City car turns things on their head by taking to the motorway fter it was dinged in a car park a few weeks ago, I’m glad to report the Smart is, well, smart again after having its rear bumper replaced. I then finally got the chance to take the Fortwo out of its urban driving comfort zone and into the wilds of East Sussex for a few days on a yoga retreat. This meant doing a round trip of roughly 250 miles on mostly motorways and fast A-roads, so I was interested in how the Smart would cope and how stable it would feel at higher speeds. I couldn’t have chosen a worse day for it: the trip there was cold, windy, very wet, with driving rain the entire way, and dark. But I was pleasantly surprised by how the Fortwo could,
Firm suspension and grippy tyres make the 3 fun
DS 3 PERFORMANCE
Who needs all four wheels on the deck when you can corner on just three?
with positive use of the throttle pedal, accelerate up to speed and respectably keep up with fast-moving motorway traffic. It’s down to the more powerful 89bhp turbocharged 0.9-litre motor providing the extra oomph. I don’t think the lesser-powered (70bhp), non-turbo unit would cope that well. Equipped with the auto ’box, the 70bhp car achieves the 0-62mph slog in a smidgen more than 15 seconds, whereas my Smart, with its soupedup engine, manages it in 10.4sec. Having to pass high-sided juggernauts at 70mph was a different matter, though. The Fortwo got blown about a fair bit and I had to keep a firm two-handed grip on the steering wheel. Despite the Smart having something called ‘crosswind assist’ in its safety equipment arsenal, it didn’t feel like it was doing much on blustery open motorway stretches, either, but I found slowing to around 60mph helped a lot. One thing I wasn’t expecting to put to the test was the Fortwo’s off-road capabilities. I missed the turning into the village and drove up a deeply rutted, extremely narrow, muddy lane with deep puddles in the pitch black. Without the car’s insanely tight turning circle, I would have been well and truly up a certain creek. MELANIE FALCONER
TEST DATA SMART FORTWO PRIME COUPÉ Price £12,415 Price as tested £14,750 Economy 38.4mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 26.10.16
Visit to a yoga retreat involved a 250-mile round trip
I CAN’T TELL you how great it is to be back in a car that cocks an inside rear wheel. Since the DS 3 Performance’s ride is firm and the rear in particular is stiff, if I want to mimic a peeing dog, I simply flick the wheel right or left at pace and up goes the back. Hilarious. It’s useful, too, because if you’re really pressing on, that lifted inside rear makes the back end significantly more agile. But mostly it’s just great, childish fun, and a trait that sets the best driver’s hot hatches apart from the average ones. I like the suspension set-up in the Performance. Some might say it’s a little too firm for urban driving, but it certainly gives the car focus. The 3 never stops reminding you that it’d rather be out on a B-road. It’s because the damping has a hardened edge to it – the sort that has the body settled back in its default setting fractions of a second after a heavy compression – and because there’s just so much grip. The car’s Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres are the same sort you get on a Porsche 911, and in the dry, I’d say they really make this car.
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Thanks to their adhesion to the tarmac, even though it isn’t the quickest hot hatch in a straight line, the 3’s overall point-to-point pace really is as good as it gets in this class. Combine the grip of the front wheels with the agility of the back and you can hammer into a corner, hard on the brakes, flick the wheel towards the inside and the car will dart towards the apex like a puppy chasing a thrown ball. I’m yet to push to the absolute limit – that’s something I’ll be doing on the track in the coming weeks – but at seven or eight-tenths, the 3 is a very enjoyable drive. Whether it can beat the best in class, the Ford Fiesta ST, I can’t say yet (I’ll need to drive them back to back to offer an accurate verdict), but it’s got to be close. SAM SHEEHAN
TEST DATA DS 3 THP 210 S&S P E R F O R M A N C E B L AC K Price £22,995 Price as tested £23,345 Economy 34.0mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 2.11.16
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