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 Nancy on Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive. and see above"
Cons: "See above"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Just minor problems: 1. Distance to service it is 300 miles. 2. Occasionally just from automatic to 5 speed. 3. Automatic locking system constantly has to be repaired. Postive aspects: 1. Love that it only has to be serviced every 10,000 miles. 2. I get 45 mpg; husband gets 39 mpg. 3. Safety features are great and is built by Mercedes. :)"
8 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Cassandra on Tuesday, June 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value, fun to drive, easy to park"
Cons: "Rough ride on bad roads.Lots of ? from people!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"OK, first my "old love" was my 1969 VW Bug. I loved the quick sterring, ease of parking, cute design, and good gas milage. But, now I'm a "Senior Citizen" and I prefer to have a car that has all that PLUS heat, air conditioning, GPS, heated seats, CD/radio etc.(add in the 8 air bags and tridon Safety Cell) I love driving this Smart! I'm mostly traveling around alone, so why do I need a mini van? There is plenty of room in the back compartment for groceries, etc. Plus if you have something larger, the front passenger seat folds down! you can even take your golf clubs! My only complaint would be the ride is a bit rough, but expected with the short wheel base. I bought this car to pull behind the RV, but I drive it everyday, in every kind of weather. It was good in the snow last winter as long as the drift is less that 2 feet! Most importantly, it sits about 9" higher than the normal car, has large door openings, making it easy to enter and exit like my van was. Love it!"
11 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By doug on Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun, mileage, comfort"
Cons: "$200 for oil change, navigation, winds"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"we have owned the 2013 smart for 6 weeks. 47mpg on first tank. averaging 42 since then city/hwy. learning transmission does take some time. paddle shifters like driving a stick with no clutch. bought it on impulse, but overall happy. only cons: high maintenance cost. pay Mercedes rates but drive s mart car. navigation system horrible with $500 for upgrades. now our fiat 500 sits in the driveway."
8 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Mochi on Friday, May 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Size, easy conv top, fun factor"
Cons: "Shifting in early modes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I used to get bored with a car after a year. I'm going on 3rd year and don't even look at anything else. It's useful, inexpensive to own and operate, practical, reliable and useful. Everyone told me "it wouldn't do well in the harsh Nebraska winters. Wrong. No issues. I did opt to put in winter tires for added safety - Bridgestone blizaks which are inexpensive and made a big difference. Shifting on these early models were a bit query, however the newer ones have remedied that."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Dejavu on Monday, April 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Sip gas, excellent fit & finish, value !!"
Cons: "slight shift lag"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love, love, love, my Smart car !!! Despite it's size it has the heart of a lion. My 2009 averages 42 mpg's and I drive it hard testing the limits almost daily. Being built by Mercedes Benz and having a Mitsubishi 3 cyl with just about all the bells and whistles ? Major value for the buck. 20 minute brake pad change (can it get any easier)fit and finish of an E class Mercedes this little car packs a punch. Heater leather seats built to last, a surprising amount of storage space (folks watch us at Costco all the time load up)we love this car. We were so impressed by this one we went out and purchased a 2013 "Ice Shine". With a 5 star crash rating, fuel consumption at a sip we can zip in and out of traffic with ease. Never a safety issue we love these cars. Perfect for the daily commuter, college student or new driver. Being a 2 seater no distractions from lots of passengers. This is a perfect car. Having a muscle car history this little lion changed our minds. The auto stick in the car tends to have a slight lag but I can paddle shift to avoid that. Be it in auto mode, drive it with the stick shift or paddle shift this car is a blast to drive. And the best part ? Both cars fit on one side of the garage so we have room for 4 more !!! No worries on taking it out on a long drive very comfortable and you can dress em up with lots of ideas, body wraps, different wheels endless possibilities. Love these cars !!"
13 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Bet on Saturday, April 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, fun, surprising headroom & storage"
Cons: "can only be towed on a 4-wheel dolly"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Have had the car since spring 2007 and loved everything about it except to two items. My husband and I move often and also drive long distance (such as round trip Florida to Rhode Island) once or twice most years. The first problem is this car cannot be towed normally, which is a hassle due to our lifestyle. It has to be towed on a four-wheel dolly, which is a hassle with our Subaru Forester. The second problem is that the passenger seat does not lay flat so that the passenger can sleep while the car is being driven. Taken together both problems are very minor compared to all the enjoyment this car has provided."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful