The Smart Fortwo has been around since the late 1990s, and although you could argue that the very small car has achieved an iconic status (sort of), it’s not exactly a widely praised or beloved machine. The core problem has always been that to have a diminutive city vehicle, easy to park just about anywhere, many compromises over what people expect in a modern car have to be made.
The Smart (which is manufactured by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, and was originally co-branded with Swatch) is a lot like the teeny tiny cars of the immediate postwar period, but with a bunch of creature comforts added. That said, the Smart still evokes an era of anemic engines, crude suspensions, and a casual if not dismissive attitude about how long it takes, speed-wise, to get from point A to point B.
In return, you get the smallest car on the road, with two seats and a rinkydink amount of cargo space. Driving one is zippy fun, but also a constant reminder that you’re being born down on by semis, full-size sedans, and SUVs. Even large motorcycles are threatening.
The experience of sitting behind the wheel of a Smart has often been described as “novel.” And to be sure, if you do live in a big, congested city where parallel parking is a contact sport, or if you need a simple runabout for a suburbs, the Smart could be a good choice.
To be sure, the Smart induces a definite “Hey, cool!’ reaction no matter how you think about it. The question is, Does that impression last?
We got to test this out recently when were borrowed a well-equipped Smart Fortwo Cabrio, the convertible version of the car. It tipped the price scales at $23,650, but the base vehicle costs less than $19,000.
Here’s what we thought:
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When you get right down to it, the Smart Fortwo is made for city living. If you step down in the transportation hierarchy, you’re looking at a motorcycle. With the Smart, you’ve got two seats and the option to park just about anywhere you can squeeze in.
Those are normal-size NYC garbage bags, heaped in a normal-size NYC pile …
… just to give you a sense of how easy it is for the Smart to hide in plain sight!