By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 3.5
When the Smart Fortwo debuted in 2008, America's smallest car garnered an instant following as buyers flocked to this 2-seater for its low price, good fuel economy, and the sheer Euro-chic factor it brought to our shores. The years since have not been so kind to Smart, a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. Since its launch, the Smart Fortwo has been met with mediocre reviews and dwindling sales. Additionally, better vehicles such as the Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500 have entered the microcar scene. Meanwhile, cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa offer comparable fuel economy and more room at a similar price. The 2013 Smart Fortwo coupe and cabriolet can sneak into the smallest parking spots, along with the newest member of the family, an all-electric model.
If finagling your car into the tiniest of parking spots is a daily difficulty, you'll appreciate the fact that the Smart Fortwo is the smallest new car in America. At just 106.1 inches in length, the Smart is less than half as long as a regular-cab Ford F-150.
The Fortwo's nervous highway manners and its unrefined automated transmission make driving feel like a chore rather than a privilege. Unless you're married to some facet of the Smart, there are plenty of compact and subcompact cars that offer far better road manners, more standard equipment, and seating for five.
The biggest news for the Smart lineup is an all-new electric version. The plug-in Fortwo is more powerful and will goes farther per charge than its previous, limited-quantity EV version. The standard lineup sees the addition of two special editions and a Brabus sport package.
Driving Impressions For a vehicle with such a short wheelbase – a mere 73.5 inches – the 2013 Smart Fortwo's ride is surprisingly comfortable. However, the Fortwo's road manners become increasingly skittish...as it leisurely gets up to speed. This car is no picnic on freeways. We also grew tired of having to make constant steering corrections to keep the Smart Fortwo on course. Then there is the Smart's automated manual transmission, which changes gears with all the grace of a farm tractor. A top speed of 90 mph and a 13-second 0-60 mph time combine to make the Smart Fortwo one of the slowest new vehicles on the road. If there's a silver lining, it's that you get to "floor it" on a regular basis, and no self-respecting cop would ever pull you over. There is one thing the Fortwo excels at: maneuverability. With its tiny footprint and turning radius of under 30 feet, the Smart Fortwo could be the easiest vehicle you've ever parked.
TINY TURNING RADIUS
With a 28.7-foot turning circle, you'd have to hop on a Schwinn to do better than the Smart. This enables the Fortwo to flip U-turns like nobody's business and slide into the tightest of parking spots.
TRIDION SAFETY CELL
A (legitimate) concern about driving a car as small as a Smart is the potential to collide with a larger vehicle, which in the Fortwo's case is, well, any other vehicle except a Smart. To ease those worries is the Smart's high-strength steel cell. Inspired by racecar roll cages, it helps distribute energy if a crash occurs.
The old adage of "Never judge a book by its cover" is appropriate for the 2013 Smart Fortwo. Though tiny on the outside, the Smart's interior is surprisingly roomy. The Fortwo's tall shape creates ample headroom and legroom for two passengers, while the floating design of its dash adds to the cabin's sense of spaciousness. The Smart's rear cargo area is quite a bit smaller than that of a subcompact, but is large enough to swallow a bag of golf clubs. For further cargo flexibility, the passenger seat folds flat to carry additional items.
With its almost toy-like size and shape, the Smart Fortwo looks like nothing else on the road. The Smart Fortwo has a tall profile, doors that take up the majority of its sides, and a long wheel-base relative to the car's actual length. Body panels are made of dent-resistant plastic, a plus for the shopping cart-laden urban environments for which the Smart is intended. On coupe models, the Fortwo's roof can be had as a conventional, solid one or as a large, see-through panel made from polycarbonate. Cabriolet models have an automatic soft-top that can be opened to various positions at any speed. Cabriolet models also have removable roof side bars for a more open experience, and a glass rear window housed within the fabric roof.
The Smart's base trim is dubbed Pure, but it might better be called Spartan because this model is so lacking in creature comforts most of us now take for granted in a new car. Forget not just having power windows – you'll have to crank your own – for its tempting starting price of around $13,000, you won't even get a radio. Air conditioning, too, is considered an option in this model, as is power steering. What you will get are power door locks and a 2-spoke leather steering wheel. Spending over $2,000 more and stepping up to the Passion model brings a panoramic roof, air conditioning, power windows, and yes, a radio with two speakers and a USB input. Safety features include eight airbags and stability control.
Extras on the Pure trim model include an AM/FM radio with USB and auxiliary inputs, heated seats, air conditioning, power steering, and cruise control. Passion models can be made more passionate with a navigation system, heated leather seats, Bluetooth, cruise control, power steering, and LED running lights.
The 2013 Smart Fortwo is powered by a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder Mitsubishi engine that makes 70 horsepower. That isn't a lot of power, but at less than 1,900 pounds, the Smart doesn't have much mass to move. The engine is located in the rear of the Smart and, unlike most other small cars of its ilk, drives the rear wheels. The sole transmission is a very unrefined 5-speed automated manual. Highway fuel economy on the Smart is rated up to 38 mpg. That figure is good, but you might expect better from such a tiny vehicle. Also note, the Smart Fortwo uses premium gasoline. The all-electric Smart uses a 55-kilowatt motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, and has been rated by the EPA to achieve the equivalent of up to 122 mpg in city driving.
70 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
68 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 34/38 mpg
Electric magneto motor
96 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 122/93 mpg equivalent
The 2013 Smart Fortwo Pure has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price starting of just over $13,000. Better-equipped Passion models start around $15,600, and Cabriolets start around $18,600. The electric-drive Smart coupe is priced around $25,000, while the electric cabriolet is around $28,000. The Smart Fortwo has a tempting starting price to be sure, but it's not the lowest out there. The 2013 Nissan Versa and 2013 Chevrolet Spark start at under $13,000 and have more room and features. The 2013 Scion iQ, meanwhile, starts around $16,000, and a 2013 Fiat 500 comes in at $16,700. Before buying, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are actually paying for the Smart Fortwo. The resale value of the Smart Fortwo is predicted to be average at best for the Pure trim, and worse than average for Passion coupe and Cabriolet trims.
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