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Smart ForTwo

MkII Smart City Coupe/Cabriolet/ForTwo

1 Feb 2008

Mercedes-Benz released its second-generation Fortwo city car in early 2008.

Boasting a similar one-box two-seater design featuring the trademark Tridion safety cell, a rear mid-mounted engine driving the back wheels and plastic bolt-on body panels, there are improvements in every department compared to its 450 predecessor.

Brand owner Daimler AG upped the Fortwo’s ante for performance, space, safety, refinement, handling and ride qualities as it concentrates on making the loss-making Smart division both profitable and more international – with an emphasis on conquering the North American market.

The latter goal necessitated a larger, wider and longer platform with a correspondingly bigger body, mainly to meet US rear-impact and European frontal pedestrian impact criteria.

Despite the introduction of a completely redesigned body featuring squarer and ‘more masculine’ lines, a wider stance and a ‘more striking face’, new and old Fortwo look very similar at first glance.

The 451’s visual cues include slightly elongated headlights, a higher and more steeply angled bonnet (aiding pedestrian impact), horizontal rather than vertical door handles, a slimmer Tridion safety cell, a more rakish rear window, a fuller rear apron (or ‘nappy’ – for greater rear impact protection), two instead of three tail-lights per side, and a wider tailgate handle.

On the 451 Cabrio, the whole roof was developed and is produced by specialists Edscha. It is a black poly acrylic fabric on the outside with a polyester/cotton mix inside, sandwiching a layer of rubber.

The rear window is now glass and heated, and set much higher which greatly increases loading volume when the soft top is down. Previously it was made from PVC.

Functionality also improves in the 451 Cabrio, with the soft top being fully automated at any speed, in lieu of the previous model’s necessity for the driver to go outside and lock the roof down into place.

In contrast to the outside, the changes wrought inside the 451 will be obvious to even casual Fortwo observers.

First off, it feels palpably more spacious thanks to the larger footprint, and of a much higher quality, with a more mature look overall.

An all-new horizontal dashboard design has been incorporated, with only the signature swivelling dash-top tachometer and clock dials, as well as the absence of a lower floor console, tying it with the outgoing Fortwo.

Luggage capacity creeps up 220 litres from 150 litres, with a further 120 litres available directly behind the seats.

Redesigned seats have new contours and come in either a silk-gloss cloth or leather finish, while fabric swathes the dash and door trim.

Sited over the rear axle is an all-new 999cc 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol EU4-emissions compliant engine from Japan, available in either 52kW-power or turbo-charged 62kW outputs, that we may yet also see in the Mitsubishi i.

The ‘52’ model’s 52kW at 5800rpm and 92Nm at 4500rpm helps the 451 sprint to 100km/h from standstill in 13.3 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 145km/h. This is 10km/h more than before.

Choose the turbo-charged 1.0-litre unit and outputs edge up at lower rev points, to 62kW at 5250rpm and 120Nm at 3250rpm. Acceleration to 100km/h plummets to 10.9s and the top speed remains the same, while fuel and CO2 consumption rise slightly by 0.2L/100km and 4g/km respectively.

Kerb weight rises from 730kg to 750kg in the ‘52’ Coupe (Cabrio: 790kg), with the ‘62’ coming in at 770kg (800kg in the soft top).

Drivers of the 450 Fortwo and its identical City Coupe/City Cabrio predecessor will instantly notice an all-new Getrag five-speed transmission, replacing the controversial six-speed unit.

Underneath, the previous model’s suspension and steering set-up has been completely overhauled, for improved dynamics and a better ride quality.

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