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Smart has ditched its clunky five-speed automated manual gearbox for a six-speed twin-clutch. Is it any good?

Our Verdict

Smart Fortwo

It's bigger and bolder than before, but is this new city car any better?

6 February 2015

What is it?

A long overdue solution to the Smart ForTwo’s tendency to abruptly bob its nose between gear changes in the form of a new slick shifting six-speed, twin-clutch gearbox.

Called the Twinamic, the Getrag-engineered unit replaces the old automated five-speed gearbox in the recently introduced third-generation ForTwo, providing the choice between manual and full automatic operation.

It will be offered as an option alongside the standard five-speed manual gearbox we sampled at the impressive new two-seat city car’s launch last year at a £995 premium.

The Twinamic will initially be available with the ForTwo’s base 70bhp naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine. However, there are plans to offer it in combination with the more convincing 89bhp turbocharged 898cc three-cylinder, direct-injection petrol engine driven here from mid-year.

Additionally, Smart says it will also make the new gearbox available on the larger ForFour in the not-too-distant future, bringing it into line with the mechanically identical Renault Twingo, which is also billed to get a twin-clutch gearbox option later this year.

Although it is based around the six-speed dual clutch gearbox used by Renault in the front-engine/front-wheel-drive Clio, the Twinamic has been heavily re-engineered for the ForTwo and ForFour’s space-saving rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive layout.

At 67kg, the new gearbox adds 34kg to the kerb weight of the pint-sized city car fitted with the standard five-speed manual unit – in the process negating any real gain in efficiency.  

What's it like?

The addition of a twin-clutch gearbox provides the new Smart ForTwo with a welcome touch of maturity, making it an imminently more pleasing car to thread through city traffic than its predecessor fitted with the unloved automated manual gearbox.

In automatic mode, the Twinamic shifts with pleasing speed and efficiency, both on up-shifts and downshifts – the latter of which are performed with a light throttle blip for added smoothness. Manual shifting is also possible using the stubby gear lever in a separate gate, or via steering wheel mounted shift paddles included as part of a so-called Sports package.

The nose still lifts as you accelerate away from the lights, but it is nothing compared to the unpleasant nodding effect you got from the old gearbox as you waited for cogs to disengage and re-engage.

There is a new found calmness to the driveline, which in combination with the significant gains made in overall ride comfort make the new ForTwo more composed in all driving conditions.  The addition of a standard hill-hold function on the Twinamic also allows you to power away on steep inclines without any of the complications associated with the old gearbox. There's also an electronic controller which allows the new gearbox to skip individual gears, instead of changing down through each individual gear when you come to a halt.

Should I buy one?

The Twinamic dual clutch gearbox is well worth consideration, especially for those looking to use the new ForTwo as an everyday commuter. It provides the pleasingly agile city car with a whole new dimension in driveline refinement, making it more pleasing to drive both congested stop/start traffic and on the open road.

The unpleasant nodding effect that has been a feature of the ForTwo since its introduction in 1998 is thankfully now a thing of the past, thanks to the new gearbox’s three-shaft design that allows it to shift to the next gear without any loss of tractive power. It's just a pity it took so long to appear.

Smart ForTwo 1.0 70 Twinamic (Technical specs yet to be released for the 0.9 89bhp version driven here)

Price tba Engine 3-cyls, 999cc petrol Power 70bhp at 6000rpm Torque 67lb ft at 2850rpm Gearbox 6-spd dual clutch Kerb weight 914kg (est) Top speed 94mph 0-62mph 15.1sec Economy 68.9mpg CO2 and tax band 94g/km/11%

Join the debate

Comments
8

6 February 2015
I was in Milano decades ago when this first hit the street - it was a phenominal success and deservedly so. Cheeky, fun, different, sexy, a doddle to park, great to commute and now finally also great to drive. Must get one for the Mrs

what's life without imagination

6 February 2015
Quote:

The addition of a standard hill-hold function on the Twinamic also allows you to power away on steep inclines without any of the complications associated with the old gearbox.

Not quite sure what complications you are referring to. I've had several of the older smarts (Roadsters and Fortwos) and they all bar one of the original fortwos had hill start. Very useful on the hills.

I went to see the new fortwo and forfour the other day. Really liked it, looked batter than the pictures suggested. The interior is a lot of fun, exactly what it should be in a smart. However, I really think they've over priced them. I get that spec for spec, an Up! would cost similar, but to not have the option of cheaper basic spec model seems crazy. In Germany, the base spec model is £7800 for the fortwo, and £8300 for the forfour. Ok, you get steel wheels, and the stereo is optional, but still comes with electric windows and cruise control.

I did pop into a Renault garage afterwards, and I prefer the looks of it, but the interior isn't as nicely trimmed. As much as it pains me to say it, but the Twingo would probably be my choice of the two.

6 February 2015
I had a Mk2 Smart CDI, and if you learn how to drive the bl*8dy thing it does not nod it's head when changing gear. The first time I drove one I kept my foot buried when changing gear and it slows the whole thing down and causes the problems described.

Simple, as soon as you sense it's going to change gear you get ready to lift the throttle, when you feel the drive interrupted then you back off the throttle, and you get a quicker and smooth shift. It's a robotisized manual change - you wouldn't keep your throttle buried when you change gear in any other manual gearbox car would you?

Maybe early Smarts didn't have a hill hold system, but mine did. It kept the brakes on for two seconds until you pressed the throttle on hills.

Don't know why it bugs me so much, but I suppose it's because I expect journalists to be able to drive car properly to give an objective assessment.

7 February 2015
Paul Dalgarno wrote:

I had a Mk2 Smart CDI, and if you learn how to drive the bl*8dy thing it does not nod it's head when changing gear. The first time I drove one I kept my foot buried when changing gear and it slows the whole thing down and causes the problems described.

Simple, as soon as you sense it's going to change gear you get ready to lift the throttle, when you feel the drive interrupted then you back off the throttle, and you get a quicker and smooth shift. It's a robotisized manual change - you wouldn't keep your throttle buried when you change gear in any other manual gearbox car would you?

Maybe early Smarts didn't have a hill hold system, but mine did. It kept the brakes on for two seconds until you pressed the throttle on hills.

Don't know why it bugs me so much, but I suppose it's because I expect journalists to be able to drive car properly to give an objective assessment.

I had two cdis, one was brilliant, the other was a bag of bolts. Totally agree on you with gear change, you did have to learn how to drive with it. Once you did, it actually wasn't that bad. The early smarts didn't have hill hold, my X reg didn't. However, it became standard when they introduced the 700 engine in the first gen Fortwo and roadster.

6 February 2015
How much money does someone get paid to come up with the word "twinamic"?

7 February 2015
Why is it I cannot click on your feature pictures to scroll sideways or open the smaller pictures?
This has only recently happened.

insight

10 February 2015
Working now Thanks for that.

insight

10 February 2015
For a city car the new interior fails for me as they have stuck a great bulk in the centre to house the shifter. There are times when its handy to slide across and exit on the opposite side plus a console makes the interior less spacious.
The electronic paddle shift auto versions selector could be installed in the dash centre as it doesn't need any linkage to the trans. The manual versions stick could sprout from a mini console virtually even with the seat front edge.

insight

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