By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 3.5
When the Smart Fortwo debuted in 2008, America's smallest car garnered an instant following as buyers flocked to this 2-seater for its low price, good fuel economy, and the sheer Euro-chic factor it brought to our shores. The years since have not been so kind to Smart, a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. Since its launch, the Smart Fortwo has been met with mediocre reviews and dwindling sales. Additionally, better vehicles such as the Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500 have entered the microcar scene. Meanwhile, cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa offer comparable fuel economy and more room at a similar price. The 2013 Smart Fortwo coupe and cabriolet can sneak into the smallest parking spots, along with the newest member of the family, an all-electric model.
If finagling your car into the tiniest of parking spots is a daily difficulty, you'll appreciate the fact that the Smart Fortwo is the smallest new car in America. At just 106.1 inches in length, the Smart is less than half as long as a regular-cab Ford F-150.
The Fortwo's nervous highway manners and its unrefined automated transmission make driving feel like a chore rather than a privilege. Unless you're married to some facet of the Smart, there are plenty of compact and subcompact cars that offer far better road manners, more standard equipment, and seating for five.
The biggest news for the Smart lineup is an all-new electric version. The plug-in Fortwo is more powerful and will goes farther per charge than its previous, limited-quantity EV version. The standard lineup sees the addition of two special editions and a Brabus sport package.
Driving Impressions For a vehicle with such a short wheelbase – a mere 73.5 inches – the 2013 Smart Fortwo's ride is surprisingly comfortable. However, the Fortwo's road manners become increasingly skittish...as it leisurely gets up to speed. This car is no picnic on freeways. We also grew tired of having to make constant steering corrections to keep the Smart Fortwo on course. Then there is the Smart's automated manual transmission, which changes gears with all the grace of a farm tractor. A top speed of 90 mph and a 13-second 0-60 mph time combine to make the Smart Fortwo one of the slowest new vehicles on the road. If there's a silver lining, it's that you get to "floor it" on a regular basis, and no self-respecting cop would ever pull you over. There is one thing the Fortwo excels at: maneuverability. With its tiny footprint and turning radius of under 30 feet, the Smart Fortwo could be the easiest vehicle you've ever parked.
TINY TURNING RADIUS
With a 28.7-foot turning circle, you'd have to hop on a Schwinn to do better than the Smart. This enables the Fortwo to flip U-turns like nobody's business and slide into the tightest of parking spots.
TRIDION SAFETY CELL
A (legitimate) concern about driving a car as small as a Smart is the potential to collide with a larger vehicle, which in the Fortwo's case is, well, any other vehicle except a Smart. To ease those worries is the Smart's high-strength steel cell. Inspired by racecar roll cages, it helps distribute energy if a crash occurs.
The old adage of "Never judge a book by its cover" is appropriate for the 2013 Smart Fortwo. Though tiny on the outside, the Smart's interior is surprisingly roomy. The Fortwo's tall shape creates ample headroom and legroom for two passengers, while the floating design of its dash adds to the cabin's sense of spaciousness. The Smart's rear cargo area is quite a bit smaller than that of a subcompact, but is large enough to swallow a bag of golf clubs. For further cargo flexibility, the passenger seat folds flat to carry additional items.
With its almost toy-like size and shape, the Smart Fortwo looks like nothing else on the road. The Smart Fortwo has a tall profile, doors that take up the majority of its sides, and a long wheel-base relative to the car's actual length. Body panels are made of dent-resistant plastic, a plus for the shopping cart-laden urban environments for which the Smart is intended. On coupe models, the Fortwo's roof can be had as a conventional, solid one or as a large, see-through panel made from polycarbonate. Cabriolet models have an automatic soft-top that can be opened to various positions at any speed. Cabriolet models also have removable roof side bars for a more open experience, and a glass rear window housed within the fabric roof.
The Smart's base trim is dubbed Pure, but it might better be called Spartan because this model is so lacking in creature comforts most of us now take for granted in a new car. Forget not just having power windows – you'll have to crank your own – for its tempting starting price of around $13,000, you won't even get a radio. Air conditioning, too, is considered an option in this model, as is power steering. What you will get are power door locks and a 2-spoke leather steering wheel. Spending over $2,000 more and stepping up to the Passion model brings a panoramic roof, air conditioning, power windows, and yes, a radio with two speakers and a USB input. Safety features include eight airbags and stability control.
Extras on the Pure trim model include an AM/FM radio with USB and auxiliary inputs, heated seats, air conditioning, power steering, and cruise control. Passion models can be made more passionate with a navigation system, heated leather seats, Bluetooth, cruise control, power steering, and LED running lights.
The 2013 Smart Fortwo is powered by a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder Mitsubishi engine that makes 70 horsepower. That isn't a lot of power, but at less than 1,900 pounds, the Smart doesn't have much mass to move. The engine is located in the rear of the Smart and, unlike most other small cars of its ilk, drives the rear wheels. The sole transmission is a very unrefined 5-speed automated manual. Highway fuel economy on the Smart is rated up to 38 mpg. That figure is good, but you might expect better from such a tiny vehicle. Also note, the Smart Fortwo uses premium gasoline. The all-electric Smart uses a 55-kilowatt motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, and has been rated by the EPA to achieve the equivalent of up to 122 mpg in city driving.
70 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
68 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 34/38 mpg
Electric magneto motor
96 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 122/93 mpg equivalent