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Smart work; City car returns with new model and a better ride, handling and quality throughout, says PHIL LANNING.

Byline: PHIL LANNING

IT'S the Smart that really does go round corners like its on rails - because it actually is.

Smart say that their city car will drive from London to Aberdeen non-stop for just PS39. As its the Forfour, it's also fairly versatile and can take four occupants.

But to highlight the Smart's ability to be economical they turned it into a mini train.

Now we've seen this before.

Roger Moore did it as James Bond in Octopussy in a Mercedes-Benz 250 SE. The Top Gear trio also tried it a few years ago.

However in reality, it's not just about taking the tyres off and roaring down to Euston.

After months of engineering, Smart created the real "forrail". It's equipped with unique, solid steel wheels each measuring 22-inches in diameter and weighing 80kg, allowing it the traction it needs on rails. It comes with a safety warning of, "Don't try this at home".

Thankfully, there is the conventional Smart Forfour you can drive on tarmac, not tracks.

The new Forfour, and its smaller brother Fortwo, are bigger throughout and even, er, Smarter looking. In fact, I love the slightly more aggressive, meaner personality. Both are based on the Renault Twingo and boast a quirky rear-engined, rear-wheel drive layout.

Pushing the engine to the back means improved cabin room and manoeuvrability - both qualities any good city car should have in spades. In the looks department, the contrasting body colour scheme remains a stand-out feature on the Fortwo. Add in the options for the body panels and front grille and buyers have 40 different colour combinations available. It's just as colourful inside too, with bright fabrics on the dashboard and seats, depending on spec.

In the cabin, a new dashboard and centre console design are far more upmarket than before but there are still some cheap looking plastics lurking around. The dashmounted rev counter feels and looks flimsy but the optional seven-inch floating nav screen looks sharp and the menu system is easy to navigate.

The Fortwo now drives like a proper car and is hugely more appealing as a result. The ride is far more comfortable, with the suspension dealing with road imperfections in a far more acceptable way than before.

It's still a very involving drive, you feel the road surface and that's part of the fun of the Smart, however it's much easier to live with. A more refined ride delivers more confident handling. The Fortwo's sub-900kg kerbweight, light front end and grippy rear-drive, rear-engine balance to your advantage. Steering is light and easy and it's surprisingly good fun to throw about.

Smart haven't lost the old car's amazing turning circle, either. It's way less than a London Taxi and that makes it a dream in city centres.

The non-turbo 71hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine does what it says - it's a city car so don't expect anything special out of town.

The new three-cylinder petrol engines make the Fortwo even cheaper to run than it was before. Opt for the more frugal 70bhp 1.0-litre naturally aspirated engine and Smart claim you can return up to 68.9mpg and 93g/km of CO2.

The more powerful 89bhp 900cc turbo engine is around PS700 more to buy and returns figures of 67.3mpg and 97g/km.

Prices start at PS11,125 for entry-level Passion models with the base 1.0-litre engine. Both Prime and Proxy spec cost a further PS695, with the latter adding sports suspension and larger 16-inch alloy wheels.

Never mind the train, if you need a economical runabout, Smart is just the ticket.

ARNOLD Clark Smart franchise manager Paul Marwick said: "This nippy car is currently in its third generation. Luckily, the Smart Fortwo is still faithful to its city practicality and easy parking. It features a more powerful 1.0-litre engine and a new gearbox, which delivers a smooth gear change. The cabin is cosy - and surprisingly spacious."

Factfile: Model: Smart Fortwo Prime Engine: 1.0-litre three cylinder Power: 71bhp Top speed: 94mph 0-62mph: 14.4 seconds Average mpg: 68.9 CO2 emissions: 93g/km Warranty: Two years/unlimited mileage Price: PS11,820

CAPTION(S):

TRACK IT DOWN Z The new Smart Fortwo has a sharp look and smoother handling. Insets, the "forrail" train track version and the new upmarket dash
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 16, 2015
Words:717
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