It’s been over half a decade since the Smart Automobile Fortwo launched in the States, and the tiny car has made an impact. But is that impact a home run, or bird droppings hitting a windshield? The years have been more honest than than Smart’s press releases, so let’s have a look.
This thing is TINY. At 106 inches, the Fortwo is about eight and a half feet long. Or, about half the length of a Chevy Impala. This has some advantages, especially when looking for a parking space. Crowded city dwellers will love the parking options this little car opens up, and how it easily maneuvers through heavy traffic, construction, potholes, and whatnot. The tiny size also lends cred to the green movement, as it takes less material to make the vehicle, and almost everything can be recycled, so the Fortwo has a lower carbon footprint than almost every car available.
The Fortwo is relatively economical, with a 1.0 liter three-cylinder engine delivering 70 horsepower. Hey, that’s 15 more than the old-school Geo Metro. Due to its size, the Fortwo weighs only 1,700 pounds, the same as the much more expensive Lotus Elise. The power-to-weight ratio is competent, and the car can cruise at highway speeds with traffic. The doors are large and the roof height allows for easy entry, and plenty of headroom. Visibility is excellent.
While the Fortwo looks fun, the driving dynamics are not. The basic MacPherson struts up front and dead axle out back are a pretty hot suspension setup. For the 1960s. Body roll in corners is excessive and steering feedback is lacking. The transmission is a 5-speed automatic-ish unit that is usually described in reviews as “horrible” or “dreadful.” The interior is a bit dated compared to competitors. The three-cylinder thrashes under load and requires premium fuel, and only returns an EPA combined 36 MPG. While that isn’t bad, a larger Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, and Nissan Versa Note will return better mileage in a bigger vehicle for the same price. The Fortwo starts at $13,000 for a basic coupe, and runs up to nearly $20,000 for a loaded Passion Cabriolet. The competition outclasses it at every price point.
In some cases, a Smart Fortwo makes absolutely no sense. If you have a family of three or more and are looking to own one car, this isn’t it. At the same price range, look into the Yaris. If you live rurally and drive long distances, or need to haul some items, this is not the car for you. Consider a Focus hatchback. If you enjoy sporty driving dynamics, this car will disappoint. Spend more for the Mini Cooper or Mazda 3.
On the other hand, do you need a second car, so you don’t have to keep feeding your dually pickup every day? Do you live in a serious concrete jungle with major parking issues? Are you single, or have a family of two? Do you care about eco-cred? If you answered yes to any of those questions, by all means, check out the Smart Fortwo, as it might perfectly slot into your lifestyle.