By Joe Bruzek on July 15, 2014
Competes with: A Schwinn 10-speed bike, as well as the Chevrolet Spark, Scion iQ and Fiat 500
Looks like: A wide-eyed, caffeine-injected Smart ForTwo
Drivetrain: (Preliminary European specifications) 60- or 71-horsepower three-cylinder engine; 90-hp, turbocharged three-cylinder; five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
Hits dealerships: Fall 2015
Smart's ForTwo microcar has been around these parts since it debuted as a 2008 model, and it's seen few changes since then. Next year, a redesigned ForTwo will debut in the U.S. and the bite-size microcar will get plenty of new bits and pieces. Smart, whose parent company is Mercedes-Benz, says this globally designed ForTwo went through the same development program as the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
A Mercedes-Benz spokesperson confirmed that the turbocharged 90-hp engine as well as manual and automatic transmissions are coming stateside. A new dual-clutch automatic manual transmission and a traditional manual transmission are big steps away from the model's current, unruly single-clutch automatic transmission. Execution is everything, so driving the next-generation ForTwo will be the big tell-all.
Smart's signature grille is larger for 2016 and filled with a honeycomb pattern that's available in white, black and silver. New exterior colors include a matte white and Lava Orange metallic that mix with new side accent colors of silver or Lava Orange. Larger headlights have an available LED & Sensor Package that incorporate a pulsating-headlight welcome function when the ForTwo is unlocked. The body is now composed of more ultra-strength steel in the substructure and sidewall to meet more stringent crash tests.
The interior sports a much more contemporary and playful layout this year. Brightly colored contrasting surfaces complement interesting features like the magnifying-glass climate control and floating touch-screen. Smart says a textile surface akin to the mesh found on sports shoes lines the dashboard and door center panels.
Passion, Prime and Proxy trims offer various levels of content, though what they're called once the car debuts in the U.S. might vary. Standard features include LED daytime running lamps, cruise control, exterior temperature indicator, trip computer and monochrome LCD display. Extras include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, instrument cluster with 3.5-inch color display, heated seats, JBL sound system, touch-screen-based navigation and more.
Smart's global specifications outline three engines and two transmissions for the European market: naturally aspirated 60- and 71-hp three-cylinder engines plus a 90-hp, turbocharged three-cylinder. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic and five-speed manual transmission offerings are of significant note because of how poorly the previous single-clutch automated manual transmission performed in our testing.
We're glad to see that transmission bite the dust. Slow shifts and clunky operation impaired acceleration. The turbocharged engine and both transmissions will be available in the U.S., and we hope fuel efficiency improves with that engine over what’s currently available. The current version's 34/38/36 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating isn't impressive given its microdimensions.
Ride quality also gets attention as Smart aims to make the suspension more comfortable. Smart says the front axle design takes inspiration from the previous C-Class, while the tire sidewalls are taller to enhance ride quality. Smart has done all this work while saying it preserves the ForTwo's tight turning circle. Plus, those with sporting purposes can choose an optional Sports Suspension Package with stiffer springs and a lower ride height.
Global efforts in meeting stringent safety standards prompted Smart to further develop the ForTwo's safety structure with more ultra-high-strength steel and maximum-strength multiphase steel. Smart says it used the Mercedes C- and S-Class in car-to-car crash-testing to evaluate frontal collisions with larger, heavier cars.
Standard safety features include driver and passenger airbags, a driver's knee airbag and side-impact head and thorax airbags mounted in the seats. A new Crosswind Assist feature helps keep the ForTwo stable in windy situations; when the car starts to drift, the system activates the brakes to help straighten the car along with driver input. A forward collision warning system and lane keeping assist are notable optional features not offered by many competitors.
Check out the photo gallery below.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on July 16 with additional powertrain information.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe