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 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."
5 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Steve on Monday, January 05, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Outstanding value; safe and inexpensive to drive"
Cons: "Comfortable but spartan interior"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Smart is a spin off of Mercedes and the mechanical parts reflect this heritage. If you are looking for luxury and power, this is not your vehicle. But if you are looking for a safe car that is fun to drive, easy to park, highly reliable, and an outstanding value to drive, the smart fortwo may be for you"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
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!"
22 people out of 36 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"
10 people out of 16 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."
12 people out of 20 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."
10 people out of 19 found this review helpful