By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 3.6
In America, fads come and go as quickly as reality TV stars. When the news of Smart's stateside arrival reached the eyes and ears of Euro-loving Americans, the subsequent waiting list presaged a bright future for the Mercedes-Benz subsidiary. With over 40,000 pre-orders, Smart experienced the automotive equivalent of crazed shoppers camped outside a local retailer to be among the first to get their hands on the latest Apple product. In the years following the brand's initial success, dwindling sales indicated that predictions for the unstoppable microcar revolution might be a bit premature. And while the 2012 Smart Fortwo returns adequate fuel economy figures, slightly larger 5-seat competitors like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and the Nissan Versa deliver comparable fuel efficiency and superior driving characteristics for a similar price.
The Smart Fortwo's tidy dimensions make it the ideal choice for inner city dwellers faced with daily parking challenges. Additionally, if you're a thrifty open-top enthusiast searching for the most affordable convertible available, look no further than the Smart Fortwo Cabriolet.
Between the Fortwo's nervous highway manners and the irksome shifting behavior of its automated manual transmission, driving becomes a chore rather than a privilege. Unless you are married to the Smart's unique European charm, the market offers a crowd of alluring subcompacts with exceptional road manners, additional standard equipment and five seats.
The Smart Fortwo receives a modest aesthetic refresh for the 2012 model year along with a newly available navigation system.
Driving Impressions For a vehicle with a tremendously short wheelbase, we found the 2012 Smart Fortwo's ride surprisingly comfortable. The faster you go, however, the more skittish the Fortwo becomes, and we...eventually grew tired of constantly making steering corrections to stay on course. Similarly, the automated manual transmission swaps gears with all the grace of a farm tractor. On the other hand, the Fortwo reigns supreme in parking lot maneuverability, where the car's micro measurements and sub-30-foot turning radius combine to deliver an almost comical sense of low-speed agility. Although the Smart Fortwo's 90-mph top speed and 13-second 0-60 mph acceleration qualify it as one of the slowest new vehicles on the road, the silver lining is that you get to "floor it" on a regular basis, and no self-respecting cop would ever pull you over.
TRIDION SAFETY CELL
With American roadways chock-full of overweight vehicles, compact car owners are subjected to an elevated level of danger every time they get behind the wheel. Much like a roll cage protects a racecar driver, the 2012 Smart Fortwo's Tridion Safety Cell distributes energy over a wide area of the car for greater impact resistance.
To the frustration of countless drop-top devotees, some modern convertible tops are inoperable when the vehicle is in motion. With the Smart Fortwo Cabriolet, you can let the sunshine in – or shut the rain out – even when traveling at highway speeds.
We've all heard the old adages, "Never judge a book by its cover" and "Looks can be deceiving." When it comes to the Smart Fortwo's deceptively roomy cabin, these redundant clichés hold equally true. There's more than abundant headroom and legroom even for the long of limb in this 2-seater, and the unique floating design of the dashboard further conveys a sense of spaciousness. While the cargo area is quite a bit smaller than a traditional subcompact, it is large enough to accommodate a bag of golf clubs. And if you frequently travel solo, the passenger seat folds flat for additional cargo space.Exterior
More than just a pint-sized economy car, the Smart Fortwo looks like nothing else on the road. The body panels are made of dent-resistant plastic, and the design element running from behind the front wheels up to the roofline is actually Smart's patented Tridion Safety Cell: a high-strength steel shell that's available in black or metallic silver. To help combat the Fortwo's obvious weight disadvantage in a collision, Mercedes-Benz engineers developed an interconnected steel shell that distributes impact energy rather than absorbing it.
If you thought the 2012 Smart Fortwo's enticing starting price was too good to be true, you were right. The aptly-named Pure model conspicuously excludes an audio system, air conditioning, power windows, cruise control and power mirrors. "Luxuries" provided at base price include power locks with remote keyless entry, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Opting for the Passion trim adds most of the creature comforts one would expect in a $15,000 new car. Because safety is on the mind of every prospective Fortwo owner, the 2012 model offers eight airbags, front and rear crash boxes for low-speed-collision protection, and a full serving of electronic stability systems.
Passion and Cabriolet trims offer practical niceties such as cruise control, electric power steering and center-console storage. Tech options include a touch-screen navigation system, Bluetooth and a 7-speaker audio system with a subwoofer. Since playing dress-up isn't just for little girls anymore, the Fortwo offers a multitude of interchangeable body panels and a sporty Style Package, complete with retro 3-spoke alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, dashboard gauge pods, and LED daytime running lights.
Tipping the scales at just 1,800 pounds (nearly 600 pounds less than a Honda Fit), the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive 2012 Smart Fortwo is able to make its way in the world by means of a 3-cylinder Mitsubishi engine matched with a 5-speed automated manual transmission. Instead of a clutch pedal and a manual shift lever, the Fortwo electronically manages the manual gearbox. On the road, it becomes painfully clear that it is perhaps the most unrefined transmission ever affixed to a modern production vehicle.
70 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
68 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 34/38 mpg
By Roller skate on Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Power windows cup holders and a radio and ac"
Cons: "Needs hands free phone Bluetooth"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I get on average 40 mpg it drives great in all weather snow wind rain climbs mountain roads with ease I have traveled with it long distance and was comfortable I'm a big women 5'8" and 200 pounds and my husband is over 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds we fit in no problem we also take our dogs with us a lab husky 75 pound dog min pin dog 25 pounds and our jack Russell 10 pounds all five of us get in and go visiting ..I also shop for groceries by the month and get four stores worth of food in the car with pet food you have to have organizing skills but I get it done fairly easy ...love my car hope to have it for many more years and I treat it right so I will"
By Lucy on Friday, March 13, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,145overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, cute, drives like a sports car"
Cons: "Bumpy and not comfortable for a long ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Fun to drive and cute to look at. I have found it to be very reliable. The worst thing about it is the lack of comfort but it is made to drive in the city and not on extended trips. Mine has tremendous acceleration most of the time. There are times when it will hesitate but I have not found that to be a problem. More often it will throw my head back when I take off from a light. I have driven it in the mountains and it takes them like a four wheel drive. It never hesitated or required manual shifting."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By SusieQ on Monday, March 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great mileage, great for errands around town,"
Cons: "not the smoothest of rides"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"Both automatiic or can shift, fancy tire rims, CD player, automatic windshield wipers, good gas mileage. In other words, all the whistles and bells for a Smart car; does have cup holders and arm rest in the middle. Also included is a sun screen for front window."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By BlooTexan on Thursday, March 05, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun in the sun, comfy when crusing"
Cons: "Jerky transmission, Not versatile, bad in traffic"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"It definitely gets the job done. Its a great car for someone with open roads and no inclement weather. The second you get stuck in traffic or have bad weather you will instantly regret this vehicle. The transmission is jerky and makes for a very uncomfortable traffic commute. Winds off 18 wheelers will blow you around and its so light you have very little traction in snow or heavy rain. Fun to drive in the sun and great for cruising... Fun side car but about as good as a motorcycle on 4 wheels."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By druax on Friday, January 30, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "perfect for congested places, park anywhere"
Cons: "Benz shop rates if you need repair"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"if you live in a crowded city with slow traffic and impossible parking, and you tried living with a "normal" car, you will totally get the smart. Small, nimble, very comfortable for two and reasonable good on gas - you will not miss your "real" car. Why? Because what you gain in a real car - more seats, more room for gear, more power - are the very things that will drive you nuts every day trying to get around in a congested city. The smart is a brilliant solution to inner city congestion - everywhere else it is a duck out of water. If you live in the typical suburb, the prairies or freeway heaven LA - you will never "get" the smart - but why do you care?"
18 people out of 29 found this review helpful
By haaseh on Friday, January 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, handling, easy to park, great brakes"
Cons: "Wind noise above 75MPH"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"leased this Cabriolet because it is sharp looking, fun to drive, and different. I have only my wife as an occasional passenger and don't need a big klunker. Lease deal is great, so I can turn in with 36000 miles and still be on warranty. Averaging 39 MPG and have had no problems. Top works great even at 70 MPH. Get a weeks worth of groceries in rear or two carry on bags when going to airport. Love the automatic clutch manual. People who don't like the tranny are most likely trying to drive it in automatic which is not the best way. With the paddle shifters, I put it in the gear I want and have plenty of acceleration up to about 65 MPH. Above 75 mph get a lot of wind noise, but never drive on interstate for more that 10 miles at a time, so no problem. Fit and finish is excellent for a very low priced car. Love the radio with the flash drive in the glove box. Everything neat and out of the way."
12 people out of 26 found this review helpful