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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It has funky styling, excellent fuel economy, and you can park it just about anywhere

Against The Fortwo is slow, the gearchange is lumpy, and the ride isn't good either

Verdict It's trendy and fun, but too small and too quirky to have mainstream appeal

Go for… 61bhp Pulses

Avoid… Brabus models

Smart Fortwo Coupe
  • 1. Smart's ownership by Mercedes' parent group is no guarantee of good quality
  • 2. Because the gearchange is so jerky, it could be hard to spot a fault. Check the service history thoroughly for signs of past problems
  • 3. The steering joints are said to be problematic
  • 4. Despite being two feet shorter than a Mini, there's sufficient room for two six-footers to sit in comfort
  • 5. There's enough space in the boot to stow a small amount of luggage
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Smart Fortwo Coupe full review with expert trade views

The fact that the Smart car was already a common sight on our roads even before the company started officially importing them is a good indicator that many people love this car.

This affinity was largely due to the car's funky looks and hip, eco-friendly image. It had other talents, too, but it also had some big failings.

On the plus side, despite being two feet shorter than a Mini, there's sufficient room for two six-footers to sit in comfort, and enough space in the boot to stow a small amount of luggage. Safety provision is excellent for a car of this size, and cheap running costs are another big draw. It's also a doddle to park.

On the minus side, it's not great to drive, though. The engines are never anything more than sufficient, and the handling is stodgy. The ride is poor, too, bouncing over bumps in an ungainly fashion, while the six-speed semi-automatic gearbox makes for jerky progress. Refinement is poor, too.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Over-priced new so values take a big hit. Not easy to resell unless priced low

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The ForTwo started life as the CityCoupe, and came with a turbocharged 599cc engine giving either 44bhp or 54bhp. In each, performance is fine for town use, but not anywhere else.

The 44bhp engine came in Pure trim, which includes remote central locking, twin front airbags, traction control and electric windows. The 54bhp engine came in either Pulse trim, with the same kit as Pure models, or Passion, which adds air-con and alloy wheels.

In 2003, the CityCoupe became the ForTwo. Trim levels were largely unchanged, but there were alterations to the engine range. 50bhp or 61bhp versions were sold, and eventually, a Brabus model with 74bhp. Leave this one alone, though, because fuel economy isn't as good, and it's no better to drive.

We'd recommend Pulse models. These give you the right engine in both ranges, the level of equipment you get is sufficient and it's still fairly cheap.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Passion spec, RHD, 2003 Convertible - all sell more easily

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Although the Smart is far from expensive, it isn't quite the bargain some rival city cars are. And, most of these also have two more seats as well as a better drive, too.

Despite the car being popular, its resale values aren't that great, so there are some good deals on used examples. You'll still be looking at paying more than half of the car's original value for a three-year old example, though.

Running costs are very low, though. The older cars will return an average of 57.6mpg or 55.4mpg depending on the engine you go for, and the newer cars can just creep over the 60mpg mark. Even the Brabus version will return a highly respectable 53.3mpg.

Insurance costs will be equally meagre. For any mainstream ForTwo, you'll pay a group 2 premium. However, as Smart is a part of the Mercedes stable, costs for routine maintenance are uncommonly high in comparison to other city cars'.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Over-priced new so values take a big hit. Not easy to resell unless priced low

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Many will take heart in the fact that Smart is part of the DaimlerChrysler group, which also produces Mercedes products. However, the Smart was designed during a time when Mercedes was experiencing more reliability problems than it was used to, so this is no guarantee of quality.

Some Smart owners claim that problems with the gearbox are common. But, because the gearchange is so jerky, it could be hard to spot a fault during your test drive. So, check the service history thoroughly for signs of past problems.

The steering joints are also said to be problematic, and have needed adjustment or repair on many cars. There were a few isolated cases of engine failure, but these were mostly sorted out under warranty.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Passion spec, RHD, 2003 Convertible - all sell more easily

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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