Smart Fortwo Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.53/5 Average
264 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

The concept of the Smart car emerged in the early 1990s when the Swiss company Swatch, best known for its kitschy watches, sought to build an affordable city car that would fit into the smallest of parking spots and go easy on fuel. Not too long after, the company paired up with Mercedes-Benz to make the idea a reality. The car was later christened "Smart," an acronym for Swatch Mercedes Art.

The Smart Fortwo, originally dubbed the City Coupe, debuted at the 1997 Frankfurt Auto Show. Although the first generation never made it to the U.S., the tiny two-seater, which persevered through its parent company's financial troubles and an eventual buyout by Daimler-Benz, was later replaced by the slightly larger second-generation Fortwo. Not only is the reworked Fortwo newly available in the States, but an ambitious plan to launch several stand-alone dealerships in the U.S. makes it clear that the Smart brand is serious about competing in the American subcompact market. While its diminutive size and power entail certain on-road limitations, the Fortwo is a worthy candidate for urban commuters who want to maneuver through city congestion and save on gas without giving up the creature comforts of a car.

Current Smart Fortwo

At 8 feet, 10 inches long, the Smart Fortwo is a two-seat subcompact city car and is the smallest production car currently sold in North America. It comes in two body styles: the hatchback Coupe and the convertible Cabrio. The standard trim levels are Pure and the more well-equipped Passion. The Fortwo is powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 71 horsepower and 68 pound-feet of torque and sends its power to the rear wheels through an automated sequential-shift manual transmission.

There's also a limited-edition model from German tuner Brabus that upgrades the Smart with sportier wheels, a stiffer suspension, aerodynamic and cosmetic body cladding, a higher-performing exhaust and heated leather seats.

Because of its Lilliputian proportions (it's more than 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper), safety is at the core of the Fortwo design. The engine is in the rear of the car to increase front crumple-zone space, and the car is built around a cage of high-strength steel known as the Tridion safety cell, which helps the Fortwo post passable if unimpressive frontal crash-test scores. Side impact protection is enhanced by the closer placement of axles to the passenger compartment, and the Smart's scores in side-impact crash testing are top-notch. And although the car might look something like a golf cart, standard safety features like side airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control combine to put that comparison to rest.

Fuel economy is another welcome asset of the Smart Fortwo; its EPA rating is 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. With its 8.7-gallon gas tank, that makes for a lot of driving between fill-ups, though it's worth noting that premium gasoline is recommended.

In our initial reviews, we found the Smart Fortwo surprisingly comfortable. The interior is roomier than it might appear from the outside -- especially in the passenger seat, which is set back 6 inches for increased legroom. (It also folds flat for extra cargo space.) On the road, however, the Smart's manner is less than graceful over rough pavement. Moreover, while the car is admirably stable at high speeds for such a small vehicle, its slablike side panels and upright posture conspire to make it unsettlingly vulnerable to crosswinds.

We aren't fans of the automated manual transmission either. Gearchanges are sluggish and somewhat jerky. The Fortwo is also one of the slowest vehicles for sale today (zero to 60 mph takes 14.1 seconds) and it has a particularly hard time keeping up with traffic on the highway. Still, the Smart Fortwo is great for tooling around city streets. Buyers who aren't looking to do much more than that will probably be quite satisfied with the Smart car.

Used Smart Fortwo Models

The current (second) generation Fortwo debuted for 2008 and was the first Smart model to go on sale in the U.S. There have been no major changes since, though the Brabus trim level wasn't available for its first year.

Designed primarily for urban cities in Europe, the first-generation Smart Fortwo was originally known as the City Coupe and not sold in North America. It debuted for the 1998 model year and it came with a turbocharged three-cylinder engine that was either gasoline-fueled (initially 599cc of displacement and later 698cc) or diesel-fueled (799cc). The first-generation Smart Fortwo was discontinued after the 2007 model year.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 264.00
  • High SPM (Smiles per Mile) - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Comfort, fun to drive and all the elements under the Design heading, I would really give an 11!!! This car is really well thought out and well put together. Plenty of power to get onto highways and keep up with normal traffic at whatever speed. I have had a very new experience with it...buying a new car and after one month nothing broken or any mechanical failures. Once I got used to the manual transmission, it is kinda fun to drive whether in auto-mode or paddle shifters or stick. Im not really a convertible guy, but Im having a super great time with it on this car. Surprise, surprise, it even has a trunk...amazing!

  • A bit high strung! - 2009 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Very high on the cute factor. Really fun to drive with the top down. More interior room is more than expected for such a small car. Premium radio, not so much. Ditto with the A/C. I dont expect a CVT shift with a AM transmission, but Smartie has been in twice to the dealer in three months for very erratic auto shift patterns. Paddle/manual shifting works well.

  • Expected More - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Reading about smarts online I was very excited about the purchase. I had heard tales of astronomical fuel economy and how the EPA numbers were grossly overrated. After owning a smart for several months I can say that this isn’t the case. It only gets about 2-3 MPG better than the civic it replaced. It is much slower, doesn’t brake as well, doesn’t handle as well, and has far less room. The build quality is also dubious with minor trim pieces breaking or feeling very flimsy. For such a small car with such a small engine and so few amenities I feel it should get much better MPG. If you are buying this looking for an ultra fuel saver spend a few dollars more and get a civic/focus/corolla.

  • Stupid Car! - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Had issues from almost day 1. Went through a small puddle during rain storm - caused the passenger seat airbag light to go on. Has never turned off. Barely touch the key while its in ignition it will turn the engine off. Completely unsafe when you are driving. Had it happen a few times (dog touched it). Have repeated issue with the engine not wanting to go into gear, especially reverse. Dont want to even attempt to do a u-turn because it might not go into R and you are stuck in middle of road. Goes through phases. Works for a few weeks then it doesnt. Someone suggested rain might affect it. Battery dies often too. I live on an island & to ship it over costs $400. Have not seen dealer.

  • Two Year Update - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    After two years, the honeymoon is over, but the marriage is still good. I adapted to the fussy transmission. A relaxed driving style works wonders. The ride actually improved with time. Winter driving is okay, but winter parking after a snowstorm is painful because the smart is so light. In the Summer, the AC occasionally blows hot air or the fan stops, and this is after the fan was replaced, a popular warranty fix, Ive been told. The driver side airbag cover popped a bit. Unsightly. But thats the extent of the bad stuff. Overall, the smart is still mostly a pleasure. Im 59" weigh in the high 200s and the car is comfortable and easy to enter and exit. The ragtop of choice.

  • They almost got it perfect - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Had this been a 10,000 car it would have been perfect, but not at 15 grand. Reliability = 1 star for obvious reasons - anybody who sells a car with the worst waranty in America (2 years) doesnt trust their own product. Performance is fine if you dont mind accelerating from 0-60 in 14 - 15 seconds. Certainly something Id deal with for 100 mpg (not even near what this car gets) Gas Mileage - were talking about pushing around a golf cart with a 1 liter engine, and 30-40 mpg on premium gas is all it gets? If this were a 10 grand car, and averaged 80 mpg Id have 2.

  • A car that keeps giving!!! - 2009 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Hello. Sept 2016, My car is a 2009. New in Sept of that year. Now 90k on it and still as good as the day I drove it off the lot. It becomes part of you. No other car in my 50 years of driving had done that!! It is just a fun car to drive in the city or on a long road trip.

  • A car that keeps giving!!! - 2009 Smart fortwo
    By -

    Hello. Sept 2016, My car is a 2009. New in Sept of that year. Now 90k on it and still as good as the day I drove it off the lot. It becomes part of you. No other car in my 50 years of driving had done that!! It is just a fun car to drive in the city or on a long road trip.

  • New Smart Car - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    New Owner and love it! For a single person and my dog, this vehicle has met all my needs, even on the highway. The local driving to work and the stores make the local driving fun. The first trip on the highway was a big step and it exceeded my expectations dealing with the acceleration, wind, air conditioner running, big rig navigation, passing, braking, and just cruising. It is really a fun car and I actually feel safe driving.

  • Fun, but weak in power - 2008 Smart fortwo
    By -

    I have owned this for 2+ months, 2,300 miles. Take the reviews that are from new owners or "100 miles, just picked it up last week" with a grain of salt. Its a new car; of course they are going to love it. I am 64", #225. I have driven with a 66", #260 passenger. TONS of room. It has pep and we even climbed hills with it. You will not see acceleration records with it. But then again, it is not touted as a sports care. Contrary to what it was built for (city), I live in the country and really do like it. I have parked the Tahoe & use this for work: 30-50 mi round trip/day. Very comfortable for a little car. It gets you from pt A to pt B economically & relatively comfortably.

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