In certain countries, vehicle taxes are based on engine size or other physical measurements. This is why tiny cars exist. Back when oil prices skyrocketed, Daimler saw the perfect time to reintroduce the Americans to micro cars. We have ample experience in two seaters, but our inventory consists of Corvettes and Vipers that aren’t exactly small. Our usual reviews are based on power, handling, and comfort, so we had to rethink the process when The latest Smart Car arrived.
We asked for the biggest engine available, so it had a turbocharged three-cylinder with 898cc of displacement. Making 90 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque, it is capable of 32 mpg city and 39 mpg highway as long as you leave the A/C off. Engines this small have an uphill fight to spin an A/C compressor on hot days, which will limit your ability to accelerate. Because the ForTwo is rear engined and rear wheel drive, the front tires are just for steering. So after the first few feet, you realize how maneuverable and fun it can be. The Passion model has stylish 15″ wheels with low profile tires. They offer very low unsprung weight, and since they are bolted to the incredibly strong Tridion safety cell it makes the car handle like a go-kart. The five-speed manual shifter is cable operated, so it needs long throws and slack in each movement.
An automatic in something this size would eat too much power and the five speed is just plain fun. Your right foot will need to remain buried to merge at any decent speed, so get ready for power shifting. Visibility is the best we have ever experienced because the windows are only inches from your eyes. The engine, transmission and cooling system are all mounted very low, which adds to the fun factor when cornering. The other brilliant cornering feature is that the seats are located very near the Z axis. By placing the passengers near this axis, it mitigates most of the G-forces while cornering.
A curb weight of 2,000 lbs is more than you would imagine, and the Smart has a crash safety that is among the best in its class. At $17,240 it makes a statement of economy and style along with German reliability. A four-year warranty covers any potential problem, and even if the engine was to fail it can be replaced in your driveway. A thriving aftermarket exists if you need more acceleration, but its is fun even in stock form. If you are tired of seeing gas guzzling behemoths everywhere you look, the Smart ForTwo is ForYou!.