2005 Smart Fortwo Review

smart car review
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau
Source The AutoChannel

The buzz at the North American (Detroit) International Auto Show in January included rumors that parent company Mercedes Benz might seriously consider bringing the cute little Smart Car to US shores. They were able to score a small piece of premium floor space back near Scion where they displayed the most popular Fortwo (referring to the car being “for two” people) model, along with a Forfour, a roadster, and the four-seat sport-utility version designed specifically for the US. While gauging reaction to the car the marketing and PR folks for Smart convinced us that it could be a winner here.

We sure didn’t want to miss an opportunity to do some serious research and have some fun with the little thing so we arranged a test drive from Toronto where Mercedes Benz of Canada has its corporate headquarters and keeps its press fleet. The Smart Car was introduced in Canada just last fall. They’ve sold about 2,300 units so far through 45 M-B dealers across Canada who have the Smart franchise.

You might recognize the ‘city car’ in the photo above if you pay attention to car magazines or have been to Europe in the past few years. Other manufacturers make tiny city cars in Europe but the Smart Car defines best of the genre. “In 1994 Mercedes Benz and the Swatch (watch company) group created a joint venture called Microcompact Car. The main target was to create a new urban transportation method,” we were told by Richard Trevisan, manager of Smart Canada Division of M-B. Mercedes, as we might imagine, created the mechanical concepts, which they had been working on since the 70s, and Swatch did the marketing concepts, including the interchangeable body panels which allow the customer to change the color of his car at will.

Major components are made mostly in Germany but the car is assembled in France. Though tiny it is considered a premium car and is priced from $14,000 to about $24,000 Canadian. Three trim levels are available. The materials, design and workmanship of the Smart Car are truly top drawer.

News broke shortly after the NAIAS that the Smart Car division was struggling to make ends meet and at risk of going away entirely as a brand, in spite of worldwide sales since 1998 of 630,000 units in 36 countries. That crisis has passed. As we write this review the Smart Division is being reorganized for efficiency, dropping the roadster and sport-ute models. The good news is the brand is safe for now. Bad news is, it will not be coming to the US in the near term. That’s really bad news we decided after just a few days with the car because it’s quite a hoot to drive and to see just buzzing around town.

As you can see by the photo above, the tiny car has no butt. The rear tires stick out beyond where the body ends. And its nose slopes away steeply from the top at an angle reminiscent of the BMW Isetta of the late 50s. Over all it looks unlike anything ever produced in North America. The interior has an almost Art Deco quality but with a modern interpretation. Details are both functional and artful.

Before we leave M-B HQ with the car we get a thorough walk-around with ace sales gal Sarah Roelofson. The lovely Ms. Roelofson sold BMWs nearby until the opportunity to sell the Smart Car came along. We have no question that she is sold on the car as she parks ours behind hers showing us that two fit nicely into one parking place. She does a remarkable job of narrating the car and all its features for the camera. She’s a natural. She also shows us the Smart Car’s superstructure displayed inside the show room - reportedly the only display of its kind anywhere. The rigid passenger compartment is constructed as a secure cage using race car-building techniques. Crumple zones are designed so that the forces of front or rear impacts are directed down under the sturdy passenger compartment where they are absorbed and dissipated.

Our road test tour will take us from M-B HQ on the northeast side of Toronto about two hours west to quaint Stratford, Ontario where the famous annual Stratford Festival runs all summer and includes more than a dozen professionally produced plays, both Shakespearian and modern.

It takes the entire 4 or 5 miles from M-B HQ back to the 401 freeway to just get acclimated to the controls of our peppy Smart Car Fortwo. Of course I want to shift it myself keeping it out of the automatic mode. I have two options, paddle shifting on the steering wheel or the traditional floor shifter between the seats. Or I can alternate between the two if I like. I also find, embarrassingly, that the smart little Smart Car will take it upon itself to shift for the inattentive driver who doesn’t always shift within a safe range.

Not knowing exactly what to expect I skitter full throttle through the cloverleaf entrance onto the 7-lane 401 super highway, into heavy traffic not amenable to accommodating a car that can’t keep up. So I keep up – with considerable effort.

Powered by an 800cc, 3-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mounted under the rear package tray, it makes just over 50 horsepower and 74 lb.-ft. of torque. Power gets to the rear wheels by way of the choppy 6-speed transmission. Either way the shifts are slow and definitive but fun none-the-less. Our friends at M-B insist that it will easily get 60 miles per Imperial gallon of diesel fuel. That’s about 48 mpg US.

Our support vehicle, a new Ford Escape Hybrid, is just ahead of me. We’re video taping the car for an upcoming TV show so they’re watching me carefully dodge in, around and between 18-wheelers, and every other manner of vehicle. We’re driving into a stiff head wind. I have the sliding canvas top open all the way and the side windows down. Traffic is moving about 100 kph (62 mph), when it’s moving at all, while we’re still in the city. As we get to the edge of metropolitan Toronto traffic picks up to around 130 kph (80 mph). My right foot is flat on the floor. I can’t seem to get more than 130 out of her even though the speedometer goes to 140. I close up the top with the power switch. It seals tight. Then I close the power side windows. Without that wind resistance I can make 140 easily keeping up with the brisk westward flow of traffic.

What does the diminutive Smart Car feel like at 80 mph between two semis in a brisk wind on the 401, you ask?

Surprisingly stable, I must say. Certainly, I feel the jostle and sway of being buffeted about but there is never a feeling of insecurity or instability. Very impressive. The suspension, as you might guess, is quite firm, but as we shift up and down to keep the power maximized at around 2,500 to 3,000 rpm we rock back and forth boat-like because of the short wheel base and the relaxed pace of transition from gear to gear.

My colleagues in the Escape ahead said the best video shot is the Smart Car dancing along in the center lane flanked by huge rigs on either side.

West of Toronto we exit the 401 at Kitchener and head west on Highway 8. We arrive at the appointed hour to meet our host from the Stratford Tourist Bureau who will show us around town and arrange some interviews. We’ve been thinking of the Smart Car as an icon for youngsters but we’re seeing awestruck looks coming from all generations including our middle-aged host.

As we bounce around town for the next couple of days getting a feel for the area and the car we continue to be amazed at the attention and interest the Smart Car generates. This is certainly not your car if you’d like to be unnoticed, particularly in the chartreuse color of our test car. It has been available in Canada long enough for quite a few folks to know what it is. Many folks look up, point and holler, “Smart Car”. The others look up, point and holler, “What’s that?”

According to our M-B folks its not just being sold in urban area as we might expect. It’s popular in small towns as well where people have relatively short distances to drive and want the fun and economy of this odd duck. Division Manager Trevisan tells us that the best-represented demographic group among Smart owners is what he calls DINKS – that is, “dual-income, no-kids”. Judging from the dozens of folks around Stratford with whom we talked, from a group of juvenile delinquents at the local trade school to an old fellow from Quebec admiring the swans with his much-younger wife, the appeal of the Smart Car easily spans generations.

I can’t imagine that this great little car would find anything less than an enthusiastic reception among US car buyers.

So, we heartily recommend that our friends at Daimler-Chrysler and Mercedes Benz reconsider bringing it here. I’ll sure be a likely customer.

I’m just one real DINK. There are lots more of us.

Smart USA Newsletter Vol. 4

While we are at... here is volume 4 of the Smart USA Newsletters.

smart newsletter
smart newsletter
smart newsletter
smart newsletter
smart newsletter
smart newsletter

Smart USA Newsletter Vol. 2

Care to step back in time 6 months and catch up on the smart car news. Well after diggin high and low, we were able to come up with Volume 2 of the Smart USA Newsletter.

smart newsletter
smart newsletter
smart newsletter

Lambo-Doors Must be Popular

I don't know whether it's the doors themselves or the combination of the roadster and the lambo doors but here we have found yet another Smart roadster sporting some Lamborghini doors.

smart car pictures

smart batman

smart batman

Lamborghini-doors on the Smart Roadster

Lambo doors on the smart roadster... WHAT!
Check out these smart roadster pictures.

smart lamborghini

smart car pictures

Smart Micro Hybrid

Well, less of a hybrid and more of a fuel miser….

smart car news

Hot on the heals of the all electric Smart comes the Smart Micro Hybrid, but don't go thinking the diminutive 4Two is going all Prius on us by strapping on a load of batteries and an electric motor, oh no. The important gizmology is in a system that kills the engine when the car is stationary, and as the Smart is now a familiar sight in congested cities and crowded streets we imagine this will save a lot of otherwise wasted fuel. Simple huh?

Smart, being a German brand are a little more accurate claiming 13% better economy and a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions from 112g/km to 103g/km.

The only noticeable change is the arrival of a ECO light on the dash, all else staying the same as a regular petrol or diesel 4Two's. Sales of the coupe and cabrio Micro Hybrid 4Twos begin at the end of the year.

Soon all cars will hopefully be made this way, but until then one of the worlds greenest cars just got greener.

The Brabus Smart Forfour

smart brabus pictures

So, Brabus knows a thing or two about creating high-velocity DaimlerChrysler products. Can this translate to the Smart Forfour, a vehicle built for urban driving, ease of parking and frugality? Check out these Smart Car Pictures to answer this for yourself.
smart car pictures

Twin chrome exhaust pipes and a subtle rear diffuser liven up the back end. The noise coming from that slinky exhaust is more muted grumble than full-on growl.

smart brabus pictures
smart brabus pictures
Attention to detail is apparent everywhere you look in the Smart Forfour Brabus. Even the engine compartment looks the business, with a "Powered by Brabus" badge that will make even the AMG or BMW M crowd jealous.
smart brabus pictures
smart brabus pictures
smart brabus pictures
The 177-hp, 1.5-liter, turbo four-cylinder thrives on torque, not revs. A 0-60-mph time of 6.9 seconds is less than half that needed for a bare-bones Forfour to reach the same speed.
smart brabus pictures

ICE Smart Car Pictures

Check out the pictures of this customized Smart Car. Let the pictures speak for themselves, this think is awesome.

smart car pictures

smart car photos

Don't Mess with this Smart Car Forfun

Ever seen a picture of a Smart Car that intimidates you. Well look no further. Click below to see more!

smart car pictures big foot

Smart Car Dealership Pictures

Want to know what the lot may look like of your local Smart Car Dealer? Well take a look at all these Smart Cars lined up in France.

smart Car dealership pictures

smart car pictures

Pictures of the Smart Roadster

Are you upset that we may never get the Smart Roadster? Well, don't let it get you too down as here you will see one lucky guy that is driving his Smart Roadster around town and I have the Smart Roadster pictures to prove it!

smart roadster photo

smart roadster photo

smart roadster picture

Smart Newsletter Volume 5

Did you only hop on the Smart train in the last few months? Well incase you missed all the newsletters via Smart USA, we got em all!

smart usa newsletter

Smart Cabrio Spotted in Hawaii

Check out this good look smart cabrio spotted in no where else then Hawaii. I love the AMG badge that this owner of this silver smart fortwo cabrio has put on the back.

smart Hawaii

Smart USA Newsletter Vol. 3

Want to take a run down memory lane with the smart usa newletter volume 3. Check out the strides and leaps smart USA has already achieved in more then just bring thier car to the US but also in producint good press material.

smar newsletter

See the entire thing after the jump!

smart usa newsletter

Will Smart Americans go for Smart Cars

smart carI was thinking how nice it would be to spend under $10,000 for a car that gets 47 miles per gallon, is easy to park and cheap to register. I found the last two sentences irritating: "Some observers doubt whether American drivers are ready for such a radical revolution in size and horsepower. American consumers would probably perceive the minicar as a kind of toy."

I will decide for myself what I want as a consumer; it's not really up to an industry spokesman to tell me what I want. American consumers buy what is available. If a small, well-styled and well-built car were for sale here in the United States, you'd better believe people would buy it.

As for the toy aspect, so what? Some people have MG Midgets as toys; other people have gigantic, bus-sized campers as toys.

We're a wide-open country, and many of us have to commute 30, 40, 50 miles to work one way each day. Furthermore, most of us drive to and from work without passengers or huge amounts of cargo, so dragging along that excess capacity and horsepower does not make much sense.

I was fortunate to have a European vacation this summer. While in Berlin, I got an up-close look at several Smart Cars. They get 50 mpg, are well-built and engineered for safety, have nice features like air conditioning and power windows and can go 85 mph.

The diesel version gets 60 mpg, but it can't be sold here because of emission restrictions.

Smart Car might get the Green-Light on Green Licenses

As the world drives toward a cleaner environment, individual drivers, with the help of governments, are going to have to change their purchasing habits.

Some people will change their habits simply because they want to do what is right. Others, who are less altruistic, will require incentives to prod them to make decisions that take the general good into account. Offering incentives, as opposed to legislating outright bans, has the advantage of permitting individuals to make the final decision.

The federal Conservatives understood this approach when they offered in their spring budget to grant rebates of up to $2,000 to drivers who purchase superefficient vehicles.

Now, the provincial Liberals are thinking of offering something similar. Environment Minister Laurel Broten told a news conference last week the government is toying with the idea of creating what might be called a "green licence" plate. "This is another way of us helping Ontarians go green," she said.

The government could, for example, provide green-hued licence plates to drivers who use environmentally friendly, low-emission cars and trucks such as the hybrids which use electric motors as well as internal combustion engines.

Another vehicle that might apply is the Smart car, which, because of its small size, uses a minimal amount of fuel.

There are many perks that the owners of such vehicles could be offered. These might include free parking in municipally owned parking spaces and free access to commuter lanes usually reserved for vehicles with multiple occupants. The price of the green licence plates could be set below the current registration fees. The drivers might be required to pay only a minimal fee to cover the cost of issuing the licences. To their credit, the Liberals are taking their time with this subject and don't intend to implement a policy unless they are re-elected in the provincial election. The government plans to consult the vehicle manufacturers as well as environmental groups. The problem, of course, is that there is no perfect measurement of an efficient car.

A rating system may have to be somewhat subjective. A Smart car transporting just one person -- the driver -- for example, may be less efficient on a per-occupant basis than a larger car transporting the driver and several passengers.

Let's accept that, ultimately, the government might have to make some arbitrary decisions that will not please everyone. The goal in this case is not to produce a perfect policy but a reasonable policy. The pursuit of a greener world will make such a policy more than justified.

Brabus Smart Fortwo in California

Looks like someone was out an about in a hot black and yellow Brabus edition smart fortwo this weekend. This smart fortwo with a custom body kit by Brabus was looking very flashy as it drove down the ever so sheik Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California.

brabus smartcar

Smart USA Launching Smart Car Community

According to smart USA"s latest newsletter, they will be launching a "smart fan site" of their own in the coming month! That would be awesome but it leaves me with a few questions... who the hell is going to run that thing. has any automotive-maker ever attempted this before? Does smart USA think they have any idea what it takes to run a community site and the type of backlash that they may be opening themselves up to? Best of luck Smart USA!

smart usa community

Follow the link to read what smart USA is saying!!!

From the smart USA newsletter:

"For those of you who recently made a $99 reservation on a 2008 smart fortwo – congratulations! You have become part of the exciting launch of the smart brand in the USA. But what’s next? Over the next few weeks, smart USA will begin posting important information on our website (and on our e-newsletters) about key aspects regarding the launch.

The next step in the reservation process:
The USA models of the smart fortwo will begin production within the next few months. As such, smart USA will begin contacting reservation holders about taking reservation preferences to the next step. Over the next few months, batches of reservation holders will be contacted to confirm their vehicle preferences, choose any factory options, and send their smart fortwo configuration to the factory.

Technical specifications:
As noted above, the smart fortwo will enter production within the next few months. At that time, full technical specifications will be confirmed and posted on our website. This will also include information on all factory-installed options and dealer-installed accessories.

The smart USA enthusiasts’ site:
Next month, smart USA will launch an official “fan site” for the smart owners. This site will allow enthusiasts from across the country to interact and discuss their smart fortwo’s. smart USA will also allow enthusiasts to help name our site through a special poll. So please keep an eye on your inbox over the next few weeks to participate in the naming of our owners’ site."

Penske Groups Q2 2007 Conference Call Notes

See what Roger Penske has had to say about the future and direction of advertising and marketing for his newest baby boy brand, Smart!

Reading the call, I was interested in what Roger Penske had to say about the smart distribution.

Here is an excerpt:

The other thing would be advertising. We are not sure today the traditional TV, radio, etc., newspaper advertising is the way you want to go long-term because if you use smart as an indicator, we haven't run an ad yet, we haven't run a radio commercial, it's all been internet based, internet connection. So I think we are going to get the benefit as the dealers move more of their advertising into the internet those leads they are going to get then they are going to pass through the dealer in a particular area where you have the zipcodes and I think that's going to make a huge difference for us as we have scale in many of these markets. Also when you look at the smart customer, we've asked them on the road show, how do you want to be contacted and 62% said, we want you to contact us by e-mail. So this e-mail capture, the internet, CRM systems, I think that's just going to drive our SG&A down as we get more efficient. Because I can send an e-mail blast out and blast out on a service special and get overnight response that hasn't cost me a nickel so it's very efficient. So, I think that will be a big driver for us.

The Smart Car Song! What I've Been Looking For

Are you like me? Do you ever just want to break out in song and melody when you see something you like? Well, looks like the smart car already has had this effect!

Smart Car Racing!!!

I can feel it already... the Smart Car will find it first racing heritage upon arriving to the states. This will be bigger then Beckham, well maybe not that big gut it will be huge!

Rallying in the Smart Car

smartcar rally
Who would have thought that the Smart Car could be the next vehicle that a performance tuner may look to when it comes to having a unique race car. Apparently the idea has all ready caught wind in other markets and if we are lucky will follow suit in the states. Smart Car Racing!!!

Eleanort Smart Car aka Smartinor

While I may not be a fan of the car specifically, I never like to disgrace to a project that has as much work and thought in to it as this poor car has.

See all the pictures and how this thing came alive after the jump!
smart car
The design study was made in clay on a regular smart toy model.
The sculpting was done directly on the body of a smart car provided by Chrysler. To quickly get volume to the sculpt we use a special mix of foam and styrofoam.
When this mix has hardened we sand it down to the shape we want and then apply plaster that will provide us with a smooth enough surface after sanding it so it's ready for the paintjob.
After the sculpt is completed and painted it's time to make moulds from it. The moulding process starts with figuring out where to split the mould so you can take it apart. For each seam a plane has to be in place to be able to assemble the entire mould. Once the mould is done at has to be prepared for casting which involves covering up the seams with special clay and then wax it enough so that the mould won't get stuck to the body surface.

See the pictures to see how this thing came alive!

smart eleanor

smart eleanor

smart eleanor

smart eleanor

smart eleanor
smartcar elanor