The first Smart ForTwo was designed as the ultimate city car. Its diminutive size meant that parking and nipping around tight city streets was a doddle (it was so small you could park it perpendicular to the kerb in lots of parking bays and not obstruct traffic), and its low weight and small engines made it cheap to run.
It was a clever concept but the car was by no means flawless. The gearbox was jerky and sluggish, making it slow to change gear, and the ForTwo's size also meant the ride was poor and the car felt vulnerable at higher speeds, particularly if it was windy.
The latest ForTwo is a big improvement; a twin-clutch six-speed gearbox is much slicker and more enjoyable to use, and the car feels much more stable than before. The ForTwo still has its engine in the back but is now based on the larger Smart ForFour, which itself has much in common mechanically with the Renault Twingo, another tiny city car with its engine in the back.
Two petrol options are available if you’re buying a Smart ForTwo and both of them are three-cylinder engines. The 1.0-litre engine is the cheaper of the two but the 0.9-litre is more powerful thanks to a turbocharger. It's worth paying the extra for the latter as both engines are good in terms of running costs but the extra power of the 0.9-litre makes the ForTwo much easier to live with. The car feels sluggish with the 1.0-litre engine.
The latest ForTwo is instantly recognisable as a Smart. Its dinky, upright stance and exposed Tridion safety cell (painted in a different colour to the rest of the body) have been carried over from the previous model and there is scope to make the car your own via a range of personalisation options for both the outside of the car and its interior.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Smart ForTwo is its high price tag but you do at least get plenty of standard kit, including climate control, stop-start engine technology to improve economy, electric windows, and LED daytime running lights.
Other more conventional city cars, such as the Fiat Panda, Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i10, are more practical and cheaper than the Smart ForTwo, but whether or not you’re happy to pay the extra is likely to depend on how much you value the car's quirky layout and styling.