(Photo provided by Devon M)
The Smart Fortwo is the smallest car you can buy in the U.S. The last time I test drove the car it was just very short and I really didn't get the chance to test the car and get the real potential of the vehicle. This time however I was given the Smart Fortwo as a lender car for half a day and was able to really explore and see what this car was all about. What is it like to drive a car smaller than a golf-kart? Well let's find out.
On the road: The Smart Fortwo only comes with one engine and that's a Mitusbishi sourced 1-liter three-cylinder with 70hp. This won't wow the power hungry and surely won't wow the econo crowd either. One thing for sure about this engine is that it has enough oomph to keep this little car going. On the highway it didn't feel out of its element which was actually quite shocking. The only thing I wished was the horrible semi-automatic gearbox went away. A proper manual gearbox or even an automatic gearbox would've been more suitable. The Smart Fortwo I was given was the Brabus edition which had the funky alloy wheels and firmer suspension. The Fortwo already has a firm suspension and is quite uncomfortable due to the ultra short wheelbase. Adding a sports suspension just made things a lot worst, but at least it grabbed onto corners better than the previous version which felt like a pogo stick going to tip over.
While in stop and go traffic the brakes also take some getting used to. If you don't push too hard the car doesn't feel like it's going to come to a complete stop. You'll have to give a firm push on the brake pedal to feel anything happen. This is an uneasy feeling for me personally because often I felt like I was going to literally roll the car forward. Eventually as you drive the car you'll get used to this.
Behind the wheel: The steering wheel is fixed and the driving position is obviously raised for better visibility. This is quite annoying because I found myself sitting closer to the steering wheel than I liked. The interior feels very airy and roomy, two passengers could sit inside without feeling like they are sitting on each other's laps. The passenger seat is pushed back from the driver's seat which is both a good and bad thing. If you are on a date and want to put your arm around that special someone you could potentially punch the person in the face. The instrumental panel is clearly labeled and easy to read. The dashboard has a no-nonsense layout and is easy to navigate. The seats were trimmed in a special leather and were quite comfortbale to sit in for long journeys. Visibility alround is very good, and this is only due to the fact that you are basically surrounded by the entire car. You could literally reach from one end with one hand and the windshield with the other.
Overall: This is obviously a niche vehicle and it does haev its audience. Some people won't like it because it's deemed too small. While others will enjoy the easy to park size, the charming interior and the ability to grab more atteniton than a BMW. It's a great car and for what it is, it serves it's purpose well. Now if only Smart gave a proper gearbox and brakes. The Smart would be a better car to drive overall.