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STYLING | 8 out of 10
street-legal Tonka toy
the little rollerskate attracts a lot of attention
flashy styling and clever packaging
No doubt about it: This car generates more interest among observers than some that cost 10 times as much
The 2014 Smart ForTwo remains the same car it's been since its 2008 launch--and in Europe for almost a decade before that--a short, cute two-seater that appears tall, slab-sided, and almost as wide as it is long. And in fact, its 9-foot length makes it the shortest car sold new in the U.S. today. The length, or lack of it, is most obvious from the side, when the car's all-but-nonexistent nose comes into relief--viewed at an angle, the sloping front hood appears longer than it actually is.
The body structure is outlined by the "Tridion" safety cell, which may be highlighted in silver, green, or other colors. The purpose of the contrast is to underline the car's strong structure, from the windshield post along the roof side, down the rear pillar and wrapping around under the door. It's an effective design flourish, and identifies the car instantly as a Smart--not that its size wouldn't.
Two body styles are offered: the fixed-roof Coupe, and a Cabrio with a power cloth roof that offers open-top driving while retaining the structural strength of a crossbar between the rear pillars. Two removable roof side bars stow neatly in a tailgate compartment, meaning that when the windows are rolled down, there's more wind-in-the-hair feeling than in, say, the Fiat 500c Cabrio with its fixed side rails.
Many of the Smart Electric Drive models come with a green safety cage and white body panels, but it can be ordered in every color combination that the gasoline car can--and it has special wheels of its own. One note: Smart offers the only battery-electric convertible sold in the U.S. market this year, although at some point during 2014, the million-dollar Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid will go on sale. Now there's a matchup....
The dashboard has been upgraded more than once, though the base Pure model is still plain and severe. Over the years, matte metallic finished, new shapes for trim elements, and an upgraded steering wheel don't really mask the late Nineties basic urban-car design. It's not hideous, just very, very Spartan--even when fitted with niceties like a small navigation system.
A dollop of style can be added by appearance features from the Brabus line of accessories, including larger alloy 15-inch alloy wheels. Or buyers can opt for the Style package option, which bundles together body panels in a choice of metallic colors, six-spoke alloy wheels, and fog lamps.
Beyond that, two limited editions are on offer for 2014: The electric Smart ForJeremy, by designer Jeremy Scott, features a small pair of angel wings, and 180 models of the BoConcept edition--from the Scandinavian design store--will be issued, along with two special editions to be locally created via crowdsourced voting.
The 2014 Smart ForTwo is distinctive as well as tiny, with its outlined safety cage, but the interior is Spartan.