By KBB.com Editors
Americans don't like small cars. That's an over-generalization, of course, but there's little doubt our country's is the biggest, heaviest vehicle fleet in the world. Record gas prices and increasing environmental awareness, though, have combined to create a bona fide boom in sales of compact cars. In some respects, Mercedes-Benz couldn't have chosen a better time to introduce to the U.S. its smart brand microcars that have been tooling around Europe for 10 years now. The new, second-generation fortwo is also larger than the first (believe it or not), which is just the way we Americans like it.
If you like the idea of driving a car that turns heads and starts conversations, or if you face parking challenges on a regular basis, the fortwo may be for you. The fortwo cabriolet boasts the added advantage of being the most affordable convertible available.
If you're looking to mitigate the financial impact of a longish highway commute, you might be disappointed in the affordable and fuel-efficient smart fortwo's skittish highway manners. You may also find frustrating the shifting behavior of the fortwo's "automated manual" transmission.
As an affordable, fuel-efficient but charming vehicle for getting from Point A to Point B, the 2008 smart fortwo is without peer.
Driving Impressions For a vehicle so extremely compact and lightweight, we found the 2008 smart fortwo's highway ride quite comfortable. The faster you go, however, the more skittish the fortwo becomes, and...we eventually tired of having to constantly "steer" the car straight down the road. Similarly, we never got used to the automated manual transmission that swaps gears with all the grace of a backhoe. Where we most enjoyed our time at the controls of the smart fortwo was in parking lots, where the car's micro measurements and sub-30-foot turning circle combine to deliver an almost comical sense of agility. Although the smart fortwo's 90-mph top speed and 13-second zero-to-60 mph acceleration qualify it as one of the slowest new vehicles on the road, the upside is that you get to "floor it" more often.
Tridion Safety Cell
There's no escaping the fact that the 2008 smart fortwo is essentially the smallest, lightest vehicle on the road, but it's demonstrated impressive crashworthiness.
Some newer convertibles let you open or close the top at speeds up to 25 or 30 miles per hour. In the smart fortwo, you can let the sunshine in -- or shut the rain out -- even when maxed out at the car's 90-mph top speed.
The big story inside the 2008 smart fortwo is roominess. Plenty of headroom, a relatively compact instrument panel and open space where you'd expect a center console all contribute to an interior that feels less confined than that of the significantly longer and wider MINI Cooper. The fortwo even boasts a larger rear cargo area than the MINI Cooper (the MINI's two extra fold-down rear seats notwithstanding). The interior styling is unique, but not as quirky as the car's exterior design might lead you to expect.Exterior
More than just tiny, the smart fortwo looks like nothing else on the road. The body panels are made of dent-resistant plastic, and the design element that runs from behind the front wheel up to the roof is actually part of what the company calls the "tridion" safety cell -- made of high-strength steel and painted black or metallic silver. The second-generation fortwo is nearly 8 inches longer than the first model, which can be parked nose-first between parallel parked vehicles. Whether local law enforcement and the added length allow that to happen in the U.S. remains to be seen.
Conspicuously absent from the smart fortwo's standard equipment list are a sound system, air conditioning, power windows and power mirrors. "Luxuries" provided at base price include power locks with remote keyless entry, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and transmission selector. A full complement of standard safety equipment includes four airbags, electronic stability control and an advanced braking system.
In addition to power windows and mirrors, a CD sound system and air conditioning with automatic climate control, the 2008 smart fortwo's options list includes heated leather seats, a fixed panorama glass roof and a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Tipping the scales at just 1,800 pounds (700 pounds less than a Mazda MX-5 Miata), the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive 2008 smart fortwo is able to make its way in the world by means of an unusually small three-cylinder engine (that requires premium-grade fuel). The attached five-speed transmission is also distinct in that it's essentially a manual gearbox that the fortwo electro-mechanically manages automatically -- there's no clutch pedal or manual shift lever.
71 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
68 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 33/41
By Weinerchick on Friday, November 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price,fun to drive, very reliable"
Cons: "honestly haven't found any yet"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought a 2009 Smart Passion new in June '09. Five-plus years later, I'm still in love with this little bug. It would take something HUGE to have me get rid of it. Many reviews talk about how uncomfortable/tedious it is or would be to drive for a long time on the highway. Well, in July 2014, me and my Smart car drove round-trip from Nashville to Maryland, 680 miles, 11 hours, stopping only for gas and the occasional stretch. It was terrific! I was comfortable, not stressed out being on interstates w/larger vehicles, and arrived without feeling wrung out. Since I bought it, I've needed only new tires, windshield washers, and a new battery (beyond the recommended oil changes, etc.). Guys...it doesn't get much better than this!"
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Open minded on Friday, November 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "It's a great car to drive and own"
Cons: "Bouncy, noisy & transmission which is unusual"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"If you ever had a beetle in your life you'll soon realize the similarities. Best maneuvering ever, such as quick U-turns, turning a small space into a parking spot. Fantastic interior room contradict its exterior size. Plenty of power contrary to what some believe. If I can't pass I wait it's simple. Mileage is great averaging a 'true' 39 mpg in around town driving. The car wasn't bought because of mileage anyway, for that there are better more expensive and poor handling Hybrid cars with heavy batteries. I get over 350 miles on a tank of gas, so I don't have to go to the gas station very often. So far I have been fortunate to only spent money on maintenance and that is at a local foreign car repair shop. Dealers as we all know are far too expensive. The built in radio and speakers are mediocre at best and can be upgraded by an independent shop. Heavy winds on a highway will keep keep my driver participation on a higher level, yet I still enjoy driving it... regardless. Why because I believe the smallest car at 8ft 8" is a marvel in engineering. It has the ESP feature which will prevent the car from swerving into a dangerous situation. That's another marvel of engineering and is standard on all new cars now. As for a good looking car, I believe it is well designed and I always am pleased to see it one on the road for it's something like on a cover of a Pop. Science of years ago. Two people in great comfort sitting upright gives one a great feeling of security unlike sitting in a Mazda Miata which is quite low in comparison.. The NASCAR type cage is what gives me a perceived safe feeling because when hit, the car will bounce away and not simply collapse. I also realize a larger car may be safer, yet I can maneuver faster to avoid an possible accident. There's always someone bigger than you-- no matter what you drive. When shopping the rear area is surprisingly spacious for cargo and one can take long slim items up to 76" long between the footwell by the seats to a closed rear window. I changed out the exterior to another color with a friend in two- three hours, resold the panels and came out even monetarily. With what other car can one do this? So do I like my car? Yes"
7 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Babs on Sunday, November 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Low price, easy and fun to drive. 40 MPG!"
Cons: "You sit very close to your passanger."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is a very affordable (40 MPG!) and fun car to drive. Two larger adults can easily fit in it. It has lots of head room. My 85 year old mother loves it because it is so easy for her to get in and out of. The door opens wide. The amount of glass all around gives you a wide open feeling for such a small car. Even though the space is small in the back, packed right, I can load a whole basket of Costco goods in it. The passenger front seat folds down for longer items. People always stop and ask me about it. They worry about the safety of such a small car. I tell them to go to the OFFICIAL car safety sites. The Smart is rated very well - in the same league as all small cars. It has front and side air bags and is built around a steel safety cage. I've had this car for 4 years and have no complaints."
6 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Christo on Thursday, November 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Only 50 characters. Not enough room"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We saw these in Europe in '03 and I promised my wife if they came to the US she could have one. Never make promises. I originally liked them when I first saw them. After owning this little beast, I would just as happily set it on fire or blow it up. It's had issues form day 1. The door wouldn't catch, one day, and she had to drive home holding the handle. the heater motor went out, and cost 300 dollars. Its a tiny motor! Shifts at the apex of a curve on the freeway, YIKES! Lag time is nuts. NOT a highway car. Very uncomfortable, and the tires mixed with thte suspension, you WILL feel every bump and pothole. Maintenance light comes on repeatedly, and has been checked and reset. They still don't know why. It shudders like a 15.5 earthquake in reverse intermittently, and when you use the paddle shifters, it shudders and gets grabby. I feel like I'm going to die in this thing. My new favorite, is it goes in reverse only half the time. So you have to GET OUT AND PUSH IT! Are you kidding? Here's the rub. I drive a 1972 Citroen 2CV. If you know those cars, and the owner of one thinks a SMART is junk, you KNOW it has to be bad. Never again. Cute won't get you home. Get a Honda or Toyota."
7 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Car Enthusiast on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 98,940overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "convertible, parking, paddle shifters, mpg, unique"
Cons: "no AWD availabilty, mpg, slow acceleration"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I Must say this 2009 smart For-Two Passion cabriolet is THE most loved, fun car I have EVER owned. My previous cars include: 1993 Camry LE, 2003 Benz C320 4-matic, 1996 V6 Mustang Convertible, and 2006 Pilot AWD (all my previous cars are automatics since I can't drive a manual). When the smart car came along, it was my chance to drive a manual and look good doing it. This car tops them all because I splurged on the cabriolet. What is there to like? Well, if you examine this car carefully you will see that a lot of thought went into its compact design from the shape of the rear view mirror to the clever storage areas throughout this tiny car. Its uniqueness brings you lots of attention & questions from passersby--more so than other cars more than 4-5x its price. Perhaps because it invites strangers to approach & inquire about the car. There is no snobbery about this car. Just pure fun. I even got approached and stopped by a cop on foot while I was about to drive away. I thought I had parked illegally or done something wrong but she only wanted to find out more about the car! Parking in the City is a breeze. There are more parking spots available to me due to its diminutive size. The herky-jerky transmission that people complain about? Well, I remember the old days when my friend use to take me for a ride in his old manual Honda Civic. His car would behave the same way as he shifted through the gears. I'm not sure if that was a natural characteristic of his car or due to his poor shifting but I came to accept it as a part of the ride characteristics of stick shifts so it doesn't bother me. Most people who bad mouth this car I bet haven't even driven in one. Most likely if they had, they would have been won over by its charm despite all it's quirkiness. There is so much to love about this car but not enough room to put into print."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By K on Friday, October 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas mileage, ease of parking, roomy main compartme"
Cons: "Premium gas, no cruise control"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This has been my most favorite car. The mileage is incredible, the cabin is roomy and comfortable and it's got just enough hp to feel safe (I wouldn't pull out in front of a semi, but for most driving issues the power is fine. The only complaint I have is the handling in high winds on the freeway, and there is no cruise control option. It is an attention grabber and I've lost count on the number of people that have asked me about it."
10 people out of 15 found this review helpful