It may not look much different, but BMW’s slick 5 Series has been upgraded for 2013
On fleet since: July 2009
Total Mileage: 5,000 miles
Official combined mpg: 83.1mpg
Our average economy: 60mpg
Our Smart ForTwo finally left us in April, having transformed early in 2010 from a cabrio to a coupe with glass roof. We swapped because a revised diesel engine was introduced. We had to see what sort of difference it made to the diminutive runabout.
Gallery: Smart ForTwo Cabrio Passion CDI
What was great about it?
I choose a diesel Smart with a purpose. Smart had been holding off for years bringing the diesel into the UK, so I was keen to find out why.
Second, I'd just driven the prototype electrically powered Smart, and as you couldn't yet buy one of these, the diesel was the next best thing.
Just look at the figures. C02 is a ridiculous 87g/km, average economy is claimed to be 83.1mpg. And the Smart PR people reckon that with some economy driving techniques, 100mpg is possible. Amazing!
It's a car that divides opinion like few others, so let's first concentrate on the positives. The driving position is high, so it's great in city traffic. In fact, according to Which?, in coupe form the Smart ForTwo has the best all-round visibility of any car on the market.
The high seating position and wide opening doors means jumping in and out is as easy as it gets, again an essential ingredient in a city car.
Space for two is fine and it never ceases to amaze how much baggage you can stow behind the front seats. There's a whole new world of extra space once you remove the flimsy luggage cover.
My original CDI had 45hp, which was upped to 54hp in the second model. 9hp isn't much but look at it another way and it's a 20% power boost, one that is well worth having.
The more powerful ForTwo is a more accomplished package, especially when you want to use the automatic gearbox function. It's still about the least powerful car on sale in then UK, but importantly it is enormous fun.
Concentrate on the engine revs, get the throttle opening just right and you can power this Smart through the bends and along with potentially faster traffic just by applying your best driving skills.
It's all immensely rewarding, though you need care through roundabouts because if you clip a kerb there's the feeling the whole car could tip over.
What wasn't so great
The Smart's major stumbling block is the suspension. So hard, every bump gets through to the passenger compartment and those firm seats don't help either.
For a car designed primarily for city use, this will be a deal breaker for many. The ForTwo simply wasn't designed with sleeping policemen in mind. Ironic that it should deal so well with other roads.
Then there is the economy. We've checked the Internet forums and they are full of moans about the inability to approach the quoted mpg figures.
83.1 on paper translates to 60mpg in reality. The new, more powerful ForTwo CDI is slightly better than the old one, but you have to adopt extreme driving measures to get even 70mpg.
Was it expensive to run?
Yet 60mpg is OK pretty good, isn't it? Yes it is, except you can get very close to this, in a great deal more comfort, in several "proper" four-seat diesel hatchbacks.
Both of our Smarts were completely reliable, as new cars should be. Buy don't think that because it is cute, the resale value is particularly good. It isn't.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. And no. This is one of those cars where the owner needs to buy into the idea of the Smart's wacky character and love it because of that.
My wife hated it, CJ in the office felt similarly then grudgingly respect grew after he'd driven it more. Richard and I loved it.
But no matter how keen you are, it's impossible to turn a blind eye to that spine-crushing ride, which in any other car would simply be unacceptable.
If you do decide to buy, the cabrio is my favoured option, the roof powering up and down with simplicity at any speed. Go too for the optional paddle shifts, which make progress much more satisfactory on the road.
And don't get too excited about the multi-media navigation system that's standard on the latest Passion models. You need the patience of Job to get to grips with it.
What am I driving next?
From a car that will satisfy most of the green faction, I am moving onto one that will offend them, an SUV. But the Hyundai ix35 is one of a clever breed of 4x4 that drives like a normal hatchback most of the time, with economy and emissions to match. Life will be interesting.
Report 1: Smart Fortwo Cabrio CDI: arrival
Report 2: Smart Fortwo Cabrio CDI: month two
Report 3: Smart Fortwo Cabrio CDI: month three
Report 4: Smart Fortwo Cabrio CDI: month four
Report 5: Smart Fortwo Cabrio CDI: month five
Report 6: Smart Fortwo Coupe CDI: month six
Report 7: Smart Fortwo Coupe CDI: final report (this report)
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