From £9,9957
Quirky-looking automatic Smart proves a charming compact car for UK roads – if you're willing to pay the premium

What is it?

It's the new Smart Fortwo, fitted with the 'Twinamic' dual-clutch automatic transmission and a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged 89bhp petrol engine.

We've driven this car abroad previously, during which it proved to be an agile and competent city car, but now we've had the opportunity to try it on UK roads – albeit still in left-hand drive form.

In 'Proxy' trim, as tested here, the Smart is a well equipped car. It comes with climate control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, cruise control, lane keeping assistance, heated seats, a panoramic roof and sports suspension as standard.

It'll set you back £12,615 in this specification, with the turbocharged engine and automatic transmission, which is a hefty chunk of money for a small city car.

A similarly specified Volkswagen Up will cost you £11,890, though, so the Smart's pricing isn't entirely outrageous. The Up does come with sat-nav and DAB, mind, but it isn't offered with climate control. The Fortwo is also much smaller and more distinctive.

What's it like?

The new Smart Fortwo is full of character and fun to drive. The eager turbocharged engine delivers more than enough power to propel the car with vigour, and even overtaking from 60mph doesn't require a huge amount of forward thinking.

The gearbox, now a six-speed dual-clutch automatic instead of the old five-speed automated manual found in previous generations of the Smart, does a decent job. The take-up of power is usually swift, while gearchanges are dispatched quickly and smoothly.

It can still be caught out from time to time, though. For example, if you coast up to a roundabout and then open the throttle again, it can linger while it decides what to do, before dropping into gear all too obviously.

The only thing that really lets the Smart down is steering that's devoid of feel or additional weighting at speed. It's fast and precise enough, and you acclimatise to its responses eventually, but it takes the edge off what could otherwise be a more engaging experience.

Its brakes, too, could do with a little tweak. The pedal is soft at the top of its travel and there's no real response initially, which is ideal for avoiding excessive braking applications at lower speeds but not particularly confidence-inspiring when you're driving a little faster.

The sports suspension is quite firm and occasionally causes the Smart to bounce around on rougher roads. At no point is it uncomfortable or jarring, though, and it didn't feel inappropriate. The car is quite settled at motorway speeds, too, only occasionally wandering and requiring a little corrective input – but it's by no means tiring.

During our cross-country test the Fortwo returned an indicated 43.2mpg, and it's likely a higher figure could be achieved without difficulty. Even at that average you'd still cover 332 miles on a tank of fuel, which is more than enough for such a small car.

Inside the Smart is well designed and finished to a high standard, with good-quality materials throughout. The driving position is comfortable, even during longer trips, and the cabin is even quite quiet on the motorway. Only a little wind noise from the trailing edge of the door, and the lack of a place to put your phone near the USB connection, mars the overall appeal of the cabin.

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Touches like the retention of a water temperature gauge and a rev counter – quite uncommon in smaller cars these days – add to the appeal.

Should I buy one?

If you're looking for a very small car that's good to drive, well equipped and cheap to run, the Smart is worth a look – particularly if you need something that's an automatic.

The gearbox still has a few minor quirks but, given time, they'd probably be quite easy to drive around. We'd suggest trying one without sports suspension, too, as the ride may be more settled.

If you're not desperate for something as small or as distinctive as the Smart, though, there are less costly alternatives out there. You probably wouldn't struggle to get a similarly specified example of Ford's excellent Fiesta for a similar price, for example, but that wouldn't be anywhere near as interesting or as easy to manoeuvre as the new Fortwo.

Smart Fortwo Proxy 90hp Twinamic

Price £12,615; Engine 3 cyls, 898cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 89bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 100lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 880kg; Top speed 94mph; 0-62mph 10.4sec; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2/tax band 97g/km, 12%

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streaky 12 February 2015

All auto boxes have this problem

The comment about the auto box: "if you coast up to a roundabout and then open the throttle again, it can linger while it decides what to do, before dropping into gear all too obviously" is a problem that most autoboxes still seem to have.

I don't think the frontal styling is anything like as neat as the previous versions. A classic case of safety legislation spoiling things, although I'm sure that if there were the will, or the money, a way round that stubby front end could have been found.

superstevie 12 February 2015

The vw up is probably a

The vw up is probably a better car for your money, it's a good car. Still would have either smart over it though, but then I'm a fan of smart and have been for years. Remember, that price of this car is 995 more than the manual version, which most will go for. If you bought an up with a semiauto, it's a similar one to the old smart box, and universally slated. Plus, if you're financing the car, which I'd imagine 90% of private owners will do, then the figures smart dealers are quoting are very similar to vw.
androo 12 February 2015

Sounds good

I like it. The interior is great and now the rest of the package seems at least competent, if not actually quite good. I wouldn't be wondering whether to buy this or an up! or a Fiesta – I'd be wondering whether to buy this or not buy it.