Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

There’s a pair of petrol engines providing Smart ForTwo performance, but don’t expect anything earth-shatteringly fast. This is a city car, and it’s resolutely not quick.

The lower-powered 1.0-litre, three-cylinder is expected to be the best-seller, with 70hp and 91Nm of torque at 2,850rpm meaning 0-62mph in 14.4 seconds and a top speed of 94mph.

We can see why this one is going to be a popular choice. It has a linear power delivery and is well-matched to the five-speed gearbox, meaning for the majority of city driving leaving it in second gear seems to do the job nicely, with a wide spread of revs to use accordingly.

It struggles on higher-speed roads, though, meaning the gearbox gets a workout and it’s difficult to make progress at approaching 70mph.

The performance option

If you’re after a bit more go, for example if you do some motorway driving, the higher-powered engine is the one to investigate. This is actually slightly smaller at 0.9 litres in capacity, but thanks to a turbocharger it makes 89bhp and 135Nm of torque at 2,500rpm. This version allows the ForTwo to cover 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds with a top speed of 96mph.

It isn’t as smooth as the aforementioned, but makes up for it with a decent punch from the turbocharger as the revs climb. It’s the more exciting of the two for sure, if not the best to drive. Again, it’s well-suited to the five-speed manual gearbox.

Automatic gearbox available

Towards the middle of 2015, Smart introduced the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) automatic gearbox to the range. This is a huge step forward over the previous Smart’s automatic ‘box, changing gear smoothly and making the car very easy to drive.

Electric Drive variant

Smart also offers an electric powertrain in the Fortwo – this will soon become the only option as the model is updated in 2020 to become the Smart EQ Fortwo.

An electric motor suits this city car perfectly, with instant torque available from standstill and no gearbox to worry about. In fact, it’s a great reminder of how electric cars started, and next to bloated models such as the Audi E-Tron or Tesla Model X the Smart’s bare minimum approach makes you wonder why more manufacturers aren’t making a real effort with compact electric vehicles.

The electric Fortwo is capable of 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds, which is fine performance for a model intended to spend most of its time in town. It does only have a top speed of 81mph, though, so motorway journeys should probably be avoided on a regular basis.

Range is an approximate 100 miles between charges, which isn’t vast. In fact, it’s one of the lowest electric ranges on sale today and is disappointing when even cheap electric cars such as the MG ZS EV will do over 150 miles with ease. Recharging the Fortwo takes around 2.5 hours to go from 10% - 80% if using a wallbox.  

Handling

  • Amazingly tiny turning circle
  • Town trips a doddle
  • Rivals are better on faster roads

This is the ForTwo’s real talent. The rear-engined nature of the Smart means the front wheels get more space, which in turn means a small turning circle: it’s two feet smaller than a black cab, in fact.

What that means is you can turn the car on an axis that seems barely believable. It’s a lot of fun, and proves that it’s possible to enjoy driving even in the city at low speeds.

The steering itself is very nicely weighted for city driving. It isn’t too light or heavy, sitting pretty between the two. Smart has done a lot of work in this respect, and compared to the Twingo it shares some parts with, the extra effort shows.

It’s surprisingly communicative as well. We’re pleasantly surprised to report that the steering itself is great too. There’s a sense you’re perched atop the front wheels, and really felt like we knew what was going on beneath them.

All this combines to provide a feeling of assured confidence, and when darting in and out of city traffic you don’t feel as intimidated as you may otherwise be, since you know you’ve got the facility to duck out of challenging situations.

Body roll is fairly well contained, so there’s none of the pitch and yaw action that may otherwise make some passengers nauseous.

This car is genuinely entertaining thing to drive, especially around town.