2013 Smart ForTwo at the 2012 New York Auto Show

Smart1

  • Competes with: Scion iQ, Chevy Spark, Mini Cooper
  • Looks like: New wrappings around the same small box
  • Drivetrain: 70 hp, three-cylinder engine with automated-manual transmission
  • Hits dealerships: May 2012

Smart debuted the ForTwo in the U.S. to great fanfare. That was before anyone drove the tiny city runabout, though. We infamously called it the worst car of the 2000s.

More 2012 New York Auto Show Coverage

Smart has announced a redesigned model for 2013 that will go on sale this summer. It gets some exterior updates — you tell us the difference — and the interior materials are improved, but the car remains virtually the same underneath. That means we likely won't be recommending this one, either.

Smar2

It's not necessarily the 70-horsepower three-cylinder engine — which remains for 2013 — that is our biggest gripe. It's the automated-manual transmission, which we've found to lurch instead of actually shift. The car's proportions also lead it to feel tipsy, and indeed the ForTwo has a worse rollover rating than a Ford Explorer.

The ForTwo is tiny for sure, but its gas mileage of 34 /38 mpg city/highway is relatively unchanged from when the car debuted. And with a Hyundai Accent getting 40 mpg highway — along with a cadre of other thrifty options — the ForTwo doesn't seem so smart. Sorry, they just make it too easy.

Smart3

Comments 

M3

If they could just offer a standard stick shift, knock a few grand off the base price, and not require premium fuel, then it might be a worthy city runabout. At the prices they're asking, there are so many better choices. Only a matter of time til they disappear.

Jack keshner

How much did the auto trade pay you to knock it?
I love it,It's the greatest little thing on the road.Did you drive one? i guess not.Try it before you knock it.
jackie

smartowner

With about 46,000 miles on my smart fortwo, I have to wonder if the author is talking about the same car. I've owned a LOT of cars in my lifetime and can honestly say, I've never enjoyed a car more than this one.

The smart is not for everyone. #1 requirement is that you don't NEED a back seat, duh!!!!

Eric Larsen

I can tell you that i have owned my Smart for nearly four years and i have zero regrets whatsoever. At 46,000 miles and well cared for, i can truly say that I still love my car since the day i bought it. As smartowner said, the Smart is not for everyone, and not only is my Smart perfectly suited to my lifestyle, but it is truly the most unique economy car i have ever owned, and BTW i had tried out a Hyundai Accent a long time ago and it truly was a bona fide pill to drive, the Smart is a fun car indeed.

Carol Thompson

I waited 10 years for the smart to come to the U S. and I've owned my smart cabrio since Jan. 2009. I fell in love with it in Europe. I have 31,500 miles on my smart and find it to be the most fun, the most economical (33 - 38 in city); (43 - 48 on freeways) well engineered & designed car. I love every minute I'm driving it. It is quirky but it's totally stable (with or without the top being down). I've not read one article anywhere stating there are "tipping" issues. It would be nice if reviewers actually researched and drove the car they were reviewing instead of just 'bashing' to get attention.

Carol,
We've driven and tested the Smart on multiple occasions as we do nearly every new model on the market. We rarely "bash" cars as severely as we have the Smart however. We're sure it has some attributes that owners like yourself enjoy but on its own and especially against the competition it is not a vehicle we'd recommend to the majority of car shoppers.

We also didn't say it tips over. We stated the fact that the NHTSA has rated it with a 3-star rollover rating. The Ford Explorer has a 4-star rollover rating.

We appreciate your comments and great to hear it gets such good real world mileage for you.

Phillysmart

While your article is supposedly reporting, the evidence indicates it is an opinion piece with little or no real product experience or fact:

"exterior updates — you tell us the difference" - the exterior upgrades are obvious to even the casual observer.

"automated-manual transmission, which we've found to lurch instead of actually shift" - both my wife and I have driven ours for over four (4) years miles and there is no lurching

"ForTwo has a worse rollover rating than a Ford Explorer" - please provide reference/source of this "fact"

Tim

I've owned a smart fortwo cabrio for 1.5 years. I'm 52 years old and have had several cars, naturally. I commute to work by myself some 24 miles each way, the wife has a 4 door Mazda 6 which we also like just fine. But I love everything about my smart, I've enjoyed it more than any car I've ever owned. I drive mine like a sports car wannabe and can't imagine what you're talking about, about feeling tipsy. Mine grips the road like a gokart, with the stock wheels and tires it came with. Many of us shift manually, and it is no more jerky than any manual transmission vehicle, depending upon your skill. I suppose you do not have such experience, driving vehicles with a manual transmission. Interesting that you do car reviews though. The engine size is not much of a factor with so little weight to propel; I can assure you that nobody behind me at a red light is ever waiting on me to get up to speed. I can get up to speed as fast or faster than any AVERAGE traffic - excepting muscle cars really flexing their muscles, but those are not the average drivers at the average intersection. I've also read about smarts extensively over the past 1.5 years, for fun, and have yet to see a story about a driver who tipped over in a smart. Anyway, just had to post a genuine owners counterpoint.

Joe Marzola

I wanted to buy a smart until I actually test drove the car. The ride is horrible, the transmission is herky-jerky, and the car just feels unstable at speeds over 30 MPH. No thanks, not the car for me.

Not so smart

My experience with the smart passion was horrible. The transmission problems alone made me want to roll the car off a cliff. Winter time was horrible too, as the car has very poor traction in snow even with proper snow tires! A Toyota Yaris is a much better alternative!!!

The Stig

@David Thomas

I don't own one of these cars like the above commenters, but this article is totally unnecessarily bashful and doesn't contain a bit of useful information. I can understand adding a little spice and bias to reviews, but this entire article is offensively terrible. After reading your "Worst Cars of the 2000s" list it looks like Kelsey Mays had to find a reason to put the smart at #1.

"exterior updates — you tell us the difference"

Well, unless your readers are blind I see a new front fascia, side skirts, and rear bumper.

"And with a Hyundai Accent getting 40 mpg highway — along with a cadre of other thrifty options — the ForTwo doesn't seem so smart. Sorry, they just make it too easy."

Looks like Kicking Tires is the not-so-smart one, the Hyundai Accent isn't a city car like the smart. You might as well be comparing an apple to a watermelon. Most people won't be buying a smart only for the fuel economy either. City Cars and compacts like the Accent appeal to different demographics.

"The car's proportions also lead it to feel tipsy..."

Having driven one of those cars last year, it felt more planted than "tipsy". It felt like a go-kart.

"It's the automated-manual transmission, which we've found to lurch instead of actually shift."

If the transmission doesn't shift (the one I drove shifted) then you have a defective car.

Max Reid

What about Smart EV. Are they bringing with a higher range.

Chevy is bringing Spark EV.

Neonspinnazz

I just purchased a smart fortwo and Im already disappointed. Its a peace of crap and is already making noises that it shouldn't. Why oh why did I waste my money on this car?!?!?

JB

Obviously the reviewers are unfamiliar with european automated manual transmissions. It is a manual transmission that shifts automatically. It is as smooth as any other manual except you don't have to use a clutch pedal. How in the heck do you compare it to a hyundai...with a backseat. We haven't needed a back seat in years and I doubt we ever will so I am not interested in hauling one around. We started with one smart car and now have two. They are are only cars. Our mileage is always higher than EPA estimates. the car is reliable, fun, AND A CONVERTIBLE. Yee haw. Love our smarts and no doubt will for years to come.

Tim

Okay, Neon's not going to refute the post above, so I'm going to. Somebody who knows Neon's handle on a smart car forum posted here as Neonspinnazz, a couple of posts above this. For the record, Neon has been an avid smart supporter for years before even owning one, and just recently got his own smart, which he loves. He did not submit the diatribe above.

Bryan

Dave Thomas, I completely disagree with with you. I have no problem with you not recommending the car. My problem is your bashing of the car which I believe is one in the same as Kelsey Mays, and Joe Wiesenfelder from Cars.com.

You write that the car lurches instead of actually shifting. If that's you're characterization of the car, your readers should know that you're being a bit disingenuous because the car does in fact switch gears. If your car never switched gears, why wasn't it returned? In a standard manual, there would be hesitation regardless. If you would stop comparing the transmission in a ForTwo to an automatic transmission, you would better serve your readers. Your statement causes me to wonder if you understand transmissions. The Fortwo actually shifts as effectively as the driver allows it to. When the Smart Fortwo is driven as a automatic, which it appears that you have, the result is more of a hesitation between gear changes when you try to achieve race car results. It's not a race car and it's certainly not an automatic. It's a automated MANUAL. If you keep that in mind and ease up on the accelerator (as you would in a standard manual when engaging the clutch), this would ease your so called lurch problem. I doubt the transmission to be the problem. Your learning curve, and experience with a sequential transmission may be the problem. As with any car you get in for the first time, there is a learning curve. This is the time that it takes for you to understanding how everything functions in the car. It doesn't happen instantly in some cars. How long was the learning curve when BMW first introduced their IDrive system? In reference to The Smart ForTwo, it appears that many got behind the wheel - without the sight of a clutch, but the presence of a D at the gear selector - and expected the car to drive as an automatic. Upon feeling the first hesitation many immediately frown without further consideration. That's the problem. No learning Curve.

I don't actually own a Smart ForTwo, well, not at the time of this reply. However, I've been in several, and have driven them as well. It's one of two cars that I'm considering for my next purchase soon. The other car is the Chevy Cruze. I rented a Smart Fortwo for two weeks because I wanted to really assess the car rather than the standard test drive, and mixed reviews. I was informed about how it shift well before I ever got in one, therefore, experiencing the way it shifts for myself, was not a deal breaker for me. I actually thought it wasn't as bad as many made it seem. When I picked up the car, I initially started in the D/Automated mode (not to be confused with a automatic). Afterwards, I tried the manual mode with the paddles behind the wheel and the gear selector between the seats. Before I returned the car, I was keeping it in the D mode and was able to allow it to shift smoother than when I first drove it by simply learning when to ease up off the gas allowing a smother clutch engagement compared to when I first received the car.

This feature doesn't make the car a bad car. It's quite simply just a different car. Unfortunately some reviewers have gotten into the car and failed to understand how to drive the car the way it works. Perhaps you could give it a try, now.

I am six foot six inches tall. Although I sit closer to the left door than I am use to, I was still quite comfortable in this car. It was quite fun to drive. However, it was extremely rewarding to park in Center City Philadelphia which has limited parking just like most major metropolitan areas that I visit like New York City, and Baltimore. One thing I didn't expect is the amount of attention this car draws. The questions come every time I get out of the car, and at the few gas stations that you pull in to. Add that to the shock of many to see a guy six foot six inches tall getting out of it. I could relate because when I first got in a Smart ForTwo, I couldn't believe the leg and generous headroom which is very much to my liking.

My girl and I drove this car to Myrtle beach South Carolina from Philly. It was about a 10 hour drive. I was comfortable, and at 5 feet 2 inches, my girlfriend was also. The car does require some effort to keep in your lane on the highway if it's very windy. However, there was no time that this car felt tipsy. Even at speeds that I would not post on here, and passing tractor trailers, I had no concerns. It actually feels planted on curvy roads and in the city. For those that hit the highway I would recommend you add cruise control as an option which was not available on my rental.

Joe Wiesenfelder's video review for Cars.com in addition to yours gives me the sense that Cars.com's review of this car will be completely bias and bashful. He states that the transmission in the Fortwo is a flaw. It's not a flaw. It shifts as effectively as it is meant to. His review is flawed. He states that the ForTwo scares the crap out of him because of the perspective of his 30 year old Fiat. I think this is a poor way to relay information to people in a so call review. If the car scares him, its hard for me not to believe his view is unbiased as well as yours and the entire Cars.com team. If I listen to Joe, I wouldn't even buy the car because according to him the problem for Smart is other motorist may tailgate you or cut you off because of the size of the car. Since when should that be the problem of the car manufacturer?

Fear is the most effective way to spread ignorance. With that being said, many people will hawk at this car's size as confirmation to it being unsafe which isn't true. The same people will ride a motorcycle, scooter, or even a bike with no concerns of the lack of structural safety or airbags. Most are ignorant to the roll cage like Tridion Safety Cell that this vehicle is built around. As a result few reviewers speak of it, and choose to add on to the fears others may have. Nevertheless, the Tridion Safety Cell allows the ForTwo to compete with larger cars in terms of crash worthiness. On the internet there is video that shows head on collisions in which the ForTwo's compartment stands up pretty well. In the same test the Toyota Yaris' falls far short in which the front end of another car appears to come inside the Yaris' passenger compartment and strike the crash dummy in the face. You still don't bash the Yaris. The person above named "NOT SO SMART" may want to consider that before saying the Yaris is a better alternative. The ForTwo does just as good in crash test as others despite is higher roller rating. Has Cars.com recommended any vehicle with less than a 4 star roll over rating? Do you realize how many years it took for the New Explorer to receive a roll over rating of 4? Hybrids are not for everybody. With today's gas prices many people won't keep their vehicles long enough to get the additional cost back from the additional cost spent on a hybrid versus buying a non hybrid. I find the ForTwo to fill that niche nicely without being close to hybrid costs. A Chevy Suburban, Ford F150, Toyota Camary, BMW M3, and quite certainly a Bently Mulsanne are all cars that are not for everybody. The same can be said about every car. With that being said, a Smart ForTwo or Scion IQ will not be for everybody either. It maybe impractical for some especially some families. Well the Toyota Prius is no knight in shining armor for all. There are families for which the Prius also will be labeled as impractical because it also has limited family car space. For a person with no children like myself, that enjoy the ease of parking, good gas mileage, and perhaps even care about the environment at the same time, the ForTwo is worth considering. After my two week test drive I am currently considering a Smart ForTwo as an option for my next purchase along with the Chevy Cruze.

Now, Smart recommends premium fuel. Well, it is a Mercedes product after all. Don't all Mercedes run off premium fuel? Anyway, is it a deal breaker for me? No. It's a 8.7 gallon tank. right now the price difference between regular is about 20 cents. I usually fill up close to a third or a quarter of a tank. The difference between regular and premium for this car at this stage is about $1.00 to $1.20, or $1.60 for 8 gallons. That difference doesn't concern me at about 40 miles to the gallon. If I drove a vehicle with a 30 gallon tank an got 12 miles to the gallon, premium fuel would concern me. The fact that I've gotten as much as 43 mpg in my experience with the car, premium concerns me not. FYI, a Smart auto technician told me that premium fuel is recommended but not required.

Ralph

So I did the math. Averaging 40-41 MPG on 91 octane (verified, Ultragauge trip computer), I figured you have to AVERAGE 37 mpg on 87 octane (none of that 'quote the highway and leave out the city' BS). That's after 4 yrs, 56,000 mi, a deer hit on the front and a teenager hit in the rear (her Intrepid lost).

My ONE complaint is being 2 hrs away from a dealer, SO, knowing the Scion iQ just arrived in town my wife and I decided to go for a test drive. We made it 1/2 mile from the dealer and my wife told me to turn around. There was so much steering and body role that she was afraid to be in it. Hmmm... I'm looking 'forward' to testing the Fiat 500.

I hope you guys enjoy whatever Consumer Reports paid you...

BTW, if you want a fair and balanced article on the smart look up Motor Trend on the '11.

Paul B

The Smart does not REQUIRE premium fuel, it will run just fine on regular. However, when using regular gas you will not get the advertised mileage. So, even though premium costs a little more you more than make the cost up in better MPG.

springlering

We used to own an SLK, Caravan, Accord, and XTerra. We now own four '08 Smarts (3 cabrios and a Pure). Mileage on all averages 40, regardless of where driven, and none of us have light feet. Maintenance is minimal and DIY, and we haven't had a lick of trouble with any of the four, which, btw, all fit comfortably in a 2 car garage. Daughter was in 3 car pileup with minivan (totalled) and Ram truck. To the amazement of the cop, she was able to wipe away her one scratch with a little spit. They are fun, reliable, eyecatching, and VERY economical on all fronts. Oh, did I mention the outstanding resale value, which, in real life, runs about 30-50% higher than the socalled published book value? No regrets whatsoever, would buy another in a heartbeat. Have to say, sounds like reviewer either never drove one, or didn't bother to take more than a five minute testdrive to "get it". And didn't.

Lori

I agree completely with the reviewer. I do not own a smartcar but I thought I wanted to. I drove 20 miles from my house to test drive a 2011 model. I think smartcars are adorable and the premise of good gas mileage, always having somewhere to park and low emissions really spoke to my desire to be eco friendly. Unfortunately, when I drove the smartcar it was not a pleasant experience. I put my foot on the gas and the car did not want to go. The salesman told me that you have to "finesse" the gas pedal or the car virtually stalls. When it finally got up to speed it zipped along and was fun but then I had to make a left turn at an intersection that I can only call "death-defying." The smartcar scared the sh*# out of me. The pick up was so slow I just missed getting hit by a truck. Right then I knew this car was not for me. Actually, I had figured that out a few minutes after I started driving. When I put my foot on the gas, I expect the car to go and to pick up speed quickly. I don't want the car to hesitate as it decides which gear it should be in and I don't want to have to wonder if it is going to go. I have driven a stick shift car and the only time I had a similar problem was when I was first learning to shift. If you don't have far to go, if you don't have serious traffic where you live and if you have a very light foot on the gas pedal - the smartcar MIGHT be for you.

Hi i just bought a 2013 smart cabrio. The reviewer is way off on this wonderful car. Im getting almost 49mpgs.It shifts fine,it rides really nice handles well.I drove it for an entire week and used 2.9 gallons of gas.I feel safe in it. I love the power top.you dont have to use premium gas but its recommended. I use it.If you respect the cars size you wont have any problems.I use it on the highways with no problem at all. Locally its a breeze too.I would recommend this car to anyone.Its a blast to drive!Dont let these morons steer you away from a really enjoyable car.

Max Reid

Any small fuel efficient car is criticized by these writers.

For a car of that size V3 engine with 70 hp is more than enough and if I want to rent a car, surely I will rent this.

But the price tag of 17K for this is certainly too much.

DG

I am extremely surprised by Lori's comments you have to "finesse" the Smart or that it "virtually stalls" sounds like someone hasn't bothered to do a shred of research on the car she's driving and a real qwak of a sales person.

Making a left turn at an intersection with incoming traffic coming towards isn't exactly the smartest time to be testing out the acceleration of a vehicle your unfamiliar with.

The Smart ForTwo is not a high performance sports car, it is however extremely Compact + Efficient. Most people acknowledge this comes with tradeoffs but perhaps Lori needs to spend an extra $25 000 for something like Mini that offers more power, for the rest of us responsible drivers out there the Smart is a great point to point commuter.

joe moore

My smart has 106 thousand miles. This car has been a good car. If you drive it for one day you will get use to how it shifts. Every car company has problems. I feel people dont like change. My car just had its first problem. Its at dealer I'm sure they will figure it out. I will consider this car in further.

Tim

Just quickly
2008 passion used 4 yr. owner in my 50s, ride can be bumpy it’s a small car not my Buick car. Not as much gas ether.
Drives like a manual transmission it’s Not an automatic if you can’t drive a manual your behind on the learning curve at the start and may not care for it.
Got tons of power (it doesn’t weight a lot) got AC and power everything, I did get another radio from the standard and add back speakers as in the you tube video. Sounds great. And now smart has an upgraded radio now. I travel 30 miles each way every day and have taken several business trips 6 to 7 Hr. drives I put about 55K miles on it. and love it.
I do all of the fixing (so far) myself and I am not a mechanic. Brake pads(supper EZ), repair washer bottle, Lamps, spark plugs, filters, oil changes and installed the radio w/sat radio. Tire discounter did the tires. None of it was hard. It’s a good little car for the right person.
But keep bashing someone will buy a new one read your blog and sell it to me cheap like the last guy as mine is getting older and need replacement in a few years.
Really it’s not a Buick but it can have all the bells and whistles and it’s FUN to drive.

Dave

I totally agree with the reviewer and Lori. We purchased our Smart new in 2010. It is a fun little car, but the hesitation from a stop into busy traffic is a real hazard, at least in Texas. It is no secret that the transmission has issues and the engine is under powered. If Smart these, I would gladly purchase another. Instead, I went with a Honda Fit which also gets great mileage and has a real transmission.

Stephen

You need to drive it to believe it! It is a Fantasic & Fun City Car!

I LOVE my ForTwo! Yes, the transmission is quirky but as I tell my friends "It's a motorcycle with doors, airbags and a great stereo"

I get an Amazing 47 plus MPG city&hwy combined (and I drive normal Dallas busy roads)

I would purchase another without question!

Stephen

Jim Bratton

Have a 2013... Our Second cabrio and love it. Drive at highway speeds... perfect beach car... as well as urban use. Leather seats at an easy entry height... heated for comfort... Spouse's power assistive chair fits In rear storage area !without folding it! We smile entire time we are driving. The transmission is a MANUAL that is electrically shifted. Sounds like many have never driven a standard and have No Concept of ''feathering" during the shifting process. BTW we are 66 and 68 years old and Know how to shift gears.

Regards,

Jim Bratton

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