is still quite small. Luggage is accessed via a split tailgate, which itself houses extra storage. Otherwise the car could do with more nooks and crannies inside the cabin - despite the inclusion of a nifty pull-out drawer hidden behind and under the gear lever.
Driving it 4/5
If you drove any previous Smart Fortwo you'll not hold out a lot of hope for this model, but it's a revelation. The increased width helps with stability and composure in the corners and on the motorway of course, but it's also a much more refined car. The turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine is far quieter than before for a start. It helps that it now comes with a manual gearbox as standard, as the semi-automatic item of old was an unmitigated disaster. The five-speed manual isn't anything special, but it's preferable. A smooth-shifting dual-clutch automatic will be available too.
The new car's suspension eradicates its predecessor's tendency to bounce about, making it more comfortable overall. It still bangs into deeper potholes a bit around town, but overall it's a good set-up that is far more suited to longer drives than ever before.
What you get for your money
There's little point rating the Fortwo in this category as there are no official Irish prices or specifications to work with. Other markets get plenty of choice in terms of model line-up and a generous level of standard equipment, including loads of safety devices. All cars come with cruise control, the multifunction steering wheel mentioned earlier, climate control, LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels and more.
While at the launch in Barcelona, a PR person for the JBL audio company demonstrated a new option for the Fortwo and Forfour, called 'JBL FOR more bassboom'. It's an impressive sound system designed specifically for the shape of the Smart's interior, but we've seen that before. What's new here is the removable sub-woofer in the boot. That's a clever touch for a car already quite short on boot space.
The Smart Fortwo concept has really come of age. It's now a polished product that retains all the charm and space efficiency of the original concept, but with added quality and appeal. Irish motorists have little need for out-and-out city cars, but the Fortwo is better suited to Ireland than it has ever been.