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Smart Fortwo Pure CDI coupe: Test Drive

Date: 05 January 2009   |   Author: Tristan Young

Category: City car
P11D: £7860
Key rival: Fiat 500

From March Smart will bring the diesel version of its ForTwo city car to the UK, a vehicle with a CO2 output of just 88g/km.

That's lower than any other petrol, diesel or hybrid car currently available - you'll only beat it by going fully electric.

Smart has achieved this figure not by using super-clever systems like VW employs in its Bluemotion vehicles or BMW utilises in its Efficient Dynamics package, but by being lightweight and having a very small 0.8-litre diesel engine.

The downside to having an engine of that size is that it doesn't produce a lot of power, just a lowly 45PS, although on the plus side the Smart travels 85.6 miles per gallon, which eclipses the CO2 figure because it's a more immediate benefit to drivers and fleet managers alike.

Unfortunately, that ultra-low CO2 is wasted on the UK's benefit-in-kind tax system. As it's a diesel, the Smart comes with a 3% penalty on top of the BIK minimum of 10%, so the car is lumped in with any diesel below 121g/km - hardly fair, but that's the rules. As a result, a handful of petrol-powered city cars beat the Smart on tax, for instance the Hyundai i10, but none get close on mpg.

On top of that, the engine is noisy, plus there are Routemaster-esque vibration levels and the performance is sedentary.

So while the Smart might look great on paper, you have to weigh up how many staff will be willing to accept a two-Seat, noisy, slow, city car - even if it costs next to nothing to fill up.