Ride and handling
Smart still runs a staggered tyre setup to mitigate its short wheelbase and rear-engined layout - the front tyres are 185-section to the rears’ 205 – but there’s more front grip than in the old model and indeed more than most traditional city cars. Understeer isn’t quite as terminal and surprisingly, the car’s balance is actually quite exploitable as a result. Turn in at silly speeds and the front end will still push wide, but the short wheelbase means the slightest of throttle lifts will curtail that, and lifting harshly will even see the back end quickly slide around.
Quick steering and ever-present ESP quickly rein in that sort of behaviour, but because it happens at low speeds it’s something you can enjoy virtually everywhere and with very little risk. It’s also something that simply doesn’t happen in the Renault Twingo, but does in the Brabus Forfour, suggesting some of Smart's tweaks have unleashed a little playfulness in the chassis. And if you’re smooth with your inputs, it’s a dynamic layer you don’t have to explore if you don’t want it, since the Brabus generates perfectly respectable levels of grip, and the greater natural stability of this model, compared to its predecessor, means you can find a flow down most roads.
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That’s helped by the ride quality. Okay, jump out of a particularly well set-up modern hot supermini and you’ll find the Smart’s body control laughable, and you spend a lot of time keeping things in a straight line on bumpy roads (though the car’s narrow width gives you more space to play with anyway). But the ride is far from punishing (as long as you avoid potholes) and not discernibly worse than say, a Fiesta ST.
You don’t get much steering feel, and there’s little bite over the first few degrees of lock either – presumably to make the Fortwo feel a little less busy on the motorway. But the rack is surprisingly quick and made quicker still by the extreme angles the front wheels will turn to. Despite the Smart’s weight, it feels hugely nimble.