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 Rod (PA) on Monday, December 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Price, great resale, BEST Car I've ever ownd"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned this car for 5 years, Garage kept, and don't drive it in the winter. GREAT GAS mileage, super fun to drive. Looks GREAT! Head turner, Great way to meet people, Conversation starter. Good Storage space in back. LOVE THIS CAR."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Ray (TN) on Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "All mentioned above"
Cons: "No spare tire but haven't had a flat."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have replaced tires, one brake light, one head light, brake pads & one blinker light. The battery is still the original and strong. Gas mileage is 45 mpg but have had 53 mpg twice. Love it!"
9 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By LC (GA) on Saturday, August 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cost to own"
Cons: "Speed bumps are tough"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Lowest cost to own and most reliable car I have owned. Dependable around town transportation and it only has to have the oil changed once a year. Gas mileage is great, fun to drive, and I don't have to 'climb down' to get in the drivers seat."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By bumbleBee (CA) on Wednesday, August 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 340overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Room, Super Gas MPG, Fun"
Cons: "could use an extra 35 Horse Power"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Love this little yellow Bee. Comfortable and roomy. Capable of staying up with Xway trafic and fun to drive."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Izzy on Monday, August 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Best car ever, I fill up for $28 and it lasts me approx 360 miles. Love it, would be very useful in marketing as it attracts a lot of attention."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Silver Fox (TX) on Tuesday, July 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, driving with an attitude, gets attention...."
Cons: "Automated manual transmission could be better...."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"When I pass Mercedes-Benzs vehicles at 94 mph (limited top speed), they look at their speedometers, tilt their heads, and again look at their speedometers. They start thinking, 'How fast is that dude peddling anyway?' A niche car that gives me 41 mph on the highway at 65 mph and is a real attention getter. I have 50K miles on the clock and it has not missed a beat over four very full years. Being a Screaming Yellow Zonkers color, it is a collectors item because they do not import those into the States since 2008.... Nice little hot-rod that has the name 'Screaming Yellow Zonkers'."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful