Smart ForTwo: 40 MPG Highway, But it Uses Premium


Ever since Smart announced the ForTwo minicar was headed our way, the brand has cultivated an image of environmental responsibility a Sierra-Club tree-hugger could trade in his Prius for. And why not? The ForTwo is the picture of footprint frugality: It's more than 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, and when Smart invited journalists to California this week to check it out, we easily fit two of the cars into a standard parking space. Using the EPA's revised 2008 ratings, Smart estimates that the ForTwo's 70-hp, three-cylinder engine should achieve 33/40 mpg city/highway with the standard automatic transmission. That puts it well ahead of the 118-hp Mini, which the EPA figures to get around 26/33 mpg with the automatic.

Here's the catch: Smart recommends premium fuel.

The ForTwo will run on regular, Smart president Dave Schembri said, but in order to achieve the best power and efficiency, 91 octane is recommended. That puts a damper on the mileage figures. Smart isn't the only one who does it — Mini, too, recommends premium fuel for the Cooper. Both brands cast their cars as premium niche vehicles. Does that explain why their customers can pay a few bucks extra at the pump? Share your thoughts below.

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By Kelsey Mays | November 1, 2007 | Comments (32)
Tags: Smart



The percentage difference between regular and premium is ever decreasing as the price of gas rises.

If regular is $3.00, and premium is $3.20, that is only 7% (6.666 percent), and if by configuring the engine to operate with premium fuel (having a high compression ratio) the car can get 10% better mileage, it looks as if you are SAVING money by using premium.

Also Europe uses higher AKI gasoline. 95 RON gasoline is their mig-grade (98RON premium), so if you can find 90 AKI (R+M / 2) as mid-grade in the US, that is probably all you need, and then the savings are even greater-10% better mileage for 3% more cost.


I guess 45/48 that the Prius achieves is excellent if a light, super-small car with a tiny engine can barely get 40mpg on the Highway.

So a Corolla or Civic gets 36/37 on the highway - not that much less and you get a lot more car.

I don't know if people will buy this car to save gas. Only for the Kitsch factor. Perhaps they need to put a diesel in it.


Just drive a 90's VW jetta Diesel, 55 MPG to boot.


They should rename this thing, "Coffin4two". I've seen these things up front and close in Quebec and they are small. No way would I ever drive in one with all of the SUV's out there. Considering the milage is a disappointment, why even bother. Yaris or Accent would be a better buy.


Who needs a Smart? I have been getting 35-40 mpg out of my (then) new 1993 Dodge Colt 1.5/manual,and my (used) 2000 Mirage 1.5/Manual
that I spent not a dime over $8000 for either some 14+ years now.Long before there was a "Smart" there were 40mpg economical priced normal cars that actually ran on normal regular gasoline,and could still seat 4 or tow small trailer...


Oh no premimum gas! What did you expect the car is from Europe and has a turbo charger to make max use of its lawnmore engine.


this thing is not aerodynamic, and that must be the reason for the crumby mileage. i'm w/ paul - what happened to the high-mileage, low-powered vehicles of yore? is it emissions? a three-cylinder metro could do better than this dumb smart.


When I was in Berlin this summer, these things are all over the place. The fact that you can park it anywhere (legally anyways) means it has an advantage over the Mini Cooper, Geo Metro, etc... I bet the reason why the ForTwo isn't getting as good economy as the aformentioned cars is because of it's weight. It is partially Mercedes engineered and design and weight are the key factors when in an accident, not size. I'm sure they had to add some weight to this car to deal with the huge SUV's that we North Americans should not be driving in the first place. This is an urban car not suburban.

I'm sure they have Diesel variants in Europe and are getting better gas mileage than the weak Prius. The Bluetec E320 can get 45MPG and that's a mid to full-size Mercedes with all the features you can't get in an econobox. Imagine what the Smart would get with a small Bluetec Diesel.

Can't wait for Diesel cars to make a comeback...


Whoever buys the Smart is not really smart.
Yes, it does beat the sub-compact class vehicle in fuel economy, but on the other hand, it loses a lot of room, and requires premium?! That is a joke, right?

My car has 76 cubic feet of cargo room. This means I could fit an entire Smart *inside* my car. Oh, and my car *also* gets 40mpg highway. The EPA says 41, but I never made it there.

1984 Volvo 245 Diesel. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Glen Sherman

All newer cars get lower mpg than the older ones, because we keep adding safety features. These added safety features make cars heavier and lower the gas mileage. The heavier cars are now also more dangerous because of the added weight, so more safety features are added making the car heavier again. This cycle has been going on for years and we have been paying for it at the pump. There was a comic several years ago who suggested removing the side impact beams, air bags, crumple zones, reinforced frames and other features, replacing them with just one pointy metal spike mounted in the center of the steering wheel, with the point aimed at the driver. This one simple feature will do more to improve auto safety than all the others combined. Drivers will once again realize that driving can be dangerous. As far as the EPA and the smart, the EPA has been caught in recent years favoring some cars over others as they fudge their mpg ratings. The grey market smart that has been in the US for several years is also rated at 40mpg and in a discussion with a person who just drove one from California to NY, he said it does better than 40 up hill, against the wind, fully loaded, on its worst day. I expect these numbers will be revised.


I'm from europe and the smart fortwo is out here since 1998. The fuel consumption according to the European rules is about 45 mpg. But in practice you cannot archieve that. 35mpg is more realistic. But in USA the fuel is much cheaper. Converted to dollars, we pay 2.14 dollar per Liter! That's about 6.40 dollar/gallon.

We also have a 61HP, 84HP and 45HP(diesel) engine. Also a pulse version, with wider tyres and more equip then the pure version. I'm really curious how the fortwo is doing in the states, because for the price of a fortwo, you can buy bigger cars. Please note that the fortwo in the USA is little different. Gearbox knob, driving lights, slightly different gearbox ratio's (shorter 1st gear and larger 5th gear), instrument display is also different. Also you have more equip on board, 4 airbags, (we have 2) radio standard,tire pressure control etc :-)

The Smart is a city car.

Most of the claims that your car gets 30 or 35 mpg are for highway driving, not city driving.

The Smart is expected to get close to 40 in the city and a lot higher on the highway. Nothing comes close or betters that expect for hybrids which are a bad investment on a cost of ownership basis.

So it uses premium, big deal that means it will cost $1.60 more to fill the 8 gallon tank.

I am counting the days til my yellow Passion Coupe arrives.

I'll wave when I pass you by at the gas pump.

Thanks for creating this great article on the smart, I would like to personally invite you to the new smart site just launched.

The new smart website is focused on the 451 smart fortwo ( 2008 smart car ) and its web address is: was created to help bring together worldwide smart owners and smart enthusiasts. While this site is focused on the 451 smart fortwo sold in America and Canada it is open to all smart's and the worldwide smart community.

I received my Smart Fortwo Pure coupe a few weeks ago. I love this car. I drive it long distances. I am averaging 50 mpg on the highway using high mileage techniques when traffic permits. Visit www.451s for my comments.


Rick Masters,
Good for you. People can debate the merits of the Smart Car compared to other available options, but there's no doubt it's a gas saver and it's great to see people like you adopting a solution that works.

John Scott

Premium gas in a econobox seems to be a deal breaker. But I can see folks in their big RV's towing one of these for a runaround vehicle.
So it may have some interest. I wonder how much of a MPG hit you take with 87 octane? Maybe 89 would be a good alternative? I think with most high compression small engines the heat problem would probably make the high octane a requirement in hot weather but 87 might be OK in colder weather. I have found this to be true with my Pontiac Vibe. It has a 10.5:1 compression and you really have some power loss with 87 in very warm weather!


At first glance this car is quite appealing to me as a home/work/home commute car. I'm looking for something fun to drive that gets good mileage. However I find the mileage to be rather dissapointing given the size. The requirement for premium fuel is the real deal breaker for me. Hello, where were the marketing folks when that decision was made? So I'll continue in my boring 98 Civic getting 36 MPG city on 87 octane.


Is the need for Premium gas a side effect of being designed primarily for european use? I remember reading that regular gas in Europe has an octane rating somewhat similar to prmium here, and regular gas here is of a lower octane rating?

Do all european cars recommend Prmium? if so, then i guess that would make sense as the reason why?

Pulse Europe

From the european point of view this discussion is very interesting and insightful. Most cars here require "premium" (90 Octane US/95 RON EUR) while the "regular" gas (87 Octane US/91 RON EUR) is vanishing from the gas stations, the price difference is melting too. Premium allows more efficient engines with higher compression. Currently the only cars with a better fuel economy in the urban scenario are hybrid cars. But those are no fun IMO. This is what the fortwo was designed for: To retrieve the fun of driving in narrow cities instead of showing of with bloated cars. It is by no means a replacement for those. But i know several people who bought a Smart as a secondary car - and now use it as their first, because it´s more fun.
Half the size does not necessary mean a double mileage. So, if someone is looking out for economy, the Smart may not be the best choice because one has to compromise a lot and there are larger cars with equivalent mileage out there. For me, the smart is fun because it does everything I need and the concept is still innovative. Heck, i can stuff six german standard 24-bottle-beer crates like those:
or 6 standard water crates:
(this is the old, smaller model)

Greg Ballantyne

EPA is wrong on this one. I've got to wonder if they're usually wrong... My 2008 Smart gets 42 mpg with astounding regularity, driven in a combination city/highway. A tank of straight highway driving yielded 46 mpg. I have been completely careless when it comes to speed or accelleration the entire time I've owned it.
I'm happy to put $17 a week into it instead of $80 a week like I did my pickup last summer....


What a clown car. Buy a chevy Malibu and get 34 on the highway and some real crash protection, or buy any of the other cars mentioned above. To the person who claims a 90s diesel rabbit gets 55 mpg, there's no such thing - they're all in the junkyard and have been there a good five years already.

Colonel Klink

All the fabulous cars mentioned are old. In those days we didn't have all the emission garbage on our cars, nor did we have the safety equipment like in today's cars. I get 40 mpg around town I feel totally safe in my little smart because it's built with a NASCAR type cage and besides it has an extremely short stopping distance and great maneuvering capability. It can't flip over on its own, only when it gets hit.
Just ask any smart owner whether the like their car and you will realize the truth. There's always somebody bigger than you anyway.

Jack Yedvobnick

This posting by Jim.Davis at
sums up the truth about the Smart car... vs some of the idiotic/ignorant comments here!

I'm really getting sick of this (negative comments)
I love my Smart. If anything went drastically wrong, I'd buy another one in a heartbeat. It's the people I'm quickly losing my patience with, and I seem to run into one every day.

"The shifting is terrible"
Shifting is no different than riding in a car with a manual transmission. It's the nature of the car. Take it or leave it. Stop whining about it.

"It's not a smooth ride"
It's a MICRO CAR you dummy!!!! The short wheelbase will never give you a ride like grandma's Town Car.

"That thing is a deathtrap"
Obviously, you've never researched the Smart. Shut up, go away, and buy that Harley you've been wanting.

"That's the funniest thing I've ever seen"
I heard this from a toothless guy at a bus stop. I yelled back at him, "Why are you laughing? *You're* riding the Bus!!! (Ha!!)

"How far will it go on a charge?"
My answer is. "I have 8,000 miles on it, and haven't had to charge the battery yet."

"It only holds 2 people"
So? I didn't buy it to haul your butt around town.

"No thanks, that thing can't haul nothing. I'll keep my Truck"
Are you refering to your King Cab Duelley that gets 4mpg and has never had anyting in the bed but a cooler of beer?

"If you hit a truck head-on at 60mph, you'd be dead."
Umm - So would you.

Jack Yedvobnick

To add to Jim's comments:

1- Smart car safety- see the comments by ER docs, paramedics and police witnesses at safeandsmartdotcom B4 saying it's not safe!
2- We've had our 08 Smart ForTwo a full year now and put 12,000 miles on it, with a few 1000+ mile trips.
So our actual experience with the car vs "smart *ss" ignorant comments should carry some weight!

Results- excellent gas mileage of over 40 combined city/highway driving.
Very reliable- just one minor part that needed replacing.
Lots of fun to drive.
Handles like a sports car- so that with the small size means we'd most likely avoid most accidents a big truck or SUV would get into.
Plastic body panels (can replace them all in 2 hours) and advanced safety features keep our insurance costs really low.
There are other, less tangible advantages, like... the knowledge that we're part of the solution, not part of the problem!
What do I mean? There's a direct correlation between all the idiots buying gas guzzlers and our young people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan!


First off, the EPA changed their standards in 2008 to be stricter hence the illusion of worse mileage these days.

Secondly, the Smart is a great SECOND car for people who live in the city. The small size makes parking a breeze in those spots that can only fit 3/4 of a car.

Lastly, you can get a new Smart for over half the cost of a hybrid and you do not have to deal with battery maintenance.

Overall, this car is a great city commuter for couples that have a second car. Also, note that this car is actually much safer than you would expect from its size. Just compare it to other mid safe cars. It is like driving a roll cage around...

Cher in Ft. Myers

I have a 2001 Exterra which I love. But, the $50 a week for gas is killing me also have begun to experience the 11 year old car with 130,000 miles issues, even tho I have taken very good card of it.
Have looked and compared all the 40 + mpg autos and for the safety features, mpg, cute looks and price the smartcar has me. thanks for helping me decide smartfortwo convertible it is.

Richard Haines

The smart car does not require anyone to put premium fuel into it. Regular gasoline in Canada and USA has a PON rating of 87 which translates into 91 RON for Europe. The smart can run on 91 RON just fine. I have a 2011 smart and average about 6.0 litres per 100km or 52 MPG (Imperial gallon). That is mostly city driving in Vancouver. What other gasoline powered car can achieve 53 MPG?!

Darryl Doty

Had My 2008 SMart for five years, 80,000+ miles, changed the tires at 75,000 miles, changed the oil every 10,000 miles. NO issues. I call it my Work car, because I'm not taking anyone with me when I go to work! for Safety worries, I have none. But I ride motor cycles and know that its better to be a defensive/offensive driver. there is a good chance that i will pass this smart on to my son and buy me a new model. But that will not happen till I put the first 100,000 miles on her.
My boys drive her and they are proud to do so. They love the attention it still brings after 5 years. they love its maneuverability.
Yea I have two trucks for the farm a 2004 S-10 and a 2010 Tundra but they only get 15 miles to a gallon. Love them for hauling and pulling the horses. But why drive those to work with only one person in them? Recommend you drive a SMART and you'll fall=in love with it. When I brought it home my kids so no Frequen way, Now they pick it over the others. I ask them why. one its easy to drive, two they pay for the gas when they drive it, three they love the attention it brings with opening conversations with women.


We can buy a 5 seater Nissan Versa Note for the similar price and that will also give similar mileage. Note is lot more spacious if you fold the rear seat.

No wonder, Smart sells at a very low volume.


People are entitled to their opinions, substantiated or not by facts. If you have not researched the design of the Smart Car, it would be a wise thing to do prior to labeling them as "death traps". They have a wonderful crash rating! I too was completely against them, until doing my research! Any car hit in an accident looks "really bad", but these look worse because they are so small (8ft). Other two seater cars, and motorcycle drivers take risks as well. Keep in mind, people who purchase these cars do not want the added room of the larger cars. For $30 of Premium fuel, I drove over 270 miles in mine last week. Going from a Jeep Grand Cherokee (spending $130/wk) I have no complaints! As with any car, being a safe driver is the part of the equation that you do control. The Museum of Modern Art in NY has one on display. I urge any of you to educate yourself on them prior to offering anymore opinions.


Drive what you like people. I'm test driving one today all day. I have all ready heard some dismal chatter from guys like "Paul" further up the comment line. When I was asked what the crash test rating was on this car, my answer was safer than a motorcycle! So on closing I say, up yours liberals!

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