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 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"
1 person out of 2 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."
3 people out of 5 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."
5 people out of 13 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 4 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."
9 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Woody on Thursday, September 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great 2nd car and easy to drive & park."
Cons: "No cons as I relish my smart car."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have not had one issue since owning the car. Great car to drive & has many bells and whistles that my Lincoln has."
14 people out of 23 found this review helpful