2009 fortwo New Car Test Drive
The Smart Fortwo is the smallest car sold in the United States. Stretching less than nine feet in overall length, it can be parked in the smallest of spots. Some have famously parked it 90 degrees to curbside without impeding passing traffic and we think it does indeed make for a smart city car.
As its name suggests, the Smart fortwo is a two-seater, designed to transport two people and not much else. The Smart fortwo comes in coupe and convertible versions, both two-door models. It's powered by a tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed automated manual and rear-wheel drive. Meant for use in the city, it's capable of speeds of up to 90 mph.
The Smart Fortwo enters the 2009 model year with a few minor refinements and a couple of new options. First launched in the United States in January 2008, the current Smart Fortwo is actually a second-generation version of this product. The first-generation Smart Fortwo has been available in Europe since late 1998.
The Smart 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, a division of Roger Penske's Penske Automotive Group. Smart USA markets its name in fashionable lower case: smart fortwo.
We think it's best used as a city car. Its small size makes it easy to park and allows it to easily dart in and out of traffic. Designed to offer a low cost of ownership, it's meant to get drivers from A to B without frills. With fuel mileage of 33 mpg in the city and 41 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, this car 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. Its owners are often okay with all of that, and in fact are often enthusiastic about it.
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 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.
The Smart Fortwo is available in two 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 Smart Fortwo Pure coupe ($11,990) 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, does have provisions for radio installation; 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), power steering ($450), heated seats ($220), metallic paint ($225), and silver metallic paint for the tridion safety cell ($175). Daytime running lamps ($50) are a new option for 2009.
The Passion coupe ($13,590) adds a panorama roof with a sun shade, 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. New for 2009, a conventional solid roof may be substituted for the panorama roof for no charge.
The Passion cabrio ($16,990) 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 also 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 brake force 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.