City Smarts

Smart's ForTwo offers a premium feel in a pint-sized package

By Stuart Schwartzapfel

Photo courtesy of Smart USA

Finally, Europhile Americans can park in true Continental style with the fuel-sipping Smart ForTwo, the überhip staple of congested European cities since 1998. Manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, the ForTwo is partially recyclable and otherwise quite green. Components such as the inner fenders and the underbody trays are made from renewable raw materials and 100 percent recycled plastic. The ForTwo is also classified as an Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle because of its extremely low exhaust emissions. Fuel efficiency is impressive at 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Alongside many à la carte factory options, Smart offers the ForTwo in three trim levels: Pure ($11,590), Passion ($13,590), and Passion Cabriolet ($16,590). Standard features include a five-speed automated manual transmission, a central remote locking system, and a two-spoke leather steering wheel. Available add-ons include a panorama roof, alloy wheels, and heated seats. My metallic silver test vehicle was a Passion Coupe optioned at $16,225 with fog lamps, power steering, a six-CD changer and sound system, and more.

On the streets, the ForTwo drew smiles and thumbs-up from passersby. People just can’t process how small the car is—more than 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper. “Is that an electric car?” several asked. Europeans have grown accustomed to parking the 8.8-foot-long vehicle vertically, at right angles to the curb. But don’t try this at home—even though Smart is looking into reversing the law, it’s still illegal to park this way in the United States.

The ForTwo takes a Flintstones-like 12.8 seconds for its dash to 60 miles per hour (mph), and top speed is electronically limited to 90 mph. But thanks to favorable weight distribution and wheels pushed way out to the corners, the car is really fun to fling around sharp turns. And cruising on highways isn’t the least bit scary. Smart USA is aiming for a four-star safety rating in the States. The rating remained undetermined at press time, but the list of standard safety features is impressive, including a highly visible and stylish steel frame, Electronic Stability Program, an antilock braking system, and full driver and passenger front and side airbags. A high seating position keeps occupants safer in side-impact collisions while also providing commanding road views.

Do you need this car? There are compact vehicles at similar starting prices that are larger and offer more standard features with only marginally worse fuel mileage. But they just aren’t as distinctive, upscale, and maneuverable as the Smart ForTwo.

Head-turner design; fits just about anywhere; great gas mileage; ability to personalize inside and out.
CONS Awkward transmission shift points; brakes take some getting used to; possible wait time for vehicle delivery.
THE VERDICT An intelligent way to navigate urban sprawl.

Issue 25

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