Smart as paint
If YOU’RE looking at buying a Smart Fortwo in the city car sector, then style and fashion will be playing a big part in your purchase decision. After all, there are many far more practical and affordable choices you could make. But not so many more appealing ones. Especially if you’re factoring the model we’re looking at here, the Fortwo in special edition Iceshine guise.
The Iceshine is just the latest in a whole series of limited edition Smart Fortwo models. You can see why these high-value variants are popular, packaging up at a more realistic price the kind of equipment that many buyers wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. If you like the look of this one, then be quick, because Smart is only making 155 examples for the UK market.
Of course, if you leave the kit list aside, the recipe is just as with any other Fortwo model. This one comes in both fixed-top and cabrio forms, and includes the most recent 2012 model year tweaks that aimed to give this car something of a fresh lease of life. It’ll need it, with so many new arrivals in the sub-supermini segment. None, though, has quite captured this car’s trendy urban chic appeal in the same way.
Though you can use a Smart Fortwo for longer-distance driving, its natural habitat is of course in town, zipping into gaps even a 1950s Fiat 500 would have to pass up. And the saying “turn on a sixpence” has a more literal feel, too, thanks to the astonishingly tight 8.75m turning circle.
Power comes from the usual pair of 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, available with either 71 or 84bhp. Despite the much improved trans-mission – a five-speed semi-auto with steering wheel paddles – shift times are still a little laggardly but much easier to live with, especially given that the extra torque of the eager and characterful little 1.0-litre engine means there isn’t so much cog-swapping going on anyway.
Chassis-wise, it’s probably best to steer clear of the Nurburgring, but that doesn’t mean driving a Smart can’t be fun. At least it doesn’t ride too badly these days, the helm responds crisply enough, grip levels are surprisingly high and, around town, few things this side of a dispatch rider with an urgent delivery to make feel more nimble. Accept its limitations and the Smart can be an engaging way to travel.
Look beyond the Iceshine model’s azure blue paintwork, and dedicated Smart fans might notice the 2012 model year visual tweaks that were all about bringing the look up to date. These included a larger radiator grille with a more prominent integrated chrome Smart logo, remodelled front aprons, side skirts and rear apron and horizontally arranged optional LED daytime driving lights. The previous model’s twin-air inlets under the number plate have been combined into a single unit. A more fundamental choice is between the two body styles: a hard-topped coupe and the cabriolet with its electrically-retracting fabric roof and removable roof bars.
Inside, and as before somewhat unusually, the Fortwo’s passenger seat is mounted 15cm further back than that of the driver so that shoulder room can be maximised, and people who’ve never sat in a Smart before are invariably surprised at how spacious the cabin seems. Even for the very tall, the driving position is remarkably uncompromised. Not so the boot which is tiny, although in theory there’s up to 340 litres if you stack right up to the roof. Of the two-piece tailgate with its separately-opening glass window, the bottom part is strong enough for you to sit on.
Prices for this Iceshine special edition start from around £10,500, so you’re looking at a premium of around £1,300 over the equivalent standard model for all the extra equipment on offer. So, what exactly do you get? Well, this variant comes in striking azure blue with a white tridion safety cell that is complemented by 15-inch white alloy wheels, each with three pairs of spokes and white mirror caps. LED daytime running lights are also included as well as air conditioning, a panoramic roof (or a tritop fabric soft top in black for the cabrio), electric windows and a luggage compartment cover.
The interior includes leather-effect seats with a white fabric insert on the backrest and white stitching, a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel with shift paddles and white stitching plus white accent parts. Trendy Iceshine edition logos are incorporated into the floor mats and wing mirror triangles. Owners can chill out on the move by listening to their favourite tunes via the Smart’s audio system, which offers an RDS radio with USB and AUX ports for an MP3 or CD player as well as a pair of integrated loudspeakers. Further customisation is made possible by a huge choice of options including the Smart audio system navigation/multimedia, assistance package with cruise control and trip computer, electric power steering and surround sound system.
It’s easy to see why MHD (Micro Hybrid Drive) Smart Fortwos have become popular, as they offer the best compromise between performance and parsimony. The system’s start/stop function disables the engine at traffic lights, junctions or in traffic queues and helps the 71bhp motor post a CO2 figure of just 97g/km, which equates to more than 65mpg on the combined cycle. The whole Smart range now emits less than 120g/km CO2, which makes all models exempt from the cost of the annual road fund licence for at least the first year of registration.
Clip-on, clip-off plastic panels help with cheap insurance groups which, for mainstream models, vary between 2-3, while residual values are among the best in class.
This is a car purely for the urban-bound, but if you do find yourself in that position, then a Smart Fortwo Iceshine might be a tempting choice, especially as a cabrio. You can see why Fortwo models have such a loyal and enthusiastic following, people who appreciate the chic style and quirky charms. It may struggle to convince on the open road but, in the cut and thrust of urban traffic, nothing nips, tucks and parks quite like this car.
As for the Iceshine package, well, it includes most of the extra cost features than many buyers would ideally want anyway – at an affordable premium. It does, in other words, what special edition models are supposed to do and manages it with a flash of style. You can’t ask much more than that.