Our starting point here is something that hasn’t changed. After taking flak in 2007 when it added a few inches to the Fortwo’s kerbside presence for the second generation, Daimler has left the overall length just as it was for the Mk1, at a smidgen under 2.7m.
There are plenty of advantages to such a small car, most of them much greater and more meaningful, and many of them developed even further with this version of the Fortwo. The car is wider than it was, with 100mm added to both tracks for better steering response. A redesign of the front suspension has allowed the maximum steering angle to increase to 51deg and the turning circle to drop to just 7.3m wall to wall (down from 8.7m).
The car’s basic construction hasn’t changed. A ‘safety cell’ monocoque forms the fundamental shape, made from various grades of high-strength steel, with the engine and gearbox packaged under the boot floor.
Some of the Fortwo’s plastic body panels have been sacrificed, though, and the overall kerb weight has increased to 880kg – or more than 900kg if you opt for the two-pedal auto. That seems heavy for a strict two-seater, but the proof will be sampled later.
Whereas early examples of the original Smart City Coupé used transverse leaf spring suspension for packaging reasons, this one has a de Dion driven axle at the rear and a new system of MacPherson struts up front, both attached to the body via coil springs and twin-tube dampers.
Longer springs have been adopted for a smoother town ride, as well as tyres with a bit more bump-absorbing sidewall than before. The wheels and tyres continue to be of mixed width, with 5.0in rims fitted to the front axle and 5.5in rims on the back, to help ensure a stability-enhancing handling bias for understeer.
Smart can no longer claim that this has anything to do with reducing steering effort levels at parking speeds, though, because electrically assisted variable-ratio power steering is now fitted across the range.
Smart’s 70bhp, 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine is carried over, with Renault’s 898cc, 89bhp TCe turbo triple supplying a more powerful alternative . We’re testing the Renault engine, but because of the increased kerb weight, it’s fitted to a car with a poorer power-to-weight ratio than the outgoing 83bhp, 780kg Fortwo.
There’s a range-topping Brabus version too, offering 19bhp increase as well as a suite of styling adornments and chassis upgrades. And for those looking for some fresh air, the Fortwo Cabrio was added at the beginning of 2016. Costing £2140 more than the hard-top, the canvas roofed version uses the same engine range and goes from closed to open in 12 seconds at any speed.
Also of note is the junking of Smart’s risible robotised manual gearbox. In its place a five-speed manual gearbox is standard, while a six-speed ‘twinamic’ dual-clutch automatic is an option.