This is one of the areas where we hoped Smart would have significantly improved matters over the original ForTwo. Yes, the Smart is a city car but, as the likes of the Up, Ka and Panda show, that doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself to using the car in urban areas only.
With the Smart, even this new one, you may still want to. The base petrol model has a 999cc three-cylinder engine producing 70bhp, and although the ForTwo weighs only 750kg, its performance is still thoroughly ensconced in the box marked ‘sluggish’.
The ForTwo is very much an urban car, which in itself is fine. It’s just that its rivals don’t ask you to make the same compromises. Its top speed may be 90mph, but maintaining a decent motorway cruise is harder work in a Smart than in its rivals, and less relaxing too, because it’s badly affected by crosswinds.
Things don’t get much better in the diesel version – a 53bhp 0.8-litre three-pot. Even with more torque than the base petrol model (96lb ft compared with 68lb ft) it takes an age to get from zero to 62mph (16.8sec.)
Of just as much concern is the operation of its five-speed automated manual gearbox. Smart claims big improvements in shift speed and quality, but we didn’t find them, whether in full auto mode or when selecting gears ourselves.
There’s too much dead air between shifts, and because the Smart is light and has a large frontal area, it slows quickly when it is not under power, so it accelerates with a rather off-putting gentle bobbing motion.