By far the smallest vehicle on sale in the United States, the smart fortwo is a truly unique two-passenger subcompact car with a surprisingly large interior for its Lilliputian dimensions. Through the smart's middling fuel economy and poor highway manners will turn off some buyers, those simply seeking a nimble and easy-to-park city runabout should look no further.
Now in its third generation, the smart fortwo is all new for the latest model year. While the tall and narrow overall shape didn't change, the model received a much softer-looking front end that ushers in the company's new design language.
The fortwo's diminutive overall length of 106.1 inches (approximately 50 inches shorter than a four-door MINI Cooper) remains the same, with the generously-sized interior carrying over as well. Though decidedly spartan in base models, the fortwo's cockpit features quality materials, a well laid-out dashboard and intuitive controls.
The fortwo can't be ordered with a conventional touch screen-based infotainment system, but the free Cross Connect smartphone application provides features such as navigation, trip history, fuel consumption, online radio and even city guidebooks. It also saves the car's exact parking location.
As one would expect, the fortwo excels in the city, where it can zip through traffic and fit in the smallest of parking spaces. Maneuvering it is a breeze, too, thanks in part to a curb-to-curb turning radius of 22.8 feet. However, it's much less at home on the highway, where its tall greenhouse and its short wheelbase make it a bit darty and susceptible to crosswinds.
Mounted at the rear of the fortwo is a turbocharged 0.9-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 89 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and a generous 100 lb-ft. of torque starting at 2,500 rpm. The engine is new to the smart lineup, but it's a time-tested unit that powers a handful of Renault compacts and sub-compact models on the other side of the pond.
The last-gen fortwo's silly, rough-shifting single-clutch automated manual transmission has finally been tossed out. Instead, the fortwo comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, and buyers looking to go clutchless can order a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox at an extra cost.
With the five-speed manual, the fortwo can reach 60 mph from a stop in 10.1 seconds. Opting for the dual-clutch unit bumps the 0-to-60 time to 10.5 seconds, and top speed checks in at 96 mph regardless of which transmission is chosen.
The fortwo returns 32 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, figures that are mediocre at best considering that many larger, non-hybrid vehicles can achieve 40 mpg or better on the highway. Additionally, 91-octane fuel is required.
Trim Level Breakdown
Smart offers the fortwo in four trim levels called pure, passion, prime and proxy, respectively.
Pure models come standard with LED daytime running lights, 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, automatic A/C, a multi-function steering wheel, a 3.5-inch configurable TFT screen in the instrument cluster, cruise control, power windows, a locking glovebox, a single cup holder, a flat folding passenger seat, and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.
Passion models up the ante with 15-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable driver's seat, power heated mirrors, a center console, three cup holders and a coin holder.
Prime models gain a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, LED tail lamps, rain and light sensors, black leather upholstery, ambient lighting and heated seats.
Finally, proxy models come fully loaded with blue and white cloth upholstery, a JBL sound system, 16-inch light alloy wheels, a chromed exhaust tip, alloy pedal caps, and a lowered suspension system. Additionally, cars equipped with the optional dual-clutch transmission gain steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Highlights from the list of options include an arm rest, rear parking sensors, a smartphone cradle, and a proximity warning function.
With full-size SUVs, enormous pickups and gargantuan 18-wheelers roaming the roads, smart knew that it had take special care in ensuring that the fortwo would protect its occupants in event of a collision. The car was designed from the outset with safety in mind and features a reinforced high-strength steel tridion safety cell, eight airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, traction and stability control systems as well as ABS with electronic brake force distribution. The fortwo also come with crosswind assist, a feature usually found on much bigger models like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van.
The smart fortwo is the smallest subcompact in the U.S., but those not set on having the most diminutive car at any cost may also want to check out the Fiat 500. There are also slightly larger subcompacts such as the Ford Fiesta, Mazda Mazda2 or MINI Cooper to consider.