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Monday, February 15, 2016

400 Miles in a Smart Fortwo Will Test Your Patience and Your Reflexes: Review


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

400 miles in a big, luxurious SUV may not seem like much of an adventure, but switch out said SUV for a 2016 Smart Fortwo, and, well, things get much more interesting…and slightly more dangerous, as we found out firsthand. You’ll hear more about that later.
The Smart Fortwo is a car that doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s a car that people love to hate, and knowing the previous generation, it’s easy to understand. But Smart assured us that new ForTwo was much better than the one it was replacing, so we decided we had to find out for ourselves.

From Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando, and back, we were lucky enough (sarcasm) to be driving the newest iteration of the Fortwo, trying to figure out of this city car can double as an efficient highway car for shorter road trips.


Room for Two (And Not Much Else)

For those of you that have never witnessed the awe-inspiring city car glory that is the Smart Fortwo, imagine a roller skate, with a 3-cylinder engine, and probably an offset of two colors on the exterior. Color aside, its small stature should give you a pretty accurate description of the interior room.

‘Spacious’ is a word that you won’t find in the same sentence. I managed to fit a small carry-on-type bag, my laptop bag, and a backpack with my camera. I wouldn’t have been able to fit much more without some squeezing and stuffing. Realistically, a medium-sized suitcase and a carry-on would be about as much as you’d be able to fit.

Thankfully, that cramped-ness doesn’t translate to the interior. There’s plenty of space in the cabin. Roomy enough for two people—two normal-sized human people. It’s actually a comfortable place to be if you ignore the seats. Imagine two lawn chairs covered in leather; not the best choice for a long road trip.


Quirky Quality

One of the key issues with the outgoing Smart was how poorly it was made. The new Fortwo is a much higher quality product, thankfully. Though not any less quirky.

The leather seats, though uncomfortable, feel well made. Not like they’re going to fall apart and reveal the plastic underneath. The dash is covered in a likable tweed-like cloth and colored plastic.

 You should expect that in a sub-$20,000 car. The buttons are quirky and unique, but don’t feel like they were ripped from a Daimler parts bin somewhere. It’s pretty impressive quality for a car costing as little as it does. Chrysler take note.


Literally, Gone With the Wind

With all the ‘boring’ stuff out of the way—now on to the main event. The drive itself. We won’t sugarcoat it for you: driving this car on the highway is kind of scary. Let us be more specific. Driving this car on the highway with any sort of wind is scary. It’s that second part that really matters.

For the entire three hour journey up, the wind was blowing pretty heavily. Typically, an increase like that would be felt only incrementally in a larger car. In the Smart, it felt like we would be blown off the road and into an alligator-infested lake somewhere between Broward and Orange County. Loosen your grip of the wheel for a second and your butt cheeks clench with fear—forcing you to corral the car back between the lines.

It was tough to deal with, though, it’s not like we didn’t expect it. The Smart only weighs 2,100 pounds. Even the ultra-tiny Fiat 500 feels more planted. Thank Poseidon, the drive home was significantly less windy, and not having to circumnavigate the winds like Columbus the Smart actually performed admirably. Heck, we were able to push it over 90 mph—just don’t tell Florida Highway Patrol that.


Sipping on Gasoline

The wind being a factor, as well as high speeds, and our little Smart car was returning just above 35 mpg on the highway. That’s not bad for such a small engine—but not great either. Tallying up our total spent on gas—somewhere around $25 for the whole trip—that’s actually cheaper than what we’d spend on a typical trip on something larger, say, a Lexus IS.

Smart says that the Fortwo will return 34 city and 39 highway mpg. We stayed somewhere in the middle, likely because of a few factors including wind and speed. But the 89-horsepower engine doesn’t suck up near as much gas as most cars on the road. Since the tank is small, though, we had to stop halfway both there and back.


The Verdict

After 400 miles and plenty of coffee (for me, not the car), the Smart Fortwo performed somewhat admirably. Efficient and fun to drive—especially with a stick—were two key descriptors we could pull from the adventure. While on the other end of the spectrum, uncomfortable, and not entirely spacious for luggage kept the Smart out of the same category of larger, more usable vehicles.

All things considered, the Smart Fortwo isn’t exactly the worst thing we could have driven. Just make sure not to hit the highway on a blustery day.


Engine: 3-Cylinder
Horsepower: 89
MPG: 33/39
Price (base): $14,650


Spacious interior
Quality build
Fun to drive with a manual


Uncontrollable on a windy highway
Small gas tank
Not enough luggage room