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Review: 2016 Smart Fortwo shows vast improvement

So, is the 2016 Smart Fortwo really that smart? Let’s just say you’ll be buying the Smart with your heart. Yes.

  • 2016 smart fortwo 1

THE PROS & CONS

    • WHAT’S HOT: Chic, highly manoeuvreable, huge improvement over outgoing model
    • WHAT’S NOT: Pricey, limited functionality, premium fuel required, disappointing city fuel economy

And the award for most improved car for 2016 goes to (drum roll, please) … the 2016 Smart Fortwo. For those who warm to the Smart’s oddball charms, this all-new version will be a revelation. If you’re of the camp that considers this inner-city Euro roller skate to be a fish-out-of-water, then the 2016 will present itself as not much more than a slightly better fish.

Nonetheless, the latest generation Fortwo redresses just about all the issues that made the first two incarnations so, er … unique. Where do we start?

 

First off, the 2016 Smart is now available with two proper transmissions — a five-speed manual or a smooth-shifting, six-speed twin clutch. Big deal, you say? Please note that the Smart Fortwo was previously burdened with quite possibly the most annoying gearbox ever fitted to an automobile. The yawning gaps between upshifts of these single-clutch sequential autos provided enough time to string together a few of your favourite expletives. Additionally, the harder you pressed the gas pedal, the slower it went. Or so it seemed.

With the new twin-clutch transmission, progress is now blessedly smooth and considerably swifter, thanks to the new 898 cc turbo, three-cylinder that puts out 89 horsepower and a useful 100 pound-feet of torque from 2,500 r.p.m. The engine still lives out back and drives the rear wheels.

No more a sitting duck, the 2016 Smart scoots along with relaxed ease, zipping in and out of urban traffic snarls like the city pro it is. It also has new-found poise on the highway, effortlessly cruising at 120 km/h with passing juice to spare. Cabin din is down and stability up thanks to standard Crosswind Assist and the car’s wider stance.

The little tyke’s handling is vastly improved too with quicker steering and reduced understeer. The car dutifully follows your intended path — another revelation for those familiar with Smart car dynamics.

RELATED: Comparison: Scion iQ beats Smart ForTwo in compact test

The 2016 Smart Fortwo starts at $17,300 for the entry Pure line (white, black or red) with five-speed stick cruise, auto climate control, Bluetooth and 15-inch steel wheels. Tested here is the mid-level Passion at $18,800, that gets 15-inch alloys, more colour combos for both exterior and interior, height-adjustable driver’s seat, a funky tach/clock perched on the dash, smartphone cradle and more. Topping the range is the $20,900 Prime with heated leather seats, panoramic roof, white interior trim, unique alloys, auto headlights, LED tail lights, and rain-sensing wipers. Add $1,400 for the 6-speed, twin-clutch tranny at any trim level.

Done up in Lava Orange with a striking orange and black interior, this tester played up on the Smart’s urban-chic ethos. The new interior shows higher quality, and the Smart’s wider stance bestows more elbow room. In line with the previous Fortwo models, the cabin is airy, has excellent forward sightlines and plenty of headroom. You really don’t feel like you’re driving half a car until you turn around and realize the rear window is just behind your shoulder.

There are a few ergonomic niggles in here. The moulded cupholders in the console are small and shallow, and the smartphone cradle obscures most of the buttons on the entertainment head. Still, if all the delightful design details and orange fabric mesh covering the seats, dash and door panels don’t get the feel-good synapses snapping, then consider yourself a certifiable grump.

RELATED: 2016 Fiat 500X Review

The 2016 Smart Fortwo has not gained any length over the outgoing model, and its ridiculously tight turning circle has it chasing its tail like a puppy.

So, is the 2016 Smart Fortwo really that smart? Let’s just say you’ll be buying the Smart with your heart. Yes, this charming 2016 redux is not the festival of weirdness it once was, but you can find more car for less money elsewhere. With an observed inner city 7.6 L/100 km, it’s hardly the champion fuel sipper. Premium gas required, too. And that smarts.

 

TABLET FACTBOX

Base price/as tested: $18,800/$21,895

Engine: 89 hp, 898 cc turbocharged, three-cylinder

Fuel consumption L/100 km: 7.5 city, 6.1 hwy.; premium-grade fuel

Score: 7/10

Weblink: www.thesmart.ca

Competitors: Scion iQ — $17,260-$20,000, 94-hp, 1.3 L, four — What’s Best: seats three: 7/10

Fiat 500 — $14,498-$21,000, 101-hp, 1.4L, four — What’s Best: iconic styling, decent value: 7/10

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