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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