From £9,220
Much-improved engine - but still a flawed package
10 December 2009

What is it?

The newly updated Smart Fortwo CDI. The diminutive diesel two-seater now gets 21 per cent more power and 18 per cent more torque from the 0.8-litre three-pot turbodiesel engine, giving it 54bhp and 96lb ft of torque.

This significant jump in power means the new Smart CDI also gets three seconds cut off its 0-62mph time, reducing it to a more bearable 16.8sec.

Yet with all the added output, the headline figures are barely changed at just 89g/km and 83.1mpg, meaning that the oil-burning Smart continues to be the most economical combustion-engined car on sale.

The interior has also been freshened up with black dials and indicator stalks replacing the old grey ones. A new five-speed semi-automatic gearbox also offers fully automatic or manual modes.

What’s it like?

Generally it’s a successful upgrade. The alterations have improved the aspects that most needed to be changed.

The extra power means the Smart Fortwo CDI is now much more capable of keeping up with fast-moving traffic, and yet its tiny footprint and turning circle still make it one of the most convenient city cars.

The black dials also look good, are clear to read and add a touch of class to the cabin.

But this is still an essentially flawed car.

The new gearbox is an improvement in many respects but is painfully slow to change up in automatic mode, and the car rocks forwards and backwards on its soft suspension with every gearchange.

Using manual mode and some subtle throttle usage does allow you to drive smoothly, but this requires more concentration and effort than should be needed in a car designed to thread through narrow and congested streets with ease.

A kickdown function is also new to the 2009 Fortwo CDI, but it’s too slow to react to really be useful in any situation needing quick acceleration.


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To add to the Smart’s problems, the combination of a slow gearchange and inconsistent throttle response makes it quite difficult to pull away smoothly – a simple function that is essential for a city car.

Where the power upgrades have really helped is in the Smart’s ability outside town. The extra power makes motorway work much easier, if still lacking the big-car comfort that the Toyota iQ offers.

Should I buy one?

For all its flaws, the Fortwo CDI is a clever car that has a strong place in the market. It offers vastly better economy than the wider, more expensive and petrol-only Toyota iQ, and that will be enough for many people wanting a low-mileage town car.

But if you need a compact city car that can do more than that, the four-seat iQ manages the duties of an everyday car with none of the compromises involved in running the Smart.

Join the debate


11 December 2009

I have the 45bhp CDi and I find it more than acceptable to drive around town. Out on the motorways, it happily sits at legal limit and more than capable of keeping up with traffic. If i'd known at the time that there was a more powerful version coming out I may have waited.

its not a new gearbox though. And in auto mode its actually very good. It is much better than the first gen smart 'box which was useless in auto.

as for the iQ being a 4 seater with out the compromises of a smart, I don't buy it. I test drove one, and it was a 3 seater at best. And the interior, despite feeling well made, was a mess of shapes and textures. besides, I get 60mpg+ around town, and I doubt the iQ would beat that

12 December 2009

i dont know why anyone would buy one of these at £10000 its a huge amount of money for so little metal i mean plastic

12 December 2009

I've had an iQ for past 2 months and cant fault it.

Yeah, its really only a three seater, and I cant match the diesel smarts fuel figures, but I'm getting 62-65mpg with a mix of town/motorway driving (15mpg more than I did with my Smart 71bhp pulse), it cruises much more comfortably at 70mph, doesnt get blown around like the smart on the motorway, and is much easier to park with smaller turning circle and power steering.

Getting rid of the smart for my iQ was a no brainer for me.

12 December 2009

62-65 out of your iQ? Hold on to that one because from what I hear, most owners are getting the same are 71bhp fortwo's from their's!

12 December 2009

Cant disagree - I've seen quite a few comments about mpg in the high 40s, I've been quite strict at following the gear change indicator so maybe thats it.....

Last fill up was 30.12 litres to brim it having done 426 miles half town/half motorway - 64.3mpg

12 December 2009

Its a really convenient car, amazingly easy to park. The IQ is that much bigger you miss out on the smaller parking spaces.

13 December 2009

Smarts have a unique character that appeals to some of us in that they offer an interesting alternative to other bland economy cars. I really enjoy mine, and find the endless comments regarding the gearbox amusing as I rarely feel the gears changing, once you are practised.

I get a consistent 55mpg from my (old shape) 800cc petrol, over varying road conditions. One big advantage over the IQ is the Smarts narrowness, which makes for easier driving and parking.

If you don't fancy paying at the pumps, and two seats are adequate for your needs, I expect the diesel would be good fun to own and run.

13 December 2009

A two seat economy car, not at an economy price, just like its Toyota rival!

The IQ however is a considerably better purchase in that its far more practical, more desirable and of another order, in its build and design/features...No brainer!

Other good small options would include Fiat 500/Panda diesel or petrol, zetec or not KA, Honda Jazz, Hyundai i10, Mazda 2, Micra 1.5dci, Suzuki Splash DDiS. In other words this smart is really going to have a hard time cutting it!

Its half a car at twice the price....£7500 (in top trim) would be more nearer the mark, and that would give it more of a fighting chance in its market!

14 December 2009

After all this time, why-oh-why can't Smart/Mercedes get that wretched gearbox right???

14 December 2009

The passion now comes as standard a stereo with ipod connectivity, bluetooth and satnav. you can get the pulse with the same engine, for cheaper. You can't get the iQ with satnav/ipod unless you go for an iQ2 with the satnav option. So actually, its quite competitive. [quote streaky]After all this time, why-oh-why can't Smart/Mercedes get that wretched gearbox right???[/quote] Have you actually driven one or are you going on the comments of the press? The gearbox in the current fortwo is a massive improvement over the last gen car. It may take a wee while to get used to it, but once you do, its rather good and no where near as bad as its made out to be. I agree that I would like to see a proper manual, but at the same time, its a city car first and foremost, so a car with out a clutch makes perfect sense. a full auto would sap power and mpg, so you can see the appeal of a semiauto


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