Not that you’d know from the look of this new Fortwo, but the scene at Smart is changing.
Daimler recently sold half the brand to Chinese giant Geely – parent company of Volvo, Lotus and, perhaps in the near future, beleaguered Aston Martin – with the intention of moving production to China for the next-generation models, which are due in 2022 and will likely include some form of B-segment crossover.
The corporate management team has also been shaken up and the brand is now an all-electric one, despite the fact zero-emission Smarts accounted only for 18,000 of 118,000 worldwide sales last year. That's bold, but it also feels like a move in the right – and possibly the only – direction.
However, beyond the backstage bustle, from now until 2022 the ‘Smart car’ itself will exist in something of a holding pattern, with these 'new' but, in truth, largely unchanged Fortwo coupe and cabrio models offered alongside the four-door Forfour.
The three-cylinder petrol engines have gone, but aside from the LED headlights and larger grille, there’s little different about how these cars look, and all will use the same reasonably perky 80bhp electric motor and 17.6kWh battery previously fitted to all electric Smarts. Don’t expect any lifetime upgrades, either.
At least not physical ones. Acquired by Daimler in 1994 to function as something of a laboratory for future personal transport, Smart is still a forward-thinking brand, and its digital-technologies arm is more active these days than, for the time being, its efforts in either design or engineering.
The new models therefore come with a suite of app-based ‘Ready To’ services, including one that allows the owners to give access to the car to other individuals, and even charge them for use on by-the-minute basis.
Largely unchanged, but still a unique and interesting machine at a time when most cars seem to become more homogenised with every passing day. Which makes the ForTwo quite likeable from the off.
Slide aboard and you'll find seats that are only as supportive as they need be for low-energy city driving, and that perch you usefully high for an expansive view forward (protective but fairly chunky A-pillars notwithstanding). There's also some additional storage within the cabin – a couple of new nets and trays – but the feeling of what could be described as 'avant-garde quirk' is undermined by some flimsy panels and cheap plastics at key touchpoints. The handbrake is one particularly poor example.