2016 Smart ForTwo: First Drive Of All-New Two-Seat Minicar

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The 2016 Smart ForTwo is the first entirely new version of the European two-seat minicar since that vehicle was launched in the late 1990s.

And it's a much better car, with more power, a choice of manual or automated transmissions, modern comfort and interior features, and fuel economy that's stayed at the same level even given its added equipment and higher power.

That said, the main reason to buy a Smart ForTwo isn't to save gasoline. It's to park in impossibly tiny spaces.

DON'T MISS: 2016 Smart ForTwo - full review

We spent parts of two days driving a couple of different 2016 Smart coupes around Portland, which is one of more than 20 cities the company has identified as "Smart Cities" where the particular charms of the ForTwo may find a market.

The entirely updated Smart retains the same 8.8-foot length of the original. But not only is it 4 inches wider, its turning circle has decreased to an almost comical 22.8 feet--meaning you can make U-turns pretty much anywhere, or do doughnuts in even two-lane roads.

That makes the new Smart an ideal urban warrior, but it's also far more usable at highway speeds than its predecessor.


2016 Smart ForTwo minicar, parked behind first-generation model, Portland, Oregon, Aug 2015

2016 Smart ForTwo minicar, parked behind first-generation model, Portland, Oregon, Aug 2015

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The wider track gives it a more stable feeling, as does an incrementally longer wheelbase.

And the added power--89 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque, against its predecessor's 70 hp and 68 lb-ft--means that even at 70 mph, there's some reserve for acceleration.

Still, most Smarts won't spend most of their time at freeway speeds. They'll be nipping in and out of city and suburban streets, and at that the car excels.

ALSO SEE: New 2016 Smart ForTwo Will Keep Older Electric Drive Model In Lineup

The 0.9-liter three-cylinder engine is still mounted on its side between the two driven rear wheels, but it now has a turbocharger to provide that 89 horsepower--meaning the Smart is no longer the least powerful car sold in the U.S.

(That honor now goes to the 74-hp Mitsubishi Mirage five-door minicar.)

Best of all, the 2016 Smart has finally dispensed with the much-loathed automated manual gearbox, whose abrupt shifts and generally jerky action made it exceptionally hard to drive the old Smart smoothly without experience.

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