2013 Smart ForTwo Facelift: Will It Help Sales?

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It's hard to believe, but the current Smart ForTwo has been soldiering on in the U.S. North American market for five years now.

Mercedes-Benz offshoot Smart has never enjoyed much popularity in the U.S. The concept makes less sense than it does in its native Europe, where gas is more expensive and cities are more crowded.

Smart will be hoping the 2013 ForTwo, now officially unveiled, helps stimulate demand a little before an all-new model appears in a year or two.

Most of the changes are cosmetic. We were actually given a strong hint of the new ForTwo's styling back in September, when the brand launched its third-generation Electric Drive at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Just like that model, the regular ForTwo now gains a deeper and more aggressive front bumper, and the distinctive Smart badge has now migrated to the center of the grille.

This echoes some of the styling features we've seen from Smart's recent concept vehicles, such as the For-US and ForVision. The upper and lower grilles' hexagonal pattern will also be familiar if you've been keeping an eye on the concepts.

A selection of new wheels is available, as well as a range of new colors. Two new shades, matte anthracite and matte white, are reserved for the Europe-only BRABUS Xclusive models, which use a 102-horsepower, turbocharged engine.

No changes have been made to the engine range, nor the oft-criticized semi-automatic gearshift. That means U.S. customers will continue with the 70-horsepower, 36 mpg combined model, and denied the BRABUS and efficient ForTwo Cdi diesel. The latter gets an impressive 71 mpg on the European cycle.

When we tested the ForTwo Cdi, we managed 60 mpg with very little effort, so the full 71 mpg could be achievable in gentle driving.

The 2013 ForTwo updates are completed by new interior trim, including a crystal gray interior package, with leather and fabric seats, and leather-look trim on the door panels and dashboard.

The changes certainly improve the ForTwo's looks and should keep the model bubbling away in Europe until an all-new Smart arrives.

Unfortunately, essentially superficial changes are unlikely to do much for the car's American sales. While the vehicle makes sense in Europe, it would need nothing less than fundamental changes for it to make an impact on U.S. sales charts.

The 2013 Smart ForTwo will be available in Europe from April. It's likely to hit U.S. shores later this year, while the improved Electric Drive is now due in September.


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Comments (8)
  1. Forunately there are pleny of other cars that offer more space and better gas mileage, plus you don't have to dress like a circus clown to drive them. But if squeezing into small parking spots is the most important thing for you, this is hands down the winner.

  2. Agree. At the very least see what sort of mileage you can get out of one of these with a direct injection engine. You can get a lot more car with just as good of gas mileage, so buying one isn't Smart, unless parking is at a premium.

  3. Rick there have always been plenty of other cars that offer more space and that is the very point of the Smart.It was designed to be a minimalist small footprint car meeting todays safety standards. Your clown remark just shows your inability to think outside the box and accept the car as a solution for the design brief. As a user of this type car I have found it more convienient and practical than any armchair critic could imagine.My full size car is hardly used anymore and I am considering selling it. The Smart is not perfect but nothing in this world is. If people could just use one for a month they might just learn to love it and/or the concept of a car the size of a motorcycle.

  4. Don,

    The Smart does fit a niche. The problem is, for what it is, it is not fuel efficient enough to justify itself. I could get a much larger Subaru with all wheel drive and match the new Fortwo's MPG. That's not right (not to mention the dozens of other cards that out-do it).

    Smart needs to capitalize on its small body and make it pump out efficiency. They need to bring the diesel variant here ASAP and advertise its 60-70mpg. At 60-70MPG the Smart automatically becomes the green car of choice.

  5. First of all let me correct your opening statement. The smart was introduced to the North American market in the fall of 2004 with the CDI model being brought into Canada. It was the unexpected success of the Canadian experience that likely prompted Mr Penske to have a go at the American market.

    Will a facelift save the smart in the American market? Absolutely not. The only thing that that will save the smart will be a massive and impossible shift of consumer values. As long as it is perceived as an unsafe clown car it will not sell. M-B needs to let people know it has great highway manners and the tridion cell really does protect the occupants. $8 or $10 a gallon fuel prices would help too.

  6. i agree. my girlfriend has a 2010 smart fortwo cabriolet, and she loves it. i think most of the people who post about it's small size have never sat in one, because it offers great space for two people...which is what most people need as a daily driver. it consistently returns fuel economy up near 40mpg. the safety rating on the car is quite high. it is definitely a safe alternative to a motorcycle or scooter.

  7. Toyota is poised to introduce the Scion IQ to the U.S. market. That is very bad news for the Smart Fortwo.

  8. Having owned two Smarts and now the Toyota IQ/Scion I feel qualified to comment.The two cars approach the same problems quite differently. The IQ is more luxurious,spacious,comfortable,manouverable and versatile.The Smart is more a brand/lifestyle vehicle with numerous options a bit like Harley Davidson. Its a more involved driving experience and more advanced in its construction with the safety cell,removable plastic panels etc. I like both products for their different solutions toward a common goal.In Europe Smart has always been marketed to young upwardly mobile trendies.Toyota after a slow uptake has now taken the same route. Since owning a minimalist car we have found our full size car gets very little use and may soon be sold.

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