Towards the end of last year I was offered the chance to go away for a day or two to test-drive one of the new Smart Cars, but circumstances prevented me from doing so. However, I was delighted to be contacted once again about a month ago to be asked if I would like to review one of these vehicles for a week instead, and be delivered to the door.
Before being delivered to me there was the simple matter of choosing out of the new Smart Fortwo or Forfour. I decided to go for the former, as to gain an insight into just what makes this small, two-seater vehicle so fun — or so we have been led to be believed.
The car was delivered to me an hour or so before it was due, which was very prompt of them, and had to laugh at first just at the size of it, because while it is larger than the previous generation, it’s still rather small. However, this is what that vehicle is all about and so could not wait to begin my week-long Smart Fortwo Proxy review.
Even before I sat in this car for the first time there was a great deal of apprehension because of the history of the Fortwo, because it has not done very well in terms of sales, with them pretty much staying stagnant for the whole of 2014. However, knowing that Daimler has finally decided to put more money into this model because of increased pressure from rivals, I knew that things were finally going to be different — and the first impression of its overall design when the vehicle pulled up was wow, something Daimler hopes will be a common expression.
When I was given the keys the first thing I did was open the door, like we all would do, and was rather surprised at just how large the door was. This made getting in and out very easy, and was also shocked at just how large the cabin space was. The moment I sat in the drivers seat it was as though the interior was the size of a full-size car, just as long as you do not look in that rear-view mirror.
The designers have done a very good job at giving you so much space in the cabin, although a lot of this is thanks to the amount of daylight that comes through all that glass, along with the panoramic roof. Ok, so you cannot open this roof, but it still offers a great deal of light, although you can close the blind on a dull day.
Getting the driving position right before taking the Fortwo out on the road for its first test drive was made a lot easier thanks to this model being fitted with the Premium Plus Package, which included an electrically adjusted driver’s seat, although only for the height. I could tell from the start that the driving position was a good one, and so would have no issues at all in terms of feeling at one with the car.
My first test drive was only a short one of around half hour, just to get a feel for the car, although it was in a town that had small roads, and often a lot of traffic. This made for a great combination, as I knew it would offer an insight into how easy it was to maneuver, and how it felt going through the gears and how easy the clutch would feel on my leg after half hours work.
I was surprised at just how quick that first test drive was and my fist impression of its driving experience. We have been told a lot by the company that there had been massive changes to the gearbox and clutch, and while I never got to try out the older model, it was very obvious that Daimler and the people that created this model did a very good job on those improvements.
You really do not have to worry about driving the Smart Fortwo in a built-up area that has a lot of traffic, as each gear change is done with minimum effort, and the steering is so light, yet still very responsive. However, the thing that impressed me the most was just how great the turning circle was. I currently drive a small Mercedes, yet have hassle in small spaces, and so this is where you really begin to appreciate the Fortwo — or at least I did.
Over the next few days the car was used for every day driving, and found myself feeling rather excited at getting into such a fun looking vehicle. Another added benefit of this vehicle was the fact you sit just a fraction higher than a standard car, and while not much, it does make you feel a little more confidant on the road. A word of warning though; try not to let the colour scheme of the interior put you off, as it is a little in your face — something you will notice from the many images on this review.
When it came to parking the job is said to be easier with rear parking assist; so the moment you put the car into reverse an image appears on the main display thanks to a camera at the rear of the car. I did find that relying too much on this feature meant that you would often over compensate on the steering, and so much preferred to do it the old fashioned way and only use the rear parking assist once I was in a space and then wanted to see just how close I was to another vehicle or object. This is not a negative; I just hate being too reliant on such technology seeing as though I have been driving for 25 years.
Speaking of technology, something else that I was not overly happy with was being told when the best time to change gear was. You will notice on the dash an arrow appears, which tells you that it is time to change gear. This is said to offer the best in terms of fuel-economy, although I found it more of a distraction, as I tended to look at this small arrow far more than I should.
This was also the case with the other driving tips for fuel efficiency, which gives you an overall score in percentage as to how you have been driving to get the most from your fuel. While this is great to help save you money, you could find yourself looking at it far too much and then driving in a manner that feels a little too pedestrian — just listen to what the engine is telling you, and you will be fine.
While the overall driving experience was a good one around town, I did found that there was a loud humming noise coming from the rear, even at low speeds. You do get used to it after a while, and the only thing it reminded me of was when a wheel bearing would wear and produce a horrible humming noise.
I also found the heater blower to be slightly too noisy, even on its lowest setting, although my wife did say I get too aggravated by the slightest sound. She might be right, but just felt it was something that needed to be pointed out. On a positive note; the heater settings are rather good and warms the cabin up in no time.
With the overall driving experience being a positive one around town, the big question was, what was it like on the motorway? Well, the decision was made to take it on a run around the M25 and M3, which as we know would offer a great test. I was very worried in doing this because of knowing there would be a lack of acceleration, a higher level of noise, and feeling rather vulnerable around larger vehicles.
There was no need to worry because driving between 65mph and 70mph was very easy for the Fortwo, even though this was only the 71 horsepower model. Ok, so when the speed dropped because of traffic in the same lane, it was a struggle to overtake. This meant changing my driving style, as it meant I had to make certain there was a much larger space in the other lane before pulling out, as I knew it would take a lot longer than usual to overtake these slower vehicles — yes, even slower than the Smart Fortwo.
I loved how comfortable the seats were and the steering was still a dream while on the motorway, and the visibility was just superb. However, there were two issues. The first was some wind noise coming from the passenger side. I do not see this as a design flaw, as the driver’s side was fine, and so must be a slight issue with the rubber door seal, which I already informed Daimler about. The other issue, and one that cannot be fixed was to do with the sat-nav.
Once you set your destination of where you want to go the display is very clear, although there is a massive blindspot where the time to end your journey and also delays on your route are displayed. This is because when you drive with your hands on the wheel in their normal position, it cuts out about a quarter of the right side of the centre display. This meant that I had to keep moving my head to one side to see if there were any delays on my journey, which did become annoying after a while.
These were pretty much the only issues I had with the Smart Fortwo on the motorway, and so you should not be put off one little bit taking this small, yet enjoyable car on a long journey.
With the overall driving experience being a positive one, I was also very impressed with the interior and all the features that come with it. Ok, so I know this particular model came with a few extras, and for that this made it far more enjoyable. There were so many different features on the communications and in-car entertainment system, full details of which can be found in this specifications list. You can also see various images of the many different options available to you, which certainly gives you the sense you are in a car far more expensive than what it is.
Having said that, the total price for this particular model is £13,800.00, although innovation is never cheap and you do get a lot of car for the money, and I am not talking about its size. Like I mentioned above, this was the Premium Plus Package, with the other options being the Comfort, Premium, and the Sports Packages. Full details of the differences can be found on the Smart UK website.
As you can tell from this review I was rather impressed, and while there were a few issues, this would certainly not put me off. Over the weeks since the Fortwo went back I have found myself missing the little car, and was very grateful at the opportunity to be able to review it.