- We like...Tiny size, smooth ride
- We don't...Jolting gearchanges
Tiny two-seat city car gets stop-start gizmo to cut fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. But it's jerky to driveThe beauty of a tiny, fuel-sipper of a car is that you can to steam into city parking spaces that others would give up on, revelling in the spin-on-a-sixpence ability that only a tiny two-seater can deliver.
And the new Smart mhd ticks all the right eco-conscious boxes. It’s a regular Smart that can turn off its engine whenever it slows below 5mph. So long as your keep a t on the brake, the engine stays silent. But as soon as you release the pedal, its motor bursts back into life.
‘Mhd’ stands for ‘micro hybrid drive’, which is Smart-speak for this stop-go system. The company says that mhd cuts fuel consumption by as much as a quarter, and indeed fuel consumption for the 61bhp 1.0 engine jumps from 60mpg for the regular version to 72.4 for the mhd, while CO2 emissions reduce from 112g/km to 103g/km. And since the mhd costs no more than regular Smarts, you’d be daft to pass it up, particularly since you can switch off the stop-start system simply by pressing a button.
And at £7060 for a car equipped with a clutchless five-speed gearbox, the Smart sounds good value. But a closer look at the entry model, the Pure, reveals that it is indeed, very basic. Power steering costs £310 extra, a luggage compartment cover adds £60, a breakdown kit, £70, and even a glove box lid plus lock is an extra £20. The mirrors and windows adjust and wind manually, while the plastic throughout the cabin looks old-school cheap. Our car cost, with extras, £7970. And, move up the model range, and it’s easy to spend £8500 or more on a fancier, more powerful Smart.
To compare value, look across to Hyundai’s i10, a little five-door city car. Not only do you get two extra doors and three more seats, you also get a glove box lid, power steering and, indeed air conditioning, all for £7145, while its five-year warranty shames the two years that Smart gives.
All the same, you could make a case for the Smart were it a blast to drive. The ride is admirably supple and cushioning for a car with its wheels so close to each other. But the steering tells you too little about how the front wheels grip to inspire much confidence througha bend, while the brakes on both Smarts we drove lacked initial bite. Then there’s the gearbox. Getting it to surf the little engine’s meagre power without hiccupping and hesitating proved too tricky for us, so that we sometimes found ourselves caught in the wrong gear and short of power at a crucial moment in traffic. And the stop-start saw the engine erupting back to life with a jolt that, at worst, shook the car.
The Smart, for us, wasn’t at its best in town traffic, but seemed happiest puttering along a fast road at 50-60mph.
While the Smart has a certain chic, back-to-basics style – and in mhd guise is very economical – it proved too jerky and compromised for us to recommend. it There are other cars costing £8k or less that offer so much more. The Hyundai we’ve mentioned or, say, the cheapest Skoda Fabia at £8100, are better buys for similar money.
View new and used Smart Fortwos on motors.co.uk
- Engines1.0 petrol
- 0-60 mph16.7sec
- Insurance groups2
Motors.co.uk value verdict: