Tested: Smart fortwo prime

The noble flea

Some cars suffer from unfair and exaggerated prejudices of the buying public, I’m thinking most Alfas and all Land-Rovers. But the most misunderstood car on our market must be the small smart fortwo because it’s tiny so it’s unsafe and then a huge truck with dodgy brakes will run over you and then you will die.

Honestly, when this cheeky red and white press car arrived at my home, half the household immediately refused to ride in it because they had a morbid fear of being crushed like an insect. It’s worth noting that they were all female while the daring men – me included – couldn’t wait to drive it.

But were the men folk really so courageous and suicidal? After a brief discussion, it turned out that all dudes were well informed about a smart’s safety record, while the nurturing ladies simply equate size to safety. A big car offers big protection to them and their loved ones. A very noble but untrue statement.

…big 4×4’s are like atom bombs.

To quote a famous TV journalist, those big 4×4’s are like atom bombs. If one person (cough, mommy) has one, everybody needs one. And if Mommy A with her big 4×4 smashes into Mommy B with her puny little smart car, Mommy B will be squashed like a soggy tomato and everyone in her car will immediately die.

Same for the big truck with dodgy brakes – Mommy A will be better off than her counterpart in the scrawny smart car. Bad news, Mommies. When something that big and heavy takes aim at you, not even a Hummer will guarantee your survival. Quite the opposite, actually, because 4×4’s can’t evade trouble very quickly.

Why? Because they’re big and cumbersome. Smaller, lower cars can swerve and dance around danger which finally brings me back to the new smart fortwo. In its natural habitat, the crowded city, it never reaches dangerous speeds and evades most potential dangers because it has – hand on heart – the agility of a flea.

…it has – hand on heart – the agility of a flea.

I won’t criticize any fears of taking the fortwo on the highway, because that isn’t its comfort zone. The short wheelbase is quite bouncy at high speed, its 1L 3-cylinder engine gets quite noisy as it runs out of puff and side winds can be challenging. Despite managing 140km/h-ish, I wouldn’t recommend highway use for this car.

The hustle and bustle of a city or village is where this little critter feels at home. Nay, it feels perfect. The speed of other road users is easily matched by the fortwo, although you’ll find that its 52kW and 91Nm only arrive when you pin your right foot to the fire wall. And keep it there for a considerable amount of time.

Although a fortwo only houses two adults, my 1.93m frame can attest to the fact that it fits just fine. In fact, with a raised driving position and oodles of leg-room, it could even cater for humans of the taller (and wider) variety with a maximum payload of 270kg. Luggage space is a miniscule 260L – read: a few shopping bags.

Depending on trim and options chosen, the fortwo can fold over its passenger seat which makes room for something quite sizable! Our “prime” test unit also featured a clever touch-screen media system, multi-level trip computer, rev-counter pod with clock, seat heaters, glass sunroof and extremely funky dash padding.

Speed bumps and potholes can be icky…

Speed bumps and potholes can be icky but a fortwo offers a comfy ride, agile steering and the world’s tiniest turning radius. It’s the only car that can do a U-turn IN my driveway! Pair that to good visibility and it’s easy to see why this smart can park in any bay. Yes, any. Although it’s slightly longer than before, it still fits into most bays side-on.

Smart claims 0-100km/h in 14.4 seconds (we got 14.24) and a plausible top speed of 151km/h. They also allege that it will use an average of 4.1L/100km from its 35L petrol tank. Our real-life weekly average was just above six which left us with about half a tank after we zipped around for roughly 300km.

Apologies for blabbering earlier about the smart’s perceived safety concerns but I firmly believe that it’s the car’s biggest stumbling block. If you can see past that prejudice you will find the ultimate city car with fastidious safety equipment that’s also fun to drive, easy on your wallet and an absolutely unmatched joy to park.



0-10km/h: 0,39 seconds
0-20km/h: 1,09 seconds
0-30km/h: 2,05 seconds
0-40km/h: 3,08 seconds
0-50km/h: 4,44 seconds
0-60km/h: 5,78 seconds
0-70km/h: 7,46 seconds
0-80km/h: 9,26 seconds
0-90km/h: 11,34 seconds
0-100km/h: 14,24 seconds
0-110km/h: 17,55 seconds
0-120km/h: 21,20 seconds
0-130km/h: 26,59 seconds

0-100m: 8,01 seconds @ 73,14km/h
0-200m: 12,29 seconds @ 93,10km/h
0-300m: 15,91 seconds @ 105,19km/h
0-400m: 19,19 seconds @ 114,73km/h

100-0km/h: 2,98 seconds @ 39,08 metres (once-off)


0-10mph: 0,63 seconds
0-20mph: 2,27 seconds
0-30mph: 4,04 seconds
0-40mph: 6,49 seconds
0-50mph: 9,35 seconds
0-60mph: 13,23 seconds
0-70mph: 18,47 seconds
0-80mph: 25,59 seconds

1/4 mile: 19,26 seconds @ 71,34mph


Maximum acceleration G-force: 0,92G

Altitude: 60m

All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box

Teaser video

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