“The wider platform makes the 2016 Smart much more stable at all speeds, in fact on the highway it was very smooth and could easily keep up with traffic.”
Mercedes-Benz chose a funky city to showcase its urban city runabout, the all-new Smart fortwo (for two people).
Since Portland is already known for “keeping it weird” it was amazing to see just how much attention this little car got in a city littered with strangely coloured hair, far out fashion, trendy food trucks and more hipster beards than a lumberjack show.
Over and over, the questions from passers-by asked if we were attending a Smart car convention. Perhaps not surprisingly given there were more than a dozen brightly coloured Smart cars buzzing around the city during the three-week media launch.
Just like Vancouver, Portland is in the Car2Go car-sharing program so those blue and white cars are all over the road. The all-new 2016 model has a more grownup look to it. The length is exactly the same, making easy to park and turn but the width side-to-side has been increased by 10cm, making the front cabin a much more conventional size. This size update also helps make the design look more masculine, with bigger headlamps and taillights. There are even LED marker lights available. The body is still made of dent-resistant polymer panels that can be replaced individually. The black sections of the body are made of high-strength, lightweight steel that makes up what Mercedes calls the Tridion Safety Cell. This has proven to be a very safe in the previous car and now utilizes more of that lightweight steel.
With a wider cabin, the dash now looks like a more conventional subcompact. The quirkiness of the previous car was fun but this new model is much more practical. The space between the driver and passenger never feels cramped and the rear cargo rear has an additional 10L of space. I particularly like the clam shaped rear tailgate and flip up hatch, providing a sturdy platform to sit on. The biggest news for many buyers will be the addition of a smartphone cradle built right into the radio unit. With this, the driver’s smart device can charge and provide information to the radio via Bluetooth and the free Smart Cross Connect app lets the driver use the basic functions of the phone like music, navigation and phone via large buttons.
The test unit was an early Beta unit and had many bugs. To be honest I ended up using my phones native apps but I did enjoy the useful cradle. There is an optional navigation screen, but for instead of opting for the $1,300 extra cost I’d stick with the phone holder.
What has really changed is the way this latest Smart drives. Gone is the jerky transmission of the older unit, it is replaced by a 5-speed manual or an all-new duel clutch 6-speed automatic. The manual is a first for this market and made the most out of the new 900cc turbocharged 3-cylinder engine. With only 89hp and 100lb.-ft of torque, the 5-speed made diving in and out of traffic a lot of fun. The vast majority of buyers will get the automatic equipped with a sport setting that also provides a more spirited drive. For those that want paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, the buyer needs to opt for the sport package that also upgrades the wheels from 15-inches to 16-inches. The wider platform makes the 2016 Smart much more stable at all speeds, in fact on the highway it was very smooth and could easily keep up with traffic.
The Smart car has always been a lifestyle choice. Starting at $17,300 there are plenty of subcompact cars with seating for five and much more cargo capacity but this car isn’t about getting the most for the money but getting around with ease. The turning radius is amazing; the driver can make manouevres you would imagine only a cyclist could pull off. It’s really remarkable. Parking is a snap and the smallest spaces are there for the taking. The Smart is available with an optional moon roof, the convertible version, along with the electric model will come sometime in 2016.The rest of the trim packages include the middle Passion trim for $18,800 and the top Prime model for $20,900. To get a car with an automatic, the buyer needs to add $1,400 to each trim and the sport package is $800. This isn’t an inexpensive car but it is a much better Smart in every direction.
Power: 89hp 900cc turbo 3-cylinder
Sticker price: $17,300-$20,900