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2016 smart fortwo: New York Auto Show

What Is It?

The 2016 smart fortwo is a 2-seater subcompact making its North American debut in New York. This urban runabout is now in its third generation but initially came to the United States while in its second generation.

The basic idea for the all-new 2016 model is the same: a small footprint with optimized passenger space. The roof is quite high, so taller types will fit, and shoulder room is a little enhanced in this version. Trunk space was never a strong point, but a single person’s weekly load of groceries might fit.

The engine is also kept back there: It’s a turbocharged 3-cylinder unit that coaxes 89 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque from its displacement of 898 cubic centimeters. As well as being unusual in other areas, it’s the only subcompact that deploys rear-wheel drive. The previous model was rightly criticized for having a jerky semi-auto transmission. Since parent company Mercedes-Benz claims this fresh iteration “has undergone improvements in virtually all areas and is markedly more comfortable,” we hope the dual-clutch automatic transmission is a much smoother unit.

Speaking of comfort, the smart’s short wheelbase has never coped well with speed humps, a frequent feature of city and suburban driving. This version’s chassis has received significant attention, so it shouldn’t be such an issue. The turning circle is now a remarkably compact 24 feet.

Safety sees an improvement too, with more high-strength steel used in the car’s frame, and smart somehow crams in eight airbags, including one for the driver’s knees.

To commemorate the U.S. launch, a special limited run of the 2016 smart fortwo called edition #1 features a 240-watt JBL audio system, a sport suspension, dedicated color schemes and LED lighting, among other goodies.

How Much?

To be announced (possibly from around $14,000).

When Can You Get It?

September 2015.

Add It to Your Shopping List Because…

You do most of your driving in the city and therefore need something maneuverable and compact for getting into tight parking spaces. For the occasional trip out of town, top speed is 96 miles per hour. And don’t worry about those relatively high sides, because crosswind assist is standard equipment.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 FIAT 500 — The 500 is charming, stylish and fun, but it’s due for renewal next year.

2016 Chevrolet Spark — A new generation debuts at this year’s New York Auto Show. The first generation sold well; so should this.

2015 Kia Soul — The Soul mixes a youthful style with practicality and brings a little more engine muscle to the mix.

Used Honda Fit — The Fit offers several useful passenger/cargo permutations. It’s also cheap to run, and buying a used Honda is an easy decision to make.

Used Ford Fiesta — Many small, economical cars make driving a chore, but the Fiesta makes it a pleasure. It’s certainly a more conventional choice than a smart.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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