By on November 23, 2015

2016 smart fortwo exterior-005

2016 Smart Fortwo

0.9L DOHC I3, turbocharged, CVVT (89 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm; 100 lbs-ft @ 2,500)

6-speed dual-clutch automated manual

33 city/39 highway/36 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

34 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $15,400*

As Tested: $18,680*

* Prices include $750 destination charge.

America loves big cars, big trucks and fat crossovers. If you doubt me, all you need to do is look at 2015’s top sellers. The top five vehicles account for 13 percent of all vehicles sold in the USA this year, and the smallest of the five is the Toyota Camry. Not so small. Check the top 20 list, and the smallest entry is the Corolla which has grown so large we would have called it “midsized” in the ’80s.

Today, we’re looking at a very different kind of car: the 2016 smart fortwo (yes, that’s all lower case for some reason), a car that is six feet shorter than the Corolla.

2008 was Smart’s best year in the USA with some 24,000 cheeky micro cars sold. Since then, sales haven’t been swift. Yearly sales numbers in the USA bounce between 5,000 and 14,000. Canadians, however, seem to love them. Sales volumes in the Great White North hover around half the US volume. Not impressed? The entire Canadian market’s sales numbers are “smart-sized” compared to the United States. Heck, Smart outsells Maserati in Canada. Could it be that, like nationalized healthcare, the Canadians are up to something good? Or, just like healthcare, is this a good idea somewhere else, just not in the USA?

The concept of the teeny two-seater started in the 1970s with Swatch wanting to build a car. Yes, the watch people wanted to build a car. After a brief flirtation with Volkswagen, the concept ended up at Mercedes’ door in the mid ’90s as a joint venture. After creating a tiny car, some questionable variants, and a Euro-hoard of fans, Mercedes took total control of the brand entirely. In case you’re wondering, Smart supposedly derives from “Swatch Mercedes ART“.

Since acquisitions haven’t always worked out well for Mercedes, and lilliputian 2-doors are a small segment, the Germans teamed up with Renault to overhaul their teensy transport. This means the new Fortwo shares little more than design cues with the outgoing model and a “whole lot” with the Renault Twingo and the larger (and Euro-only) Smart Forfour. Just as a matter of trivia, the car is made in Smartville, a factory in Hambach, France that was made specifically for Smart construction. For some reason the “S” in Smartville is a capital “S”. Go figure.

2016 smart fortwo exterior-007

Exterior
From the outset, the Smart Fortwo has had an uphill battle in America due to its diminutive dimensions. How small are we talking? At 106.1-inches long, the entire length is shorter than the wheelbase of a Corolla. Think your Mini Cooper is small? The Fortwo is four feet shorter, or about the same length as a big go-kart. For reference, my first new car was a Chrysler LHS that was nearly twice as long. Over the course of a week, my neighbor dubbed the Fortwo a “pregnant rollerskate.”

If there’s one thing we’ve discovered over the years, it’s that Americans don’t value small. Unlike other countries, we buy based on our perceived maximum load instead of buying based on the 95th percentile occupancy and renting the other 5 percent. If you daily commute in a Chevy Suburban you bought for those occasional weekends when the grandparents visit, this is you.

While my normal commute along rural roads and suburban sprawl isn’t the target for the Fortwo, I spent a few days in San Francisco and immediately understood. While you still can’t perpendicular park the Smart legally, I quizzed a San Francisco meter maid on the matter. Her response: “I’ve seen it and I haven’t ticketed them as long as they didn’t stick out more than the other cars.” Even if you don’t want to risk the ticket, the Fortwo can make circles on your average suburban street with cars parallel parked on both sides thanks to a turning circle of just 22.4 feet. That’s only marginally bigger than two Midwestern-strip-mall parking spaces.

The exterior of the Fortwo is a slave to Mercedes’ target dimensions. The front end is flat and broad giving the Smart an almost “pug-nosed” appearance and the rear is more vertical than it appears in photos. In order to give the small car stability, the wheels are pushed to the corners, making the wheelbase to overall length ratio very different from anything else on the market.

2016 smart fortwo tachometer-001

Interior
Even stiffly starched German designers need an outlet for their creativity, which must be the source of the very un-Mercedes cabin. The dashboard, door inserts and the center of the seats are covered in a woven synthetic fabric that looks like the same material of my cross trainers. Smart matches the fabric color to the body panel color on the outside in the majority of models, giving the interior and exterior a two-tone vibe. Lower end trims skip the tachometer and clock “pod” you see in the picture above, which rotates along a vertical axis — so the motorcyclist in the lane next to you can check the time.

Unlike the now-dead Scion iQ, the Smart Fortwo is a strict two-seater; on the bright side, Germans aren’t small people so the Fortwo was designed with six-foot-five folks in mind. The front seats are surprisingly upright in design and headroom is generous. American-sized folks will be happy to hear Daimler engineers added four inches of width to the new cabin.

2016 smart fortwo interior-004

Even though the engine is under the rear cargo area, total cargo space is more generous than I expected. My usual luggage companions, a 24-inch roller bag (U.S. domestic carry-on-max) and 26-inch roller bag (the smallest of the enforced checked luggage on this side of the pond) actually fit behind the seats without issue. With both seats all the way back in their tracks, the cargo hold measures in at 7.8 cubic feet. Thanks to the shape, this cargo area is more useful than what you find behind the Kia Sorento’s third row for actual luggage. Access to cargo area is handled via a glass lift gate or the fold-down tailgate. This allows for a lightweight tailgate party for two French models. (The weight limit is 220 lb.) Need to stuff a bodyboard inside? The front passenger seat folds nearly flat allowing six-foot long items in the cabin.

Drivetrain
Displacing just 9/10ths of a liter, the Fortwo’s three-cylinder engine is turbocharged by default and cranks out 89 horsepower and 100 lbs-ft of torque. As you may have guessed by now, it’s under the trunk making Smart and Porsche the only brands that sell rear engined cars in America. (The Alfa 4C is a mid-engine design.) Sending power to the rear is your choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (think DSG).

Oddly enough, this engine wasn’t designed by Mercedes or Renault directly, but by Renault low-cost subsidiary Dacia. In Europe you’ll find nearly the same engine powering the Dacia Sandero, the very same Dacia frequently lampooned on Top Gear. While not as smooth as the 1.0-liter Ecoboost three-banger in the Fiesta, this Romanian/French/German engine is smoother than BMW’s 1.5-liter triple in the Mini Cooper.

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Drive
You should probably know that in late 2007 I put a deposit down on a Fortwo Cabrio. Gas prices in the San Francisco Bay Area were climbing rapidly and I had memories of a diesel Smart I drove in Europe with a funky one-off manual conversion, so I put $99 down and waited. After many weeks, a U.S.-spec Smart arrived for a test drive. I asked for my $99 back. The size of the car wasn’t the problem, nor was the price tag. The main reason I walked away was the transmission. It shifted like a drunk 14 year old that had never driven a stick before. Starts were rough and late, gear shifts took a small eternity, and on steep grades the transmission would occasionally change its mind mid-shift and go back to the lower gear. The experience was so maddening that the dealer was telling people to shift manually instead of letting the electronics do the work. The 2016 model is night-and-day different. The new six-speed dual-clutch unit is now on par with Volkswagen’s dry-clutch DSG in terms of smoothness, although launches in first gear are a hair slower.

With just under 90 ponies under the hood, acceleration t0 60 takes 10.3 seconds with the DCT and a hair less with the manual since the computer doesn’t like to slip the clutch much in first. That represents a significant improvement over the last generation and is right in line with entries like the Prius C. What the number doesn’t communicate is the mid-range power the small engine cranks out. Thanks to the generous torque, the Smart has no problem hill climbing in fifth or sixth gear.

2016 smart fortwo exterior-010

When it comes to dynamics, the Fortwo has something in common with the Porsche 911 and the Alfa Romeo 4C: weight distribution. With a majority of its pounds over the rear axle and staggered tires (185/60R15 rear and 165/65R15 up front), the front feels light and willing to turn. Speaking of turning, the front wheels contort to nearly a 45-degree angle allowing an insanely small 24 foot turning circle. Although power steering is now standard, there’s the faintest hint of steering feedback. The Fortwo is — dare I say it — fun to drive on a winding mountain road. Out on the open highway, the refinement in this generation is immediately obvious. The last generation Fortwo felt “twitchy” on the highway, but thanks to better steering programming and an extra four inches of width, the smart feels much more stable when being passed by large trucks and SUVs.

When you start pushing the Smart on the highway, you’ll discover that this suspension is perfectly suited to the small car. With a wheelbase this short you do get some interesting body motions on washboard pavement, but it’s far more civilized than I expected. Although the rear suspension is not an independent design, it is not a solid live axle either. The reason for the “de Dion tube” design is that it allows the engine to be “sprung weight” while deliberately retaining the dynamics and packaging efficiency of a solid rear axle.

Push the smart farther than 8/10ths and you’ll quickly realize that Mercedes programmed the stability to intervene early and aggressively. It’s a pity because there is a spark in this chassis that really wants to dance. Sadly, the stability control is operable at essentially all speeds and will even cut engine power when the wheels are at full lock. This means you can’t get too crazy in the parking lot with that 45-degree front tire angle — and forget Smart-drifting.

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At 36 mpg combined with the six-speed DCT, the Fortwo’s fuel economy hasn’t changed appreciably since 2008. With a heavy right foot, I averaged 34 mpg during my week. That means the Smart is less efficient than a Toyota Yaris or Scion iA and about the same as a Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta SFE or Honda Civic. A big part of the reason is aerodynamics: the short and blocky design simply takes more effort to push through the air than the wedge shape of the Toyota Prius. Another thing worth mentioning is the Fortwo still has an appetite for premium gasoline. If you were looking for a small car to “save on gas,” you’ll need to look elsewhere.

I hadn’t expected to bond with the Fortwo during my week, given my history with the last Smart. However, after a week with the wee rollerskate, I have to say that driving it made me smile. I also expected to insert a quip about the Scion iQ being a smarter buy than a Smart. Then I discovered that Toyota killed the iQ. This means that the kind of driving experience you get in the 2016 fortwo can only be found at the Smart dealer — or your local indoor go-kart joint.

Speaking of karts, if you think your Mini drives like a go-kart, you need to try one of these. With your rump nearly on the rear axle, the engine in the back, a turning radius some go-karts would be jealous of, and rear-wheel drive, you can tell the fortwo would be a hoot without stability control. I want to see someone start an indoor Smart-karting series with these babies.

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The greatest problem with the fortwo is that most Americans think small equals cheap and, in general, Americans aren’t fans of small. Priced from $16,650 to around $20,000 for the gasoline model, you can buy a variety of four and five seat vehicles with similar or better mileage for the same or less. Why isn’t it the Smart cheaper? Put simply, building a smaller car may save on materials, but the rest of the cost structure invariably becomes more expensive. With a high quantity of unique parts, fabrication in Europe and the need for a high percentage of strong steel for crash safety, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Versa can be made for 30-percent less. That means the Smart Fortwo is, and will remain, a niche car. It’s a graceful landing, in a teeny-tiny plane, at a ginormous airport. Unlike Europe, there are few places in the USA that “need” the Smart. New Yorkers and folks in San Francisco that want a quirky small car with go-kart driving dynamics will love the Fortwo. The rest of America is likely to pass it over for a Honda Fit or Toyota Prius.

Dear Mercedes, if you bring back a roadster, program the stability control to let its hair down and crank up the boost to 150 ponies, I’ll put another deposit down on a Smart AMG. It won’t be any more practical, but it’d be a heck of a lot of fun. Oh, and think about that Smart-kart series…

Smart (Mercedes-Benz) provided the vehicle and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5 Seconds

0-60: 10.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.4 Seconds @ 83 MPH

 

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70 Comments on “2016 Smart Fortwo Review – Honey, I Shrunk The Car [Video]...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Got Cookie Monster goin’ on with that center column & vents.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “the smallest entry is the Corolla which has grown so large we would have called it “midsized” in the ’80s.”

    You know, I think the Corolla became a mid-size in 1993, when it was nearly the size of the Camry. To my recollection it seems like they took it -down- in size after that, for the 98 restyle. Too close for comfort, perhaps?

  • avatar
    whynot

    I don’t understand why Smart is not bringing the forfour over. There is nothing in Daimler’s stable to cannibalize. If they are worried about stealing fortwo sales then why don’t they just drop the fortwo (which as noted, was never a huge seller here) and make that Europe only instead of the forfour, but I guess since the forfour is assembled with the Renault they need the American volume for the fortwo production.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “If you daily commute in a Chevy Suburban you bought for those occasional weekends when the grandparents visit…”

    I have no problem with this. Also Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    There are so many things I’d rather have than this shameful and funny-joke-styled little thing that looks like a dented tomato. You can’t drive one to a nice restaurant, you shouldn’t be seen in one if you want to get a date, and you can’t take coworkers to lunch in it.

    It’s rubbish, will cost more to service over the long haul because it’s a Mercedes, and finding trim bits will be harder because they aren’t popular. It costs the same as a very sexful Mazda3 5-door.

    If I’m getting a slow, cheap Mercedes, I’d rather have a tidy 190E and travel in timeless dignity and style.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      And like most, you completely miss the point. The point is that if you live somewhere that parking is a nightmare, you want one of these. You can fit TWO of them in a normal parking space. That tiny gap left in the row is big enough to stash the thing. The fact that it is now nice to drive is a bonus. You live in OHIO, i.e. flyover country where the stripmalls are endless and so are the parking lots. Try living in the downtown of an old coastal city with on-street only parking and you will see the point of this car. Especially with the rapid proliferation of pay-and-display parking meaning more small gaps to squeeze into. It’s not a huge market, but it is a market.

      If I still had a commute I would be all over an eSmart as a dedicated commuter pod. ~$120/mo on a low miles lease.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I don’t miss the point, I think the point is so small and niche that they shouldn’t bother. This car is applicable to residents of what, six coastal cities nationwide?

        It still doesn’t look nice.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I’d call it nine coastal metros, six on the east coast, three on the west. Those nine metros together have something like a quarter of the nation’s population.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @CoreyDL

          They sell more than Porsche sells GT3s – is that car too niche to bother with as well?

          Mercedes obviously sees a business case in selling this car in the US, to the point of bringing in the new generation when they could just stop. So what’s it to you one way or the other? Heaven forbid we have choice in this country.

          Historically the big problem with this car is that it drove like poop. They fixed that

      • 0 avatar

        I would be interested in one if I lived in Boston, instead of Lexington, or even if I went into Boston more often than I do. I’d definitely want one in Manhattan. And definitely in San Francisco. But I’d want a stick and a clutch.

        In other matters, Dykes’ figures indicate that Canada has around five times as many smarts per capita as the US.

        Great review.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Quebec?

          It was a looong time since I was in Quebec, but I remember seeing a wall around the city. That type of things lends itself to a poor parking situation inside the wall, although I don’t remember it being any more narrow than any other city in North America (at least on the East Coast, nothing like a spread out Southwestern US city).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Fantastic review. It really made me smile and think about other fun small cars that didn’t quite make it in the USA marketplace. Suzuki Swift GT, Honda CRX, Honda DelSol. The sad fact is you can’t sell a pocket rocket to folks with supersized tastes.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The CRX was pretty successful. Suzuki’s claim to fame in the US was vehicle nobody wanted once 60 Minutes showed how it could tip over if you sneezed while driving it. The DelSol was an answer to a question nobody asked thus it was a dud.

      The main complaint about the smart (lowercase “S”) was the transmission. I still don’t see this being any thing more then a niche, but at least it sounds fun now. A guy I work with has the old model decked out like a Steelers (capital “S”) helmet, black with the two tone yellow bits and various stickers. The wheels are laughable with a 3 bolt pattern, I honestly think I’ve seen riding mowers with larger tires.

  • avatar
    pbr

    Definitely needs nanny-defeat and a spec series. Wonder if they’ve got enough beans to pop out of a draft and complete a pass? Manual trans is a pleasant surprise, wouldna guessed that would ever happen. Even having a revision is a pleasant surprise, loosens up the pickup/cuv/Camcord hegemony a bit.

    Now wondering if this is close enough to an all-weather motorcycle to be worth a look … prob not, even some of the liquorcycles around here are faster than 10s 0-60.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    The bottom line is that it’s half a car for a whole car’s price. People who consider that a good deal must have half a brain.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Precisely. It’s an Aston Martin Cygnet (too much money for not enough car), and will likely sell just as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      I would agree, but for the 4 years I lived in Italy. I love my truck, but if my work ever takes me to NY, SF, or anywhere like that again then sure, I’d consider one. Like anything, different jobs take different tools.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Let’s see.
    2014 Honda Accord I4/CVT regular fuel – 37-38 mpg real world mixed highway driving.
    Cost $21K
    Smart toy – $18.8K – EPA highway rating 36 mpg with premium gas
    I’m surprised they sell more 100 of these in the US except in the center cities of the old East coast cities.

    • 0 avatar
      Yak

      Agreed. This thing should get double the gas mileage and burn regular. It’s a joke. Wanted a subcompact for our courier business and ended up with a lightly used, fun to drive Mazda2 for half the price of a new Smart, with 5 doors, double the room, a real transmission and better gas mileage on regular. It’s not as tiny as the Smart for parking, but at 155″, it’s still pretty easy to park and a cinch to maneuver in traffic.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait for this generation to replace our current crop of Car2Go vehicles. As stated in the review, that transmission is just awful. The Car2G0 service is mighty useful though.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I still miss my old one, goofy transmission and all. It was nice not having to slug around a quarter-half ton of dead car weight everywhere I went. I don’t miss (trying) to work on it, though.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Looks like it should star in the next episode of Pixar’s “Cars”.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    RR layout, 5MT, turbo I3 under trunk, would hoon.. oh wait, “and forget Smart-drifting”. Damnit!

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    My lawn mower, with an attached tow behind self-powered leaf mulcher, is about 4 feet shorter than my wife’s Camry. It must be at least a yard longer than a fortwo. The two engines are around 1/3rd the power of the fortwo and it is neither fast nor particularly agile. Handling is severely degraded when the cubic yard sized mulch bin is full of oak leaves. Mileage is also lousy. On the plus side, the mower and mulcher together can be had for about 1/4th the price of the fortwo. Also, I expect it does a much better job of mulching and mowing than the fortwo – doesn’t even look like that’s an option.
    America! Our lawn mowers are bigger than your cars.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    The smart dealer in Las Vegas did such paltry business that they closed the standalone store and now you buy them from a vending machine in the Mercedes dealership :)

    They also happen to be sitting on four certified 2013 smarts, each priced at $6,995. I wouldn’t buy one of those because of the horrendous transmission, BUT…

    I could see myself buying a 2016 smart, three years from now, for $6,995.

  • avatar

    A year or so ago, I could have bought a used two seater Mercedes SL550 or a four-door CLS550. I’d always dreamed of getting a SL, but I decided on the CLS because I often need to carry a lot of stuff and felt it would be a bit more practical.

    After I bought the CLS I found a girlfriend and she, me and her bandmates went on a lot of adventures in that car.

    If I’d gotten the SL, or the Smart, I wouldn’t have been able to go on half the adventures I have.

    Moral: Life strikes, you never know what will happen to you, so flexibility – i.e. a 4-door – is worth its weight in gold.

    With price and fuel economy equivalent of much larger and more comfortable cars, I just don’t see much of a place for the Smart.

    PS Still going on great adventures with the CLS, I just love that car! :)

  • avatar
    JCK

    The best and maybe only good reason to buy this car is for ease of parallel parking in congested areas.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Where’s Jeremy’s?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    If I had to put up with everyday street parking, I’d buy one of these in half a heartbeat. The biggest issue with the old one was the transmission; the second biggest reliability. I’d put up with potential reliability headaches to be able to park EVERY DAMN TIME because there’s always some little spot normal cars can’t fit into.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I’m still toying with the idea of a smart. My commute is 15 miles one way on mostly two lane roads with about 4 miles on an interstate connector. I drive by myself, so my “95%” drive requirement would be more than covered by a smart. We’re looking at trading/selling the wife’s Scion tC for something like an xB so we can still haul puppies for our weekend rescue runs. I’ve driven the last gen, and yes, the trans isn’t the most, um, enjoyable. But right now, the local dealers are advertising $99/month leases for the outgoing variant. It really is sorely tempting for that kind of pocket change. I wanted to wait until the new ones came out (because manual trans!), but the base price is rather steep and the initial lease rates are a tad higher (and only for the automatic-equipped). I suppose I could wait two or three years for them to depreciate, as well…but my BIL is in need of a vehicle sooner than later and I’d like to be able to gift him my old ’04 Lancer and find a replacement commuter. That said, with us, my mother and (soon) my sister all owning homes within a 20 mile range, the thought of a small (think older Toyota, Canyon/Colorada, Frontier) pick up for under $10,000 for those garbage/Home Depot/garden runs is mighty appealing, as well.

    And yes, I’ve inquired about the EV smart, but nobody around here has one (or is really willing to locate one) between Birmingham and Nashville…

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Leaf. Leases are equally cheap, it’s more comfortable and practical, and it’s got more than enough range for your commute.

      IMO the sensible use case for the fortwo begins and ends at people who face difficult parking every day or at least often.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      If you can handle an extra 42″(!) inches in length, a Mirage will be cheaper, get better MPG on regular gas, and offer more storage or two extra seats in an emergency.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Where do you live? I only ask because my old KLR650 would get nearly 50 mpg and it too would meet your 95 percent in many areas of the country, can be had for peanuts, and was Soviet Tractor simple to work on.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I don’t see why it’s necessary to beat the dead horse that the Smart isn’t for most Americans. It’s not like Mercedes can’t read sales numbers. For those few who do need it, there’s nothing else that can do what it does.

    A side prediction: With that Toyota reliability, I’ll bet the iQ’s out there will hold their resale value very, very well from now on, like the Honda Element has.

  • avatar
    merkidemis

    Is the turning circle 22.4 feet or 24 feet?

  • avatar
    Peter Reynolds

    Good review. A de Dion axle removes the unsprung weight of the differential, compared to a solid rear axle.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      And since the Smart ForTwo doesn’t use a solitary differential, it removes the unsprung weight of the engine, portions of the exhaust, transmission *and* the differential. It’s a big difference vs if it had a solid rear axle.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Reynolds

        This car certainly has a differential.
        The engine, gearbox, and exhaust are sprung weight regardless of whether the suspension is de Dion or live axle.
        The amount saved in unsprung weight between the two systems is approximately the weight of a live axle minus the weight of a de Dion tube.

        Your article was interesting to read, as it answered all the questions I had about the new cars drivability.

  • avatar
    GrayOne

    If you’re going to pay as much as a Spark/Fiesta/Rio/Yaris/Fit for a car that is so much smaller it better have stellar gas mileage.

    The smart, considering how small it is and how much it costs, gets horrible mileage, which is why no one is buying it.

    I would buy one, regardless of how much everyone would make fun of me, if it got something like 50+ MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      (Almost) no one buys a smart because it’s practical or frugal. People buy it because they look at one and, for no rational reason at all, say, “Ooooh, I want one of those!”, like a Mustang convertible or a Hummer.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      50 is kind of unrealistic without some VW-style cheating. Compare the smart to something like the Chevrolet Spark – they have about the same power, the smart weighs about 10% less than the Spark (roughly), and gets about 10% better city fuel economy. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s also in the realm of where it should be without breaking the laws of physics (it should probably get the numbers it does on regular instead of premium though, unfortunately). And, as mentioned, the aerodynamic limitations of the thing means it’ll never be the greatest on the highway. But then, if you do that much highway driving, the smart probably also isn’t the best for you.

      Sadly enough, the Mitsubishi Mirage is pretty much the car everyone seems to want the smart to be (nevermind that the smart exists to be really easy to park, and really easy to park alone), and yet everyone seems to write off the Mirage as awful.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    Back in 2007, we had one of these on the used car lot at the dealer I worked at. It was a Passion, and a diesel. I borrowed it for a long weekend and drove the thing all over. At first I hated the transmission, but by the end of the three days, I loved it. I got so used to shifting using the throttle. Before I took it back, I thought I’d better fill it up. It cost less than three dollars! I wanted to buy it, but they were asking 16,000 for it, more than I could afford. It was only a year old, and had about 6,000 km’s on it.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I live somewhere that parking almost merits a car this size, but the Smart looks like a Porta-potty, inside and out. There are lots of them here, but the vast majority are electric Cars2Go rentals. Most of those look like filthy discarded toys at this point. Gross.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Another great review, Alex.

    A friend of mine has an older smartfortwo; he is in technical sales. I’m sure the car generates a lot of discussion with his clients.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Girlfriend and I rented one of these after a bus clipped my 15 yr old Bimmer and ADAC was taking care of us, on a trip to Leipzig. Extremely pleasing to drive. Loved the trans and the feeling of driving like the Mother from the movie “Ponyo” whipping through all types of traffic and parking anywhere you felt like. Seriously. Anywhere. This is Europe after all and if it fits and there ain’t no sign, it parks. I’m 6’1″, girlfirend 5′ 11″ and luggage all fit and did admiringly well on the A-Bahn.

    However, High Munich Girlfriend loathed this car. Dreaded getting into what she dubbed, “the yogurt cup” but her German roots wouldn’t allow her to pass up the free rental.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    I will never understand why smart ditched the old diesel engine (the sole engine on the first model to arrive in Canada back in the late 90’s) when the last gen was released. Granted, a lawn tractor could come up to speed quicker than that engine, and there was a bit of a learning curve given that it was a clutchless manual (not the same manumatic as the last gen).

    I also believe that the best of the last gen was the Electric Drive model. Range was limited, but you did not have the same transmission (ED models had a single speed transmission, I believe) and was quite quick too.

    This new gen looks good, but it is a shame that smart did not put fuel economy as a primary objective here. Style has taken a lead and though it looks good, it kinda defeats the purpose of having a car this size if it sucks gas as much as a Honda Fit – given how much larger the Fit is.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I think the Smart Roadster needs to come back. Now that they have a drivetrain that doesn’t suck, a small sports car that undercuts the Miata makes sense as a niche, assuming the costs pencil out. The Roadster was the best regarded of the first generations of Smart.
    Here in Amerika where end on parking and and super narrow streets are not an issue, a small 4 seater like a Honda Fit makes more sense because cost and fuel mileage are similar and you get a back seat. OTOH I think Smart is missing a huge potential market as a highway legal golf cart.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I love all the “this isn’t for most Americans so why bother” snark. As most Americans buy a full sized truck or a Camry then I guess we needn’t bother selling Miata’s, Boxsters, and cars like this. Pretty sure it outsells brownmanualdieselwagons but nobody complains about them.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    >>Put simply, building a smaller car may save on materials, but the rest of the cost structure invariably becomes more expensive. <<

    Look at RV's. Smaller "Class B"'s can easily cost double or triple the price of much larger "Class C"'s.


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