Review: Smart Fortwo (2004 – 2007)

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Handles better than original LHD version. Funky looks, perky enough in town and low running costs.

Unsettled ride. Sluggish gearshift. Rearmost side windows leave the cabin vulnerable to theft. Some engines are short-lived.

Smart Fortwo (2004 – 2007): At A Glance

They've been around for years. At first, enterprising independents started importing them. Then, when Mercedes Benz saw the opportunity being missed, official imports began. And, at a launch price of just £5,400 for a base model Smart & Pure, it wasn't a bad little buy.

But, for the British and Japanese markets, there was one tiny problem. The Smart was left-hand-drive only. And, the way the car was constructed, there was no way of converting it to right hand drive.

So Smart itself set about the task, and built a new floorpan that effectively mirror-images the left-hand drive car. While previously the LHD Smart was fine for use in town, and excellent for the disabled who could emerge kerbside, the RHD option opens the market to everyone. And the car makes a lot of sense.

For a start, it's only 2,500mm long (eight feet two-and-a-half inches), so takes up half the road space of an executive saloon. Very logical if there's only one of you commuting in it. Official fuel consumption for all models is 46.3mpg on the urban cycle, 65.7mpg extra-urban and 57.6 combined.

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What does a Smart Fortwo (2004 – 2007) cost?

List Price from £21,195
Buy new from £15,611
Contract hire from £136.54 per month

What's the Smart Fortwo (2004 – 2007) like to drive?

So what's it like to drive? We had a 54bhp Smart & Passion which offers either Softip self selection of gears or, at the touch of a button, Softouch fully automatic.

The Tiptronic-type Softip change takes a bit of getting used to because it's counter-intuitative (works the wrong way round), and you need to use all six gears which means a lot of gear changing. Switching to Softouch fully automatic relieves you of that chore, but returns a sluggish response and can leave you with no gears at all when trying to set off from the traffic lights (indicated by a '0' in the gear selection display). However, get it right and it has enough poke to overtake a slow-moving Volvo 440 without unnecessarily quickening your heartbeat.

From inside, you don't feel that you're driving a dinky little 8ft-long car. The passenger sits a few inches behind the driver and the cabin spaciousness makes it seem more like a mini MPV than a two-seater sportscar. It doesn't pitch forwards and backwards anything like as much as you would expect, and even the ride quality is better than the average hot hatch.

Come to a corner and, after last year's front suspension improvements, the handling is noticeably better than the early LHD Smarts. Eventually, though, you do encounter serious understeer and a sort of hopping effect, which is hardly surprising with 145/65 tyres on the front and 175/55s on the back. Amazingly, the wheels are a full 15 inches in diameter.

Smarts are a lot thicker on the ground these days. You don't get the smiles and pointed fingers of a few years ago. They're starting to be accepted as sensible urban transport rather than gimmicky and trendy. Over the next year they will begin to sell in serious numbers. If the Smart & Pure gets the Group 1 insurance rating it should get, then my 17-year-old son could be driving around in one by this time next year. I only hope he doesn't try to get sixteen of his mates inside, as demonstrated by members of the Chinese State Circus to set an official new Guinness World Record.

What have we been asked about the Smart Fortwo (2004 – 2007)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Car supermarket has sold me a dangerous car - what should I do?

I recently used a car supermarket to purchase a second car. I used this company because I thought they were reputable and on their website stated their cars were comprehensively checked. However upon driving home after a few miles there were issues electrically, no power or acceleration past 3000 revs and the brakes didn't work! Any advice on how to proceed? The car will be going back to the car supermarket, but surely there are issues here for the fact they've knowing not checked the car to see if its safe before selling?
Use the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to reject it outright for a full cash refund. Explained here: Which Smart was this? If a ForTwo, the problems aren't surprising. If an original model ForFour then that wasn't a bad car. It just missed its market by two years.
Answered by Honest John
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