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Review: 2008 smart Fortwo, How smart is it?

November 10th, 2008
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So what are smart cars all about?

The marque smart is the acronym for, “Swatch Mercedes ART”, which was a project by both Mercedes-Benz and Swiss manufacturer Swatch; to develop a new breed of production vehicles. First known as the Swatchmobile, the new designs were set to use new innovative hybrid technologies to achieve the objective of economical cars that are simple to park.

smart ForTwo

Keeping this in mind and taking a glance over the production model smart Fortwo, you can actually see they weren’t far off the ultimate goal. With the exception of a hybrid drive system which will be launched in December this year (read here Fortwo MHD), the Fortwo still manages to stay economical with a very impressive 4.2L/100km on the combined cycle.

For a comparison the Toyota Prius with a hybrid drive system only achieves a 4.4L/100km on the combined cycle. The Fortwo accomplishes this by using a 3-cylinder, 1.0L engine; the smallest engine found in a current production car on Australian soil - oh yeah and the smart only has two seats.

smart ForTwo

To reach these outstanding fuel consumption figures something must give, and it does, the performance from the Fortwo is not something to boast. With 52kW of power and 92Nm of torque, the Fortwo takes some time to get from 0-100km/hr in 13.3 seconds, but this is typically what you expect for a vehicle of this caliber. Notably buyers don’t seem to be the performance orientated type, what a surprise.

If I had to point a finger at something, it would have to be the 5-speed gearbox, we’re not quite sure how this fits into the equation. Gear shifts are not as smooth as you would expect from an “automated” manual gearbox, and the shifts are not as responsive or precise as we would like; even when driven at a regular pace.  

smart ForTwo

People say it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the Fortwo follows suit with a roomy interior that’s not something you would really expect. The seating position is higher than initially expected, towering over all other road users I passed, this makes you subconsciously feel like you’re not in a small car, which works quite well.

Pockets, trays and small compartments are found throughout the cabin; making it easy to secure things away easily. In the rear we have a petite boot for the regular shopping run which comes with an extra storage compartment running across the folding tailgate. Additionally, a retractable loading parcel shelf cover for the smaller items to sit on is utilised to increase storage capacity.

smart ForTwo smart ForTwo

With such a small wheelbase the Fortwo is able to briskly move in an out of traffic with ease, the large steering wheel and power assisted steering allows easy mobility at low speeds. Speed bumps can be a little tricky since all four wheels are on the speed bump at a given time, take it easy over these or you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise. The suspension is quite firm and cabin noise can get a little loud when freeway cruising which could be improved with a softer compound tyre and higher profile.

What you wouldn’t typically expect for a car of this size is the rear wheel drive setup which undoubtedly assists on the handling front (engine also mounted in the rear), a bold move from the smart design team, but this isn't your typical small car.

smart ForTwo

Although the Fortwo can feel claustrophobic at times, there’s little to worry about. Keeping you safe is a class leading crash cell and standard fit electronic safety systems including ABS, ESP and brake assist. Also fitted are full-size driver and passenger airbags; with the addition of standard head and side airbags.

So what will it cost and is it worth it? A smart customer will be looking at a base price of $19,990 for the coupe and $22,990 for the convertible. Add an extra $2,000 if you want the turbocharged variant with a power increase of 10kW (a substantial 19% increase). An optional ‘Primo Package’ is available for $2,000 which includes the softouch – automatic gear programme, Leather seats (includes heated seats), electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, RDS radio with a 6 CD MP3 compatible changer and upgraded speakers.

All in all, its quirky, its fun and its a smart alternative.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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