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 Andy F. on Wednesday, March 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, great mileage, open air fun"
Cons: "Ride can be bumpy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned this car for over 5 years. During that time the only service has been for oil changes and recommended maintenance. It is a blast to drive and I'm always getting stopped and asked questions. The convertible top is easy to open at any speed."
By GrammyB on Sunday, February 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, good mpg, EASY to wash & wax"
Cons: "NONE that we've found"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We've had our 2012 for two years. (Less than 10,000 miles as we leave the AZ heat for five months each summer.) It took my husband a little while to get used to driving it as this replaced a 5-speed Miata - Zoom Zoom. There is really nothing offensive about this car. More storage room than you would expect. We average 37 to 42 mpg, depending on A/C use. Have taken it on 200+ mile road trips and it was wonderful. You can't beat it for in-town driving. You can make a U-turn in a driveway!!! Absolutely NO problems. Plan to drive this little gem for another 10 years or so."
By Sam on Friday, February 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive. Great mileage. Curious onlookers."
Cons: "Relatively high price for size of car."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"It may feel like driving a go-cart with a gear box. It does bounce over bumps more than a regular sedan 3 times it's length. But if you are not over 70 and don't need a snoozer of a ride, this car is fun. My wife drives it about 5000 miles a year around town and loves every bit of it. It has more leg room than most sedans. It's reliable, quick and fun to drive by shifting the gears with the cute paddle shifters on the steering wheel. I wouldn't drive this thing at 90 mph which I am told they will go, but for an economical drive around town, you can't beat the mileage or fun."
By albo on Thursday, January 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have owned this care for 3+ yrs.PROS: Loved it for size and comfortable interior. Hate it for driving dynamics and minor but costly malfunctioning's. CONS: Driving: makes jerky mvnts when changing gears if you are not careful enough to push it very slow.(Great on highway tho, makes 70mi/hr w/o effort) Horrible on speed bumps. Costly , minor malfunctioning: radio broke down: would cost me $800(w/installation) to replace it! screeching brakes (still good but screeching) and cleaning didn't help it, mechanic said nothing he can do about it. Once the battery in the key died: I could open the car manually but would not be able to lock it manually. I can't open the car's hatchback door while car's keys are in and car is running. I am said, I love the compactness of this car, since I use it for commute only, but... because of above - will get rid of it..."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Don M on Sunday, January 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 350overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, great gas mileage."
Cons: "No spare tire or jack but has a "repair kit""
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Drove from Denver to the western slope of Co.(300 mi) bought this car new 2 days ago. Thus the low mi.It took the Eisenhower Tunnel (elevation 11,000 ft. @ 70 mi per hour in 3rd gear. The little engine was working hard but we passed full size cars with ease. Took Vail pass @10,000 ft at the same speed. And got 50 mi per gallon. (honest) The ride can be a little harsh on rough roads. But we not only kept up with the big guys but passed many. Even on the grades. Top speed on this little guy 92 mph. We leased the car for 3 years so if in the future we dont like it we'll return and walk. But if we like it we'll sign up for a new model. I hope MB makes it with this car because I think its a hit. You have to understand the transmission and why it works the way it does. When you understand why you'll learn to live with it and realize its a good tranny and perfect for this car. It doesnt ride like my Deville but its perfect for around town and short trips.."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Little One on Friday, January 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I've had this car for 5 years now, and I still love owning it! She is really fun to drive and one you learn to compensate for the fact that you're driving something that gets pushed around by air pressure, it's really relaxing. I always get complements on her looks and there is always a patron or two at a gas station fill up that has questions about it and what it's like to own (which I find to be fun). I've kept her on regularly scheduled maintenance and haven't had any mechanical problems yet. My only long term concerns are about the places that I can get it serviced. There are only five places in my state that are designated "Smart Centers" and it's near impossible to find any mechanic that will even look twice at it outside of those locations. It's inconvenient, but it's still totally worth owning. :-)"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful