I Secretly Love the Smart Fortwo

Ok, not so secretly.

I finally see what our man Ike, from the Untitled Car Show Podcast was babbling on about. (you are both wrong, this is a terrible, useless, car. Ed.)

smart fortwo

And before we get started, yes, I know that the car makes no sense. Other cars are faster, or more fuel efficient, or more spacious. You are paying for the ability to park in small spaces, which is utterly irrelevant for 99% of Americans. Parking spaces are standard size, so being smaller is not really a bonus here. In Europe, where the city streets were designed on the width of a Roman cart, you need to conserve every millimeter possible. Here in the land of cheese and self loathing, that’s less important.

I fully accept that this thing does not make sense on paper. I made the mistake of looking at the statistics after I drove it. Don’t do that. Numbers are missing the point. The acceleration figures are on the verge of being insulting, but in the real world I was surprised by the performance. I don’t mean that it’s got organ liquefying power, but just that it wasn’t as slow as I expected. I had to take the Fortwo Passion (which sounds like a honeymoon suite in Vegas) on the highway, and was fully prepared to have to merge at single digit speeds. But it did just fine, and pulled to highway speed with no issues. Granted, that was at full throttle, but that’s kind of the only way to drive one of these things.

smart fortwo

Flat out. All the time. There is some noticeable lag as you attempt to wind up the sewing machine that rests somewhere behind you, but after that it pulls reliably if not excitedly. There are some hilarious growls from intake once you get some revs in it though. That’s my whole takeaway from driving this thing around the city for a couple hours: it’s just silly. With the combination of a short wheelbase, high roof, and laggy engine, you have a bizarre combination of a go-kart that wants to be chucked around, yet is simultaneously one pothole away from falling right the fuck over. I have no idea if it would actually tip, as it wasn’t my car, so I was driving it fairly timidly, but it’s enough to keep me from pushing it too hard.

But the lack of power, combined with turbo lag and a lazy transmission means that this is the textbook definition of a momentum car. You just can’t lift. Ever.

I know everyone talks about the turning radius, but seriously, you cannot fathom how tight the Fortwo can turn around. I’m used to small hatchbacks, as both my girlfriend and I own them, but this is on another level. Flipping a u-turn in a two lane road leaves you with a few feet left over. This leads to some utterly pointless behavior, like turning around in the middle of the street randomly, or seeing if you can get sideways into a loading dock. I’m not sure how practical any of that is, but it’s amusing.

The interior is quirky, yet feels definitely cheaper than some of the rivals. I know that Mercedes owns Smart, but even if some of the computers trickle down, the hardware certainly doesn’t. You’re not going to mistake this for a Merc. But for the price, you can’t really expect that. The use of odd materials and bright colors hides some of the cheapness. It’s like riding around in a trendy basketball shoe.

So far it’s cheaply made, slow, and impractical. But I do not care. I’m not sure if I’d want as my only car, but with a manual transmission and a more free flowing exhaust, I would absolutely decimate city streets in one. Can I fit down the sidewalk? What happens if you jump the curb? Think I can get it into that freight elevator? Drive like an absolute lunatic, and everyone will just laugh. Because even though you’re going absolutely flat out, you’re probably still getting passed by the Prius. So smile, wave, and drive the shit out of that little clown car.

smart fortwo