Will it be third time lucky for the Smart Fortwo minicar?
That's what Smart's parent company Daimler must be wondering, as disguised versions of the third-generation Smart undergo final testing out in the wild.
The latest model, spotted here by Motor Authority spy photographers, show a car very different in its styling and specification from the existing model, undergoing necessary changes to finally stem the city car-maker's losses.
Styling is the car's most obvious change. While it's set to feature many of Smart's signature styling cues--the Tridion safety cell, for example--the new car now features a two-box silhouette, a marked departure from the old one-box shape of previous generations.
The change has come about through new European pedestrian-impact rules, reports Autocar. The longer hood should ensure that if the worst does happen, an unfortunate soul is less likely to strike their head on an unyielding windshield--the hood absorbing more of the impact.
The windshield itself is more upright than before too, and the car should maintain the current Fortwo's excellent forward visibility. Despite the reprofiled silhouette, the car is actually similar in length to the existing Fortwo--both around 106 inches--while height too is similar.
Width has grown significantly, though. A full four inches has been added to the car's width, increasing it to around 65 inches overall--nigh-on the same as Scion's iQ.
While this will benefit interior shoulder room (headroom is rarely an issue in the current car), it might reduce the Smart's city-carving abilities in tight European streets--an arena in which the current Fortwo is in its element.
Still, the benefits should outweigh the negatives. According to Autocar, Smart insiders say the car's handling has improved significantly, with far more grip, a tighter, sub-25 foot turning circle, and a softer ride.
The new car's engine range we're already familiar with. Co-developed with Renault--who will sell a four-door version of the car in Europe under the Twingo name--the Smart uses a new rear-mounted 1.0-liter, three-cylinder gasoline engine. 70 hp naturally-aspirated and 85 hp turbocharged versions will feature, as will a hotted-up 105-horsepower BRABUS version, due some time in 2015. An electric version is also a near-certainty.
Transmission choices include a six-speed manual transmission--the first to appear in a two-seat Smart--and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. The jerky single-clutch automated manual will (mercifully) not be returning.
The changes mark the biggest step yet for Daimler's smallest brand. Should the Fortwo return to the U.S, it might even win over a few more owners in the way the current car (and its Scion iQ rival) never has.