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
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. :)"
2 people out of 3 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!"
9 people out of 16 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."
6 people out of 9 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."
3 people out of 3 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 !!"
12 people out of 14 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 1 found this review helpful