With its wider tracks, wheels pushed out to each corner and short overhangs, the new Smart Fortwo has a more purposeful appearance than the previous car.
This car is 11cm wider than its predecessor and it shows inside, where there’s sufficient width for two broad adults to sit comfortably without having to rub shoulders. Headroom is pretty decent too.
Just as the Mk2 version improved on the dynamic qualities of the original Smart, this new version makes further progress.
New suspension has succeeded in smoothing most of the jiggle and excessive harshness out of the Fortwo’s ride. Even on our test car’s optional sportier suspension set-up – which comprises 16in wheels and a 10mm ride height reduction and is available on the high-spec Proxy variant – the car feels composed, helped by pretty accurate electric power steering.
The turning circle is just 6.95m, eclipsing all other cars as well as ultra-manoeuvrable vehicles such as the London black cab. The front wheels can turn through a 45-degree angle, which helps to make tight cornering and parking a doddle.
It can still be skittish over large bumps, humps and camber changes, but all told, there’s a better feel to the way the new Fortwo tackles traffic-clogged urban roads. It feels more grown-up to drive.
On our city-street test route, the 999cc naturally aspirated unit seemed to be better suited to the Fortwo than the more costly 898cc turbocharged variant.
It won’t win any races away from the traffic lights – the 0-62mph sprint takes a glacial 14.4sec – but the three-pot unit responds in a more progressive fashion than the boosted engine. The power of the latter tends to arrive all at once after an initial lull. Acceleration and deceleration of the naturally aspirated engine seems easier to moderate.
It's no surprise that it runs out of puff quickly, but that’s of less importance in lower-speed city driving, and only becomes an issue when you take to A-roads and motorways, where the turbocharged engine feels slightly more capable. Ultimately, though, neither car is anything close to offering swift performance.
In addition to the five-speed manual, we also sampled a pre-production car fitted with the newly engineered automatic transmission. A £995 option that will be available from the spring of 2015, it is an improvement over the old automated manual when it comes to the speed of shifts.
However, the automatic transmission’s installation in our test car didn’t feel nearly as refined as the smooth manual, with some vibration noticeable and a gear-stick that required some effort to be pushed back to ‘Park’ mode.
Other testers in cars equipped with the automatic transmission didn’t report the same issues, and this might reflect the pre-production nature of our machine.
Although the combinations of bold interior colours and novel materials inside won’t be to everyone’s tastes, they set the Fortwo apart and enhance the premium feel that’s reflected in the car’s pricing.
The 260-litre boot – not huge, but on a par with what you'll find in some four-seat city cars – is accessed via a split hatch, with the top window folding upwards and the rear panel downwards, a clever set-up that makes access easier when you’ve slipped the Smart into the tightest of parking spaces.