Er, this is going to be hard to believe but, uh, the new Smart ForTwo looks like it actually could be good.

OK, let me run down a few features of this new two-seater city car that have me excited. Possibly to an inappropriate level.

It looks hip and cool and kind of like someone turned a tropical fish into an automobile.

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Tropical fish are cool.

The interior seems to be made out of the same material as my running shoes.

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It’s rear engined with rear-wheel drive.

It has a little three cylinder engine and a five speed manual transmission.

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Seriously, a manual.

I’m not kidding look at this shit. Here’s what Smart’s press release says.

Drive power is supplied by a state-of-the-art three-cylinder engine rated at 89 hp, while power transmission is performed by a five-speed manual transmission or the twinamic automatic dual clutch transmission.

[...]

Both transmission variants are also new for smart: customers can choose between a five-speed manual transmission and the twinamic six-speed dual clutch transmission.

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I emailed Mercedes Benz USA just to double check.

Hi Raphael, Absolutely! We will offer the manual here in the U.S.

There you have it, folks! A real, three-pedal manual in a rear-engined, rear-drive car. That’s something that you can’t even get on a Porsche 911 GT3.

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I was never very into the previous generations of Smarts since they had apparently quite worthless semi-automatic transmissions that sucked all the life out of their engines, characters, and style. An old Smart ForTwo functioned, in my mind, like a glorified scooter with a hat.

This new one though! A five speed! You could really wring the snuff out of the 89 horsepower turbo three-cylinder engine.

My coworker Freddy and I decided to try and get a good look at this aforementioned engine. Now, I should say that auto shows are usually quite buttoned-down affairs. Lots of do not touch kind of situations. Not at Smart.

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I was sure we’d never be able to get a good look at the motor. Most modern rear or midengine cars don’t allow easy engine access. Pop the rear hood on a new Porsche and you won’t see much other than a plank of plastic.

And things seemed equally hidden away in this ForTwo. At first I stuck myself under the car (auto show floors are very clean) but didn’t see much other than heat shielding on the inside of the bumper. I crawled out and we opened up the tailgate-equipped rear hatch.

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Then we lifted up a sound-deadening carpet at the back and found a big metal tray with some warnings. Freddy noticed that the thing was only held in by six screws.

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The screws had plastic knobs, so we just undid ‘em and the panel came off.

Here’s the engine! This appears to be the naturally aspirated inline three we won’t be getting here in America. Whatever. Look at how huge the plugs seem on the 898cc engine. Look at how gigantic the airbox looks in context, too.

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We also popped the little plastic hoodlet up front, which hangs off the front when opened. There are no hinges. It’s tethered to the car by woven straps.

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There’s not much to see other than some fluids and the battery. The car does look funny with the front hood open. It’s like it’s covering its face.

Sadly, despite the lightweight construction of the hood attachment system, the car is actually heavier than the model it replaces. The last generation ForTwo was around 16 or 17 hundred pounds. This one is more like 19. That’s my only complaint about it.

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I should also point out that this new Smart appears to have the best infotainment system in the business! It’s just your phone. That’s all. It just docks your phone really well. My coworker Jason wrote up how it all works.

I am absolutely blown away by this little thing. I never thought I’d like a Smart, but everything about this car appealed to me.

It’s possible it will turn out to be a complete leaded dud to drive. Even worse, it’s likely that a bunch of small businesses will buy these things and run them as local advertising for, like, Henrietta’s Flower Shed or Shia’s Quince Boutique and I’ll be ashamed of the car by association.

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But the car’s design is sound and wonderful and I can’t believe I’m saying that about a Smart.

Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove


Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.