2008 fortwo New Car Test Drive
The Smart Fortwo is an all-new entry in the U.S. car market. At less than nine feet long, it is the smallest car sold in the United States. As its name suggests, it is a two-seater. It comes in coupe and convertible versions, both two-door models. It's powered by a tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, and the transmission is a five-speed automated manual. The Smart Fortwo is rear-wheel drive. Meant for use in the city, it's capable of speeds of up to 90 mph.
The first-generation Smart Fortwo has been available in Europe since 1998. Now in its second generation, the Fortwo is finally available in the United States as a 2008 model. The car is produced by the Mercedes Car Group and sold through stand-alone Smart dealerships and Mercedes-Benz dealers in the U.S. It is imported by Smart USA Distributor LLC, which is a division of Roger Penske's Penske Automotive Group. Smart USA markets its name in fashionable lower case: smart fortwo.
The Fortwo is best used as a city car. It's meant to get drivers from A to B without frills. Its small size makes it easy to park and allows it to easily dart in and out of traffic. With fuel mileage of 33 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, the Smart car will appeal to commuters who make short trips by themselves. Its fuel economy numbers aren't as good as the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid, but they're better than any other economy car.
At the same time, it has its compromises. Its small engine wants for power, the transmission shifts awkwardly, the ride is busy, and it lacks a rear seat and cargo carrying capacity.
On the inside, the Fortwo has a spartan cabin dominated by economy-grade plastics. It is surprisingly roomy, with enough head clearance and leg room for very tall passengers. Shoulder room, however, will be tight for two large occupants. Cubby storage is minimal.
The rear of the Smart Fortwo cabin is an open hatch area. There isn't as much room as in most trunks and certainly not as much as what you'll find in a compact hatchback, but it has enough space for a trip to the grocery store.
Officials from Smart say the Fortwo will have the lowest cost of ownership of any car in the U.S. That's yet to be proven, but it should certainly be one of the least expensive cars to own and operate.
Although pricing for the base Pure model starts at $11,590, most customers will opt for the $13,590 Passion model that has a radio and air conditioning. We're certainly passionate about those two features. But the Passion puts the Fortwo in the price league of larger, roomier subcompacts that can carry more passengers.
The Fortwo isn't the best car for drivers who need an all-around vehicle, but it is a good choice for city dwellers or as a second vehicle to run errands.
The Smart Fortwo is available in three trim levels and two body styles. All Fortwo models are powered by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine that makes 70-horsepower at 5800 rpm and 68 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. The transmission is a five-speed automated manual that can be set to shift like an automatic or can be controlled manually via the gearshift or available steering wheel paddles.
The Pure coupe ($11,590) comes standard with cloth upholstery, fold-flat passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, outside temperature indicator, rear window defroster and wiper, power locks, remote keyless entry, and P155/60R15 front and P175/55R15 rear all-season tires on steel wheels. The Pure does not have a radio, but provisions are provided for radio installation and two radios are offered as options, both with two speakers. The Smart radio option is an AM/FM/CD unit ($350), while the premium radio ($495) is an AM/FM unit with an MP3-compatible six-disc CD changer. Other options include air conditioning with automatic temperature control and a pollen filter ($600), alarm ($160), panorama glass roof with sun screen ($350), power steering ($450), heated seats ($220), metallic paint ($225), and silver metallic paint for the tridion safety cell ($175).
The Passion coupe ($13,590) adds a panorama roof with a sun shade, alloy wheels, air conditioning with automatic climate control, steering wheel shift paddles, power windows, heated power exterior mirrors, an AM/FM radio with CD player, and alloy wheels. In addition to the Pure's options, the Passion offers fog lamps ($110), a dash-mounted clock and tachometer ($120), MP3-compatible six-disc CD changer ($150), and the Smart premium sound system ($350), which includes six-disc CD changer and replaces the standard two speakers with two tweeters, two midrange speakers and a subwoofer. Also offered is a Comfort Package ($850) with power steering, heated leather seats, automatic headlights, and a rain and light sensor.
The Passion cabrio ($16,590) has a power soft top with heated glass rear window and the five-speaker premium sound system with in-dash six-disc CD changer. The Passion cabrio is offered with the Comfort Package, as well as the various separate options available on the other models.
Safety features on all Fortwo models include dual-stage front air bags with passenger side occupant sensor, head- and torso-protecting side air bags, tire-pressure monitor, traction control, electronic stability control with Hill Start Assist, and antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. The Fortwo also has cornering brake control, which applies less braking force to the inner wheels when braking in a turn to help prevent a skid or spin.