2016 Smart Fortwo Automatic

Driving a Smart Fortwo is an eye-opening excursion into the “might makes right” psyche of the average motorist. If any car inspires bullying, it’s the Smart Fortwo. No one lets the tiny Smart merge or even change lanes. Every stoplight becomes an impromptu drag race, even though you’re just minding your own business. It quickly becomes apparent that no one wants to get stuck behind a Smart. Bicycles get more respect.

Few other drivers will recognize that this third-generation Fortwo, radically better than the second generation (the U.S. never got the first), is far less likely to clog the traffic flow. The escape-pod design theme, the tiny 106.1-inch length that inspires creative parking, and the two upright seats are unchanged. So while Smart is sticking to its half-car philosophy, plenty of improvements have been made under the skin. A new 898-cc turbo three-cylinder makes 89 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque and replaces the old Mitsubishi-sourced 1.0-liter triple that made 70 horsepower and 68 lb-ft. Mounted just in front of the rear wheels, the world’s angriest popcorn popper strains its little guts to move 2203 pounds of Smart.

The Fortwo’s mass (up nearly 400 pounds on the 2008 modelwe tested) still challenges the drivetrain, but acceleration is vastly improved. We say that not only because 9.9 seconds to 60 mph is a giant step beyond the original car’s 14.4-second crawl, but also because the experience is far less painful. The transmission now changes gears without leaping and lurching forward thanks to the optional ($990) dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual gearbox is standard). The previous Smart’s standard five-speed automated manual shifted with all the competence and speed of a student driver just learning to use a stick; jerky and slow, it was the Fortwo’s worst feature. Read more...

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11 Feb 2017