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 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!"
6 people out of 10 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"
7 people out of 13 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."
8 people out of 15 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."
7 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Car Enthusiast on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 98,940overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "convertible, parking, paddle shifters, mpg, unique"
Cons: "no AWD availabilty, mpg, slow acceleration"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I Must say this 2009 smart For-Two Passion cabriolet is THE most loved, fun car I have EVER owned. My previous cars include: 1993 Camry LE, 2003 Benz C320 4-matic, 1996 V6 Mustang Convertible, and 2006 Pilot AWD (all my previous cars are automatics since I can't drive a manual). When the smart car came along, it was my chance to drive a manual and look good doing it. This car tops them all because I splurged on the cabriolet. What is there to like? Well, if you examine this car carefully you will see that a lot of thought went into its compact design from the shape of the rear view mirror to the clever storage areas throughout this tiny car. Its uniqueness brings you lots of attention & questions from passersby--more so than other cars more than 4-5x its price. Perhaps because it invites strangers to approach & inquire about the car. There is no snobbery about this car. Just pure fun. I even got approached and stopped by a cop on foot while I was about to drive away. I thought I had parked illegally or done something wrong but she only wanted to find out more about the car! Parking in the City is a breeze. There are more parking spots available to me due to its diminutive size. The herky-jerky transmission that people complain about? Well, I remember the old days when my friend use to take me for a ride in his old manual Honda Civic. His car would behave the same way as he shifted through the gears. I'm not sure if that was a natural characteristic of his car or due to his poor shifting but I came to accept it as a part of the ride characteristics of stick shifts so it doesn't bother me. Most people who bad mouth this car I bet haven't even driven in one. Most likely if they had, they would have been won over by its charm despite all it's quirkiness. There is so much to love about this car but not enough room to put into print."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By K on Friday, October 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas mileage, ease of parking, roomy main compartme"
Cons: "Premium gas, no cruise control"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This has been my most favorite car. The mileage is incredible, the cabin is roomy and comfortable and it's got just enough hp to feel safe (I wouldn't pull out in front of a semi, but for most driving issues the power is fine. The only complaint I have is the handling in high winds on the freeway, and there is no cruise control option. It is an attention grabber and I've lost count on the number of people that have asked me about it."
10 people out of 15 found this review helpful