2009 SMART fortwo Review

Premium micro-car has functionality and style, but it's no bargain

2009 SMART fortwo Review

It’s fashionable nowadays to sneer at big SUV, those wastrels who chug for hours straight from the gas pump. Small is “in” in a big way, whether it’s miniscule phones or new vehicles.

FAST FACTS

1. The Smart fortwo is powered by a 70hp 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine.

2. Fuel economy is rated at 33/41 mpg (city/hwy).

3. A Cabriolet model is offered but at a significantly higher starting price of $16,990.

If you follow the current downsizing trend right to its logical end, you’ll find the Smart fortwo, the tiniest four-wheel car on sale in North America. In person, it’s a riot, and its itty-bitty dimensions make you want to pinch its plasticized cheeks. It looks more like a life-sized Tamagotchi than a method of transportation.

The Smart originated in meetings between Mercedes-Benz and the Swatch watch company nearly two decades ago to solve Europe’s overcrowding woes. The first fortwo sold like gangbusters to a continent ready with shared storage areas and nose-to-the-curb parking; nearly a million Smarts have found homes since the brand’s debut on the basis of an inexpensive, fuel and space efficient, safe commuter vehicle. And yes, safety is right at the Smart’s core, evidenced by the silver “tridion safety cell” that makes up much of the fortwo’s profile.

PLENTY OF SAFETY FEATURES

To attract buyers in the land of the Chevrolet Suburban and Toyota Tundra, Smart ensured its offering has the most standard safety features of anything in its price range. Besides the steel shell and beefy side-impact structural members, there are standard front and side airbags, ABS with brake-force assist, an electronic stability program, Cornering Brake Control, Acceleration Skid Control and Engine Torque Control.

SPACIOUS AND PREMIUM INTERIOR

Despite its roller-skate appearance, the fortwo isn’t compromised. There’s full, spacious seating for two, decent in-cabin storage and a good-sized trunk above the rear-mounted engine.

The interior is a huge step forward compared to earlier versions, with a less frantic design and a better choice of materials. Given that the second-generation Smart was designed with North American tastes in mind, the new fortwo is slightly larger than its predecessor, helping to improve cabin space and seating positions.

ONLY ONE ENGINE OFFERED, A 70 HORSEPOWER 3-CYLINDER

The range is powered exclusively by a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder “triple” that produces 70 hp, and the sole transmission is a five-speed automated manual transmission. Much like the systems fitted to far pricier performance machines, the gearbox is an excellent idea… in theory. Since there’s no clutch pedal, it offers the option of letting the system shift itself like a traditional automatic, or using the push/pull shift lever (or optional steering-wheel paddles) to change up or down.

In practice, you’re lucky to escape a ride to the supermarket without a side-trip to the chiropractor. The shifts are slow in either mode, and force you to back off the throttle to help smooth the transitions to avoid whiplash. Since this was one of the most complained about ‘features’ of the original fortwo, it’s obvious that Smart thinks it’s smarter than the rest of us by neither improving the system nor offering a traditional five-speed manual.

Rant aside, 70 horsepower goes farther than you would imagine. While acceleration to 60 mph is slow, taking about 13 seconds, once there, the Fortwo is surprisingly speedy and able to maintain its 90 mph top speed with only a little strain.

Highways, however, are not this vehicle’s forte, evidenced by the jouncing, bouncing suspension and susceptibility to wind gusts. The Smart is much more comfortable around town, and – if you’re not forced to change gear – is peppy enough to keep up with the stoplight-to-stoplight crowd.

The payoff to this unstressed motivation is excellent fuel economy, hitting 33/41 mpg (city/highway). While those are not the stellar mile-stretching numbers of the first-gen turbodiesel, the new Fortwo is still frugal.

THE SMALLEST CAR ON THE ROAD, BUT NOT THE CHEAPEST

The range starts with the $11,990 fortwo Pure, and despite the low price, there are some niceties like a two-spoke leather steering wheel, full instrument cluster and central locking with a remote.

The $13,990 Passion is the range’s sweet spot, offering a panorama roof, alloy wheels, air conditioning with climate control, a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel with shift paddles, power windows, electric and heated side mirrors, and AM/FM radio with CD player. The wheels remain 15-inches in diameter but are now nine-spoke alloys, and include a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Popular options on both include metallic paint, an alarm system, power steering, heated seats, fog lamps and a premium audio system with an auxiliary input jack. Pricing varies based on model, and only the Passion can be ordered with grouped packages.

The ultimate fortwo is the Brabus model, although despite the additional aesthetic changes, engine performance is identical. For $17,990, the Brabus features sportier exhaust tuning, chassis and suspension components, and aerodynamic elements. It also features a unique wheel style with 17-inch wheels in the rear to give the Smart a real hot-rod appearance.

Other additions include a full skirt package, heated leather seats, sport pedals and floor mats with a generous helping of Brabus logos littered around the cabin.

For those interested in a top-down experience, the fortwo can be ordered as a cabriolet with a powered roll-back canvas roof in both Passion and Brabus trims, adding $3,000 to each.

THE VERDICT

In terms of competition, the Smart is mostly a one-shot deal given its compact dimensions and two-seat format, but there are other inexpensive vehicles with only a small increase in size that would be foolish to ignore. The Toyota Yaris can be had for about $12,200, while the Korean compact Accent/Rio twins now start at under $10K. And they all have power steering standard.

Much like the Mini Cooper, the fortwo is more a premium offering with its high standard safety levels and excellent build quality standing head and shoulders over the rest of the segment. However, unless you’re commuting in an urban environment daily or are thinking of one to purchase as a third vehicle for your college-bound child, perhaps look elsewhere for a less frantic driving experience and nicer highway ride.

PLUS

Highway manners Herky-jerky transmission Could be more fuel-efficient

MINUS

Compact dimensions Standard safety gear Over-the-top Brabus model

  • George Champion

    Why is the diesel not available in the states? Would love to have one, even tried to get on in Canada. no Luck

  • ParrotHeadWNY

    I understand it is a problem with emissions. It is too “dirty” for American roads. 75MPG is not too shabby though.

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked