What it Is
Smart fortwo Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: A crude city car known primarily for a lack of cargo space, funky driving dynamics, and an ability to park perpendicular to the curb, the original Smart Fortwo was never intended to be sold in the United States. Perhaps it was never intended to be sold in Europe, either, proving elusive as a money maker for its adoptive parent DaimlerChrysler. Now, with higher gas prices and thickening traffic in the U.S., the time is evidently right to get Smart in the States. Arriving in the first quarter of 2008 as a coupe or convertible, the redesigned and, according to its maker, dramatically improved Smart Fortwo should cost less than $15,000.
Why it Matters
Aside from proving that you can outrun the cops just as effectively due to size as speed in The DaVinci Code, the Smart Fortwo matters because it’s, well, smart. City dwellers all over Europe have discovered how easy the Smart is to live with in confined areas, and now Americans can, too.
What’s Under the Hood
A three-cylinder engine sits under the rear floor of the Smart. In Europe the standard gas engines make up to 71 horsepower while a turbo variant whips up a palpitation-inducing 84 ponies. The sequential five-speed manual transmission has no clutch; rather, the shift lever is tapped or paddles on steering wheel are twiddled. Smart says the model we get will average 40 mpg combined. Top speed of the 1,653-lb. Smart Fortwo is 90 mph. If you dare. Smarts come standard with ABS, EBD, and brake assist; stability control, dual front airbags, and hill start assist. Side-impact airbags are optional.
What it Looks Like
Looking like an Easter egg on wheels, the Smart Fortwo is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall, and 5.1 feet wide. Decked out in the dual-color plastic body panels that have been a characteristic of the brand since it debuted in 1998, the design emphasizes the Fortwo’s high-strength steel “tridion” safety cell that “protects its occupants like a nut.” Other details include the coupe’s polycarbonate panoramic roof, standard projection headlights, and snazzy alloy wheels. The split rear hatch creates a tailgate for parties involving 100-calorie snack packs or easily converts into a tapas bar.