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End of an era



June 8, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2019 issue

End of an era

Words Malcolm J. Naudi

I start this review as I ended the last one on the Smart fortwo coupé early last year – given Malta’s congested roads, the Smart is an ideal car because of its compact dimensions. Not much has changed in the past 18 months or so. If anything, due to the ongoing roadworks, congestion in some areas has got worse.

The difference this time round is that I was asked to drive a version with an 898-cc turbo petrol engine, and this is your last chance to acquire such a version since petrol engines have now gone out of production at Smart. So, your only option is to buy a stock model of the fortwo with this engine, with Auto Sales Ltd ordering a year’s worth of sales to ensure it can cope with the expected demand.

Having driven the previous model in the worst of the wet weather last year, my test drive in the second week of June was anything but wet – with temperatures above 30°C and the summer heat having settled in rather too early for my comfort. Just when we were complaining about the ‘hard’ winter, there was an almost overnight switch to summer mode.


So, instead of using the demister and trudging through water-logged roads, it was on with the A/C and a dry run along our congested highways and byways. Let’s take a look at the 90 bhp three-cylinder engine, coupled with a six-speed twinamic dual clutch transmission of this Smart Passion on test. As always, my focus from a local perspective is on the engine’s torque (pulling power) rather than on the maximum power (your rev limit is 5,500 rpm). And you get plenty of it, thanks to the turbo – 135 Nm at 2,500 rpm.

The aluminium engine has overhead camshafts and four-valve cylinder heads. Internal friction is reduced by optimised pistons with graphite-coated piston shafts, a friction-optimised timing chain and coated bucket tappets. Further features include the low height and installation at an angle of 49°.

It has an infinitely variable oil pump that only brings as much lubricant to the engine as necessary – just one example of the numerous efficiency-increasing measures in the fortwo. The automatic start/stop system, a standard feature, enables greater efficiency, especially in our city traffic. As soon as you brake and shift to Neutral as the vehicle comes to a standstill, the engine automatically shuts down.

The engine spontaneously restarts in a way that is barely perceptible when you engage drive. This system helps you save fuel, especially in our heavy traffic. If certain conditions are not met, the system will not shut down the engine – for example, if the necessary operating temperature for optimum emission control or the desired interior temperature have yet to be reached.

The turbocharger features an electronically controlled wastegate, which enables increased engine dynamics in conjunction with a sustained reduction in fuel consumption. The wastegate reduces exhaust gas backpressure at high revs. In addition to the turbocharger, a whole range of other technical measures also contribute to the excellent fuel efficiency and performance, including variable adjustment of the inlet valve timing.

Another defining trait of the all-aluminium three-cylinder engine is the fully integrated intercooler in the plastic intake module. All features combined lead to a sustained improvement in performance, agility and fuel savings. The twinamic dual clutch transmission is constructed as a 3-shaft dual clutch manual transmission and has six forward gears and one reverse gear.

Both clutch actuation and gear changing are fully automatic and enable particularly smooth shifting without any interruption in tractive power. The transmission either works fully automatically, or it can be shifted manually with a selector lever in a separate gate (or via the shift paddles included in the optional Sports package).

If required, the electronic controller skips individual gears instead of changing down through each individual gear. It therefore offers the comfort of an automatic transmission combined with the efficiency of a manual transmission.

What this means in practice is that, although you need to be a bit heavy on the accelerator to get the Smart moving. Acceleration is smooth, even for an automatic, and thanks to the soundproofing of the rear-mounted engine, you get little to no disturbing engine noise, just a pleasant roar.

All the electronics and technology will ensure you progress on your way efficiently and effectively in terms of both consumption and emissions. Combined consumption is 5.1 litres/100 km, with emissions of 122 g/km of CO2.

In terms of specifications, standard kit on the Passion for the entry price of €17,440 include 15-inch alloy wheels (the model on test had the optional Prime rims), radiator trim in black, fabric upholstery, three-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel, stowage compartment in the rear, centre console with drawer and cup holder, and the Cool and audio package.

For an additional €2,400, apart from the rims you get body panels in midnight blue metallic finish, Tridion safety cell in matte graphite grey, a panoramic sunroof with UV protection, rear parking sensors and the Comfort package that includes a height-adjustable seat and steering column, and electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors.

The Smart is the sort of car that one can aspire to own so long as you will not be chauffeuring many others around. It is ideal personal transport locally and with all the safety and technology that comes with the car, it is one that I would thoroughly recommend.

Visit the Auto Sales showroom in Lija to book a test drive, or book online by visiting:

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