“The smart fortwo diesel is one of the most fuel-efficient cars money can buy - and the easiest to park, too.”
If you’re strictly a city driver, then the smart fortwo could be the perfect choice. The unusual looks make it a head-turner, while its minuscule dimensions mean it's incredibly easy to park. It's as wide as it is long, so you can even leave it parked at right angles to the kerb. Running costs and emissions are low, but the trade-off is a lack of space, and the fact the smart isn’t built for anything other than urban motoring. Larger and cheaper rivals like the Hyundai i10 are much more capable at motorway speeds.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is available with 70bhp, 83bhp or 101bhp – or there's a 54bhp, 800cc turbodiesel. The basic 70bhp version offers the best mix of nippy city performance and good economy, while the 101bhp version appears only in the flagship BRABUS version. Power-steering is an option, and we’d recommend it, otherwise the steering is quite heavy for such a small car. All-round visibility is excellent and a tight turning circle means the smart can zip in and out of small gaps with ease. Out of town, the fortwo doesn’t inspire confidence, as it feels very small next to large cars and lorries and there isn’t a huge amount of grip.
The small three-cylinder engine is mounted behind the rear seats and it's quite buzzy when revved. It's fine when you’re nipping around town, but on a long journey it becomes tiresome. The standard semi-auto gearbox is the biggest minus point of fortwo ownership. It's jerky and you need to be gentle with the throttle to stop the smart from lurching back and forth when accelerating. The seats are supportive, but the ride is very bumpy on most roads.
The fortwo scored four stars for adult occupant protection and two for pedestrians in the Euro NCAP crash test, which isn’t bad. Driver and passenger airbags are standard, as is electronic stability control, but side airbags are optional. An engine immobiliser is standard, but you’ll have to pay extra for a lockable glovebox on basic models and there are no deadlocks.
For its size, the smart's boot is actually pretty good. There are 220 litres available and a maximum of 340 if you load it up to the roof – although you won’t be able to see out the rear window. The trade-off is that it's strictly a two-seater. The split tailgate has a section that you can fold down and rest items on while you’re loading and the back rest of the passenger seat can be folded flat if needed.
Value for money
Entry-level Pulse cars are inexpensive to buy, but equipment levels could be better. You get air-con, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and electric windows. Passion models add upmarket extras like satellite navigation and a panoramic glass roof, while the sporty BRABUS version has heated leather seats and a bodykit.
Cars fitted with the 83bhp engine offer 54.3mpg and £30 per year road tax, while the 70bhp is even better, with 62.8mpg and £20 tax. The star of the range is the diesel, which averages 85.6mpg and emits 86g/km, so it's road tax free. Insurance is very cheap.