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First drive: Smart Fortwo Twinamic. Image by Smart.

First drive: Smart Fortwo Twinamic
The automatic Smart car - is it as bad as the original?

   



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Smart Fortwo Twinamic

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Smart adds the Twinamic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) to the turbocharged version of its idiosyncratic Fortwo city car. Hold your breath, everyone, we're looking at an automatic Smart here, and the company's record on this score is not great...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Smart Fortwo Prime Twinamic 90hp
Pricing: range starts from 11,125; Prime 90hp Twinamic from 13,810
Engine: 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: three-door, two-seat hatchback
CO2 emissions: 96g/km (VED Band A, 0 annually)
Combined economy: 68.9mpg
Top speed: 97mph
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
Power: 90hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 135Nm at 2,500rpm

What's this?

Oh dear lord, it's a semi-automatic Smart car. Now, first time around, this subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz never got such a transmission quite right. And when we say 'quite right', we mean it was one of the worst robotised manuals you could possibly have to grapple with - the shifts took aeons and there was significant bobbing of the occupants' heads as the next ratio engaged with a jerk. When Smart released the all-new Fortwo and Forfour models late last year, they came with perfectly sweet five-speed manual gearboxes with a clutch pedal in the driver's footwell and the old transmission was rightly consigned to the bin of history.

But for little city cars, having some sort of automatic gearbox is essential for urban drivers who want the minimum of in-vehicle distractions while trying to cope with the mania of daily congestion. So Smart has decided to drop a six-speed dual-clutch semi-auto into both the Fortwo and Forfour models; it'll cost 995 on top of any of the three specification line-ups of the Smarts, order books are open now and first cars will be with customers in September. Smart calls this the DCT 'Twinamic'.

We tried DCT in the turbocharged 0.9-litre Fortwo. There's no badging or obvious external sign that you've opted for the Twinamic, while inside is an automatic gear lever that's old-fashioned, a fact that's exacerbated by the otherwise chic interior of the Fortwo. To get paddle shifts on the column, you need to opt for the Sport package that also brings in suspension upgrades, 16-inch alloy wheels, a different steering wheel and a sportier exhaust, but the paddles are not strictly necessary.

To these eyes in particular, the Smart's challenging exterior aesthetic is mellowing already so we'd grudgingly concede that the stylists obviously did a good job with the Fortwo. But enough of the prevaricating - has Smart got the gearbox sorted?

How does it drive?

There's almost a sense of trepidation in turning the clunky, fixed blade ignition key (a new 'flick-blade' item is coming later this year) in the barrel, hearing the turbocharged triple fire up and then slotting that dated gear lever into D. Dial in a little throttle aaaand... the Smart pulls away cleanly, quietly and smoothly, before slotting in the next ratio almost imperceptibly. Phew. It's fine.

As DCTs go, the Smart's effort is a seven- or eight-out-of-ten affair, so by the standards of what has gone before in this brand it's an unequivocal success. Sure, there are moments where kick-down acceleration does elicit a slight lurch from the gearbox as it drops a few cogs at once, and coupled with the 0.9 turbo's continually annoying two-stage throttle feel the DCT can occasionally feel lost at sea, but other than that it works in a perfectly acceptable fashion. For the majority of Smart Fortwo users, it will be a godsend.

The rest of the Smart Fortwo driving experience is unchanged from what we found when testing it in the UK earlier this year, so the customer's final transmission decision will come down to the price increase for the Twinamic versus its added ease of use compared to the manual. The gearing on the DCT is longer than on the five-speed manual, so top speed, emissions and economy are all marginally improved - 97mph versus 96mph, 68.9mpg combined plays 67.3mpg and 96g/km v 97 g/km CO2 - at the expense of acceleration (11.3 seconds to 62mph for the DCT, as opposed to 10.4 seconds for the manual). As the car is still lively enough for 0-30mph bursts, that's no deal-breaker. And nor does the DCT positively alter the tax implications of owning a Smart, as the manual is free from VED as it is.

Verdict

If you like the Smart and you don't like changing gear yourself, rejoice - the Twinamic is a fine transmission and banishes the memory of the old semi-auto dreadfulness of the original car. So this well-sorted package is now even more appealing to a wider audience, although a DCT Fortwo is not a cheap purchase in today's marketplace.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 16 Jul 2015



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2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.



2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 

2015 Smart Fortwo. Image by Smart.
 






 

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