Friday 30 December 2016
With its dinky proportions and left-field design, the Smart ForTwo has quickly become something of a favourite with consumers and instantly recognisable. The latest version turned up offering more comfort and technology than ever before, but one thing was still missing: performance.
Now, though, Mercedes tuning specialist Brabus has turned its attention to the two-seat city car. The rear-mounted three-cylinder engine has been upped to 107bhp, the ride height has been dropped to improve the handling and there’s a bodykit that gives it a slightly sportier look than we’re used to from Smart.
The sporty aesthetic is aided greatly by the new ForTwo’s slightly chunkier look, but it’s amazing just how much difference a couple of new bumpers, 17-inch alloys and a sporty exhaust pipe can make.
Inside, the changes are a tad less apparent, with some Brabus-branded trim pieces kicking about, but few other modifications.
The end result, however, is something slightly classier than the standard car, but the cutesy and fun aesthetic is lost somewhat – particularly by our test car’s sombre black paint job.
The Smart is not a large car – at just 2.74m long it’s 70cm shorter than a current-generation Fiat 500 – so it’s hardly spacious, but it’s better than you’d think. The 260-litre boot is getting close to the likes of the VW Polo in terms of volume, so there’s plenty of space for an overnight bag.
The cabin is littered with cubby holes, too, and there’s a clever drawer under the gearstick that’s perfect for keeping phones and other valuables hidden from sight. In short, it’s far easier to live with than the size might have you believe.
Driving the Brabus ForTwo is enormously good fun. The modified suspension means there’s little in the way of body roll, and though the 107bhp power output doesn’t sound like much, but in the lightweight Brabus there’s no bulk to hold it back, so it goes remarkably well.
It isn’t too unsettled on the motorway, either, despite the fact it’s a tad unrefined at higher engine revolutions. Cruise control, too, makes for a more civilised driving experience.
The Brabus is best suited to the urban jungle, nipping in and out of traffic and proving incredibly simple to park. It’s even economical, managing 62.7mpg on the combined cycle.
Prices for the Smart Brabus ForTwo start at £16,320, and they climb to more than £19,000 for the top-of-the-range Xclusive model. There’s also a drop-top Cabrio version that carries a hefty premium. The £18,000 ticket price makes it almost £2,000 more expensive than the basic hard-top.
Even if you don’t go for the cabriolet, though, you’ll be paying quite a bit of money for what is, when all’s said and done, a small car.
The Brabus ForTwo caters to a fairly focused market – namely one uninterested in providing practical transport and far more into urban thrills – but that doesn’t mean it is totally devoid of talent.
It’s small, agile and relatively cheap to run, as well as being fun to poke around a town centre. It’s usable on the open road, too, making it a more capable all-rounder than you might suspect.
Model: Smart Brabus ForTwo
Engine: 898cc three-cylinder turbocharged petrol (107bhp, 170Nm)
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Performance: 0-60mph in 9.3 seconds, 103mph top speed
Economy: 62.7mpg combined
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