What is the Smart Fortwo?
Compact two-seater city cars such as the Smart Fortwo are a rare breed – so much so that it effectively doesn’t have any direct rivals.
So what else can you choose that’s city-centric and has two seats? Effectively the Renault Twizy is its nearest competitor, but that has a limited electrical range, a low top speed and isn’t all that capable outside of urban environments.
Toyota launched its iQ back in 2009, but it didn’t sell well and sales ended in 2015, despite somehow squeezing two extra seats into a footprint not much larger than the Fortwo’s.
- Top speed: 81-96mph
- 0-62mph: 10.1-15.0 seconds
- Fuel economy: 0-58mpg
- Emissions: 0-123g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 260-350 litres
Which versions of the Smart Fortwo are available?
As has been the case with previous generations, the Mk3 iteration of the two-seater Smart range is available in two bodystyles.
First to arrive was the hard-top Smart Fortwo Coupe – really a tiny three-door hatchback rather than a sporty number – it’s occasionally known by its C453 internal codename. It was joined in early 2016 by the soft-top Smart Fortwo Cabrio (that’s the A453). It has a clever folding roof mechanism that retracts in two stages, but it remains feeling enclosed due to the safety structure framework.
This time around the Fortwo and Fourfour ranges are much more closely aligned, with the latter being a longer, four-seater version of the former, using a platform that parent company Daimler (owner of Mercedes-Benz) co-developed with Renault for the Twingo.
Two tunes of Renault engine were initially offered, but during 2019 these petrol powerplants will give way entirely to an electric-only range, now called Smart EQ Fortwo, using the same branding as found on electric Mercedes models.
What is the Smart Fortwo Brabus?
Colliding the two worlds of Smart’s city-focused cars and Brabus, a firm which made its name by producing aftermarket tuned Mercedes, seems an unlikely recipe, but one which works surprisingly well.
Not that the resultant Smart Fortwo Brabus – a model now discontinued anyway – was a particularly brilliant example of a hot hatchback, but it had a unique appeal. Spend time in a chic, wealthy city – London, Paris, Monaco – and the streets are peppered with these diminutive sportsters.
Packing just 109hp, the Fortwo Brabus is good for 103mph and a 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds – hardly stella, but usefully quicker – and with better brakes – than its less powerful siblings.
Smart Fortwo styling and engineering
Based on a shortened version of the rear-engined platform that’s shared by the Smart Forfour and Mk3 Renault Twingo, the Fortwo retains the same layout as its predecessors.
Locating the engine at the back ensures there’s plenty of space for the front wheels to be turned, enabling the Fortwo to be able to spun around in small spaces.
Styling bears a passing resemblance to earlier models, largely courtesy of the contrast colour of the Tridion safety frame. The remainder of the body panels are plastic and theoretically can be swapped at the owners’ discretion when they fancy a change of hue.
Most obviously, the nose of the Mk3 Fortwo is longer than the models before it, with an obvious bonnet, rather than the continuous diagonal line to the windscreen we’ve been used it. It aids crash safety, but stylistically doesn’t help the Smart’s cause – side-on, it looks like a rollerskate!
Is the Smart Fortwo good to drive?
This depends entirely upon how you define ‘good’. Around town, the Smart Fortwo is a delight to drive: nimble, able to turn around in the width of most roads and so easy to park, you begin to wonder why you don’t see many more of them.
Away from the city it’s a different story, albeit one that’s happier than Fortwos of old. Its short wheelbase can make it feel twitchy on winding country roads and it struggles to iron out bumpier road surfaces.
Its lightness means it gathers pace reasonably quickly, even in its lowest-powered guise, but the brakes don’t always feels up to the job of bringing proceedings to a halt if you have to slow down rapidly from motorway speeds.
How much does the Smart Fortwo cost?
Smart cleverly reinforces its links with Mercedes-Benz at every opportunity – you buy them new from the same showroom, for instance. This allows a price premium to be charged and for all the Fortwo is a small car, it doesn’t wear a small price tag.
Whether you’re buying outright or on a PCH or PCP finance scheme, you’ll be paying significantly more than you would for a more conventionally sized four-seater city car such as a SEAT Mii or Skoda Citigo. Not that this bothers the Smart fraternity, particularly those who’ve opted for Brabus editions.
Find out what Smart Fortwo drivers think of their cars with our comprehensive owners’ reviews.
Smart Fortwo Model History
Second-generation Smart Fortwo (2007-15)
It was a case of more of the same for the Mk2 Fortwo, with overall length increased by 200mm for the benefit of crash protection, but the plastic body panels and contrast-colour Tridion safety structure remained.
Again, two versions were offered: the Smart Fortwo Coupe was the hard-top version (and used the C451 codename), while the Fortwo Cabrio (the A451) was the canvas-topped model, with the roof concertinaing down on top of the boot.
The main 1.0-litre petrol engine was derived from a Mitsubishi-supplied unit, which was turbocharged to 102hp for the punchier Fortwo Brabus models.
More was to come, with the MHD mild-hybrid version of the 1.0-litre unit being sold alongside the 0.8-litre diesel, a unit that produced just 54hp but offered a claimed 85mpg.
First-generation Smart Fortwo (2004-07)
Four years after UK sales of Smart’s two-seater models, the existing City-Coupe and Cabrio were renamed as the Fortwo Coupe and Fortwo Cabrio, consequently becoming the Mk1 iteration. Despite the name change, both retained their previous C450 and A450, respectively, codenames.
Rising from the ashes of a project originally envisaged by Swatch (the watchmaker) and Volkswagen, Mercedes’ owner Daimler took the reins and oversaw the productionisation of what became Smart.
While the idea of a two-seater city car wasn’t original – Europe’s roads were populated by numerous ‘bubble cars’ in the post-WWII years – it was the start of the most successful venture of its kind to date, not least because it was sold as a lifestyle choice, not simply an economy car that was all you could afford.