Smart Car Review

By Deane Barker on July 29, 2006

All cars great and small: Very positive review of the upcoming Smart car. I so want one. Sixty miles per gallon.

Mine was a convertible, done up in a crisp silver metallic. Inside, the car is surprisingly roomy and, true to its name, cleverly designed. The passenger seat is set back several inches to make the driver’s view more panoramic and give the passenger a bit more legroom.

If the driver’s flying solo, he can fold the passenger seat flat, turning it into a table with a built-in cupholder. A cargo shelf in back holds enough luggage for a business trip, and the dashboard offers plenty of cubby space for cell phones and BlackBerrys.

A bonus: easy parking:

I simply found a gap between two parked cars and pulled in. Perpendicularly. With the front wheels squared against the curb, the Smart’s little rear end didn’t stick out much past the cars next to it.

And apparently fun to drive:

[…] the Fortwo, with its wheels pushed far into its corners, handled the curves with go-cart aplomb.

When I think about the fact that my Nissan Altima hauls only me around 90% of time, I get a little ill. I’ve seriously considered a motorcycle, which would be much less wasteful, but I live in South Dakota, so I could only drive it six or seven months out of the year.

(I’ve often thought there should be a car-to-human weight ratio limit. Take the average amount of weight and cargo you move around, and multiple that by…15. That’s the maximum vehicle weight you can buy. Draconian, yes, but desperate times call for…you know.)

It’s a good time for the Smart car. (Photo by Elijah van der Giessen, via Wikipedia.)

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  1. Have you seen the video where a Smart was driven into a wall at 70mph? Nobody in it, so no telling how someone would fare in a crash like that, but the car did amazingly well. Both doors even opened & closed afterward. Link.

    You know, I’ve seen stuff about the Smart Car all over the place, and browsed through the website, but I still don’t know if it’s front engine/front drive or rear engine/rear drive. The thing is so small, it’s not obvious from looking at the outside.

    I’m with you though; I’d love to have something like this for getting to work & back. I don’t know if I’d be willing to pay $12-15k for it though.

  2. i’m wondering why it took so long for them to make it over here. they (and variations) have been around for quite some time in europe.

  3. Definitely watch the crash-into-a-wall video. Then note how carefully they DON’T show you what became of the space between the driver’s seat and the front of the car. Don’t get me wrong, the car did VERY well in the crash, and you’d probably survive, but you wouldn’t have anything below your thighs.

    I was in a head-on crash at 55 mph once and walked away (hurray for the solidity of a 1966 Volvo and its three-point seat-belts). I’m kind of safety concious.

  4. Check out the Smart Roadster. Its a rearwheel drive, mid engine two seater. Convertible and turbo charged. Its a 0.7litre 3 cylinder engine. Due to the lightweight chassis and plastic panels it has a better power:weight ratio than a porsche 911 :) It also happens to be my favourite car. Sadly its going out of production.

    Link to smart roadster homepage

  5. They were introduced into Canada a about 3 years back. Great little cars. I haven’t heard any complaints about them even during the winter months. I thought they were kinda pricey for what you get. They were right on par with a basic Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. They way gas prices are going, I would consider it a little more seriously if I were to do it again. (I got the Corolla instead. Great car, wrong color.)

  6. How fun would it be to trick one of these out with hydraulics? I don’t imagine you’d need much force to send one bouncing down the street in sync with ?Gold Digger (but she aint messin? wit no broke?)?

  7. Well i just saw one on the streets of Denver today and was amazed to see one. I remember seeing them in Munich and Paris about 4 years ago and taking pictures of it because it was so cool looking. Found out after that they did not have them in the U.S. because they did not meet the safety specs for the government. Either they worked on that or the government relaxed a little because of the high fuel costs. I am going to look at one pretty hard. Onlyl draw back for me would be not being able to put a car seat in one. I think it’s a law that you can’t have one in a front seat. What kind of price are we looking at?

  8. It’s not going to get 60mpg… that’s the diesel version, which won’t be sold in the U.S. The gas version that will be sold here will get a combined 40mpg (city/hwy), and cost around $15K. I was hoping for much better price and MPG, but will probably wind up with a Yari. 4 seater, 3mpg less and thousands of dollars cheaper.

  9. Bought one 1 (yes one ) year ago and have 40,000 km on the clock. That is DOUBLE what the average driver drives. Price is no objection, as now I can buy what I want. I missed out on the 2CV, the Citroen DS, the ORIGINAL Mini, etc, etc, so who cares. 20 smiles to the mile. Service is on the pricy side, but after initial break-in the car’s computer system decides when the next service shall be. At 32,000 I was getting worried, but the dealer told me, don’t as it will come up. One can also find out by pressing a button a few times. I would recommend snow tires for the winter ( and I have them) ( I live in Canada ) and no problem. Again don’t drive in a blizzard ’cause even then a Volvo won’t help you ( I had four ).

  10. I am pretty sure I saw one of these in SF today. Blue Wire Technologies plastered all over it. Interesting – but I am pretty sure if you were in any kind of accident that thing would fold like tin-foil, and the guys driving it didn’t look exactly comfortable.

  11. I own a Smart car for over 2 yrs now and love it. I live in Vancouver, Canada. The car I have has heated leather seats, great stereo system, automatic convertible, it even tells me if there is frost on the road. Although I am tall, I have more than ample room in the car. I would not trade it in for anything. The only complaint I would have is that the defrost could be improved.

  12. But I am considering one for a second “city” car. I have been watching Smart cars with some interest as the diesel with high mpg or low litre/100km is enticing. I want to see some independent reliability reports first as any fuel cost savings can dry up fast if they die in 5 years needing a $2500 repair.

    I will say this, at -10C (14F) or lower, with more than a few centimeters of snow you can drive 1100 kilometers and not see a single one. The same trip last summer, I saw at least 10. My suspicions are these are fair weather condition vehicles only.

    They also seem to disappear from the road in the city at -10C. Saw one once though, frosted windows in rush hour traffic…

    I for one will not give up my 4×4 V8 as at least one vehicle needs to be designed for all around use where I live. My employer is not going to like it if I don’t go to work because it is -35C with 20cm snow. But still considering one in the long term during fair weather.

  13. Got smart car and love it . Got it secondhand had 81000km on it.Service came up and they told me engine is long should engine last , went to look and 4 more were in for engine changes .

  14. Had one as a company car while assigned to our Munich office. It was a novelty, Learned to stay off the Autobahn fairly quickly, though. The one I drove was very well maintained by my company, but I found myself in the local MB dealer far too often. I saw one with substantial collision damage which scared the hell out of me. When I returned to the states, I bought a Prius, which has FAR more room coupled with a lot better gas mileage overall. i average 44-46 MPG at 60MPH with the a/c on. Sure, Smart is new here, cute and is a novelty, but take it from someone with day to day experience…buy a Prius.

  15. Why in the fuck would someone buy a piece of shit SmartAss(TM) car??? First of all they are WAY over priced for what you get. They are propriatary, i mean for fuck sakes wheel barrel companies make tires, so how come a SmarAss(TM) car can’t use something off the shelf?

    Second, keeping in mind the price, you can buy a fully loaded 1998 Grand Marquis for about 4000US. Take the SmarAss(TM) car @ 26000 dollars minus 4000 = 22000 dollars.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that the Grand Marquis will run for a hell of a long time on that 22K and you don’t have to feel like a tool driving a shit can.

    Also, you benefit the environment by keeping a perfectly good use car on the road and out of the land fill.

    Oh, and the best part! Next time your in a head on, I’ll take the Marquis over the SmartAss(TM) car any day!

  16. My smart car is going crazy, the wiper goes on by itself and the indicator doesn’t work that well anymore. Its driving me crazy, crazy i tell you.. and here it costs thousands to repair such a SMART car.. its depressing..

  17. the smart’s engine is in the back, and i think it is very effecient. if you look at videos on youtube, you can clearly see that diamlerchrysler has done all that they could have to make this vehicle safe and… well, smart. can’t wait until they hit the US!

  18. It’s not going to get 60mpg… that’s the diesel version, which won’t be sold in the U.S. The gas version that will be sold here will get a combined 40mpg (city/hwy), and cost around $15K. I was hoping for much better price and MPG, but will probably wind up with a Yari. 4 seater, 3mpg less and thousands of dollars cheaper.

    I’ll stick with my Corolla which gets a real 36.06 on the highway!

  19. these cars should cost around $5k max. look at the euro used car pages. they can be had for $2-3K a few years old.

    mileage is ~36 mpg combined (not so good) for the gas engine.

    Consumer Reports says it is the worst car they have ever tested (in almost every category)

  20. these cars should cost around $5k max. look at the euro used car pages. they can be had for $2-3K a few years old.

    mileage is ~36 mpg combined (not so good) for the gas engine.

    Consumer Reports says it is the worst car they have ever tested (in almost every category)

  21. I have, unfortunately, owned a Smart for 2 years – western Canada. I definately would not buy another one for anywhere where there is real winter weather. I have only 16k on it and its been in the garage 6 times. Lots of starting problems in winter. There was no block heater available when I bought it and now they want over $800 for one. Mercedes service is a complete joke.


  22. I was involved with a freak accident with a Smart car. The driver of the Smart car jammed on her breaks in the middle of an intersection on a green light because she suddenly heard an ambulance. I was behind her in a Lexus. I jammed on my breaks but still hit her at about 15 km per hour. Her car did very well. The bumper came off but there appeared to be very little damage to her car. My car was more damaged because her car rose above my bumper on impact and so my bumper, grill and hood were effected.

    The learning is that no large car can stop as fast as a Smart car at low speeds and so a Smart Car driver is always at risk of being rear-ended by a large vehicle if they jam on their breaks suddenly.

    I think the Toyota Matrix is a better choice.

  23. Could you imagine getting hit by a semi tractor trailer while in one of these? Why not just put wheels on a garbage can, the result is the same. They tried in the 70s, to push sub-compacts on us when gas prices were going crazy, now they come up with micro-compacts. They didn’t sell in the 70s and only an idiot would buy one of these coffin-on-wheels.

  24. Drove one yesterday —–My ’51 de Soto was more nimble——–what WERE they thinking with that “auto-clutch” You could have a couple Suburbans run over you whist waiting for the clutch it get its’ butt in gear

  25. Just bought a used smart car with 54k on it a month ago. Diesel with glow plugs,no problem starting even at -25c . When fuel hits $1.50 ltr this year guess what? I’ll be laughing at those folks with big suv’s and trucks paying $100 or so for a tank of fuel. Filled up yesterday @ $1.12 ltr for diesel a grand total of $14.00 ! With abs brakes and traction control it goes well in the ice and snow. I found two garages that will service the car. I am NOT going to the mercedes dealer for service their rate sits at $112.00 hour. One guy will do the service for $60.00hour. My car will carry the two of us and a weeks worth of groceries, what else do you need ?

  26. The smart car hits the street of America this winter. World travelers out there will probably recognize the mini-vehicle from the streets of Europe, where they can be found navigating narrow alleyways and parking in small can be modified with the own design in it.

  27. The smart fortwo ended up with less than stellar safety testing ratings. 3 star passenger side crash ratings. 3 star for rollover which is less than other sedans. It barely got a 4 star overall. The mpg performance is less than it should be for a car it’s size and what many waiting had hoped for. Certainly not 60 mpg but maybe 40 if you drive like grandpa. Most getting somewhere in the 30’s. Plus there are problems for some with the gear shifter breaking. Lack of dealer networks and many states having no dealerships at all. Add to that a 2 year wait in some area’s and the smart car is not a smart choice for many afterall. It is cute though. And if you are worried about squeezing into a parking place or if you want attention for having a novelty car then it could still be a good option.

  28. I’ve seen four on the road in suburban Philadelphia in the past ten days or so. There’s a dealership in the area, so I’ll be test-driving one soon. We have an ECHO which gets 38/48 for commuting, and an ancient SUV/truck used only for transporting boats, so we’re considering Smart as an errand vehicle for the person who works at home. $10,000 would be fine; $15,000 too high for our purposes.

  29. I’m keeping my 1500 Dodge Quad Cab Sport for practical purposes, but I’m seriously considering getting a Smart Car and my wife a 4 dr. Yaris to go to work and back, Those of you who will not consider buying a small car, you deserve to pay $100.00 to $125.00 a week on gas and it ‘s only going to get worse. The Oil companys are only going to bleed your wallets, unless we all get together and purchase any kind of small pickup or small car and/or hybrid to fight back oil prices. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to drive my truck, but enough is enough! The Oil companies might as well provide free KY Jelly samples after you fill up! What use to cost me $27.00 to fill up, now cost me $70.00 @ $3.40 a gal. Forget about it! Everytime I fill up, all I can think of is how I’m making some CEO rich! Everytime someone invents some kind of gadget that saves gas or a motor that doesn’t run on gas it gets bought out by the Oil Companies. You only hear about it once and you don’t hear about it any more! I’d rather have an accident in a smart car than a motorcycle, besides how do you get to work on a motorcycle if it rains or hails?

  30. America is going to have to get used to the idea that gas mileage is about to get very important again.

    People talk about boycotting Exxon/Mobil, or having gas tax breaks for the summer, but neither one will help bring prices down. It’s all about supply and demand, Economics 101. The ONLY way to have an impact on prices is for EVERYONE to use less gas. Less demand = lower prices for the same supply. How hard is that to understand?

    Sorry, but that means smaller cars for the daily commute. The $4000 ’98 Grand Marquis someone mentioned as a “better choice” isn’t such a hot bargain after you’ve run a few tankfuls of juice through its big ol’ V8 at prices now north of $3.60 a gallon and rising. That gets old REAL quick.

    If you absolutely MUST have a huge gas-guzzler by all means knock yourself out, but as far as I’m concerned you forfeit any right to complain about high gas prices when you choose to drive such a vehicle. You knew what you were getting yourself into when you bought it.

    However, the Smart isn’t that great on gas, there are plenty of other cars now which get similar or even better mileage and have more space. Smarts fit well in Europe where the streets are so narrow in some cities and parking can be hard to find, but that’s not really an issue in most places here.

  31. Bad Joke, Misplaced hope I was very excited about the Smart, even paid my 99 dollars.. .. . Until I drove one. What a piece. Jerks you and your passenger around the roomy cockpit every time it shifts gears. If you do the shifting yourself, it totally sucks, If you let the car do the shifting, it actually sucks even worse. Underpowered. Oh, and by the way, whoever told you that is gets 60 mpg was lying. Try 31-33 in the city. lucky if you get 38 highway… Save your money

  32. Saw a convertible one driven on US 270 North in Maryland early this afternoon. It passed my car when my speed was at 60mph and I had chance to see it first time. I do not know about other aspects such as reliability, mpg, comfortability and others, but I am doing research now. So far, it is an impressive little car.


  34. You keep complaining about how the car only get 30 something mpg…..hummmm. maybe there could be two models of this. I guess that never crossed your mind. In canada and other countries they are selling the diesel version which does get 74 to 80 mpg.! Now that is well worth $15,000. My husband and I use $1400 in gas every month. This week we are buying a smart car (Diesel version) and we calculate we will save $900!!!! Im driving a bettle and he drives a lexus… Both cars are already good on gas. Its just stupid and ignorant to drive big trucks or suv’s. Unless you are hauling a boat or a truck load junk I see no point in having such a vehicle.

  35. I just test drove the smart car today…and I’m in love. It was small on the outside but like my dealer said its an optical-DELUSION. it was so true. Once inside it had as much room as my college car the ford escort hatchback. My major concern is highway driving…not that i do much, but those semi trucks scare me,,,and driving over bridges, especially after that yugo took a dive off the Mackinaw Bridge some years back. I seriously drive an average of 11miles per day.9 its only 4 round trip to work,) so this vehicle would be ideal. But as stated before its kind of a lot for the car you get. I am fortunate enough to have one of the only SMART dealership in north america, so I am on the orphan list (where people reserve their SMART car then 18-20months later when the car finally gets in they change their mind…thus the poor smart car becomes an orphan.) They had a few at the dealership all colors and models, one with ground effects etc. and the sales guy did tell me they last approx. 130K-180K miles.

  36. One of the many things about the Smart Car that makes me laugh, is the illusion of safety in the cockpit during a collision. Regardless of how strong the car’s frame is, it cannot change the laws of physics. When you have a head-on collision in your Smart Car with a 1974 Lincoln Continental you are going to die for a couple of reasons.(The Lincoln is just a comical example) However, take the Lincoln into consideration in a crash. It has roughly six feet of hood in front of it which works as a crumple zone. When that Lincoln hits even a brick wall, that six feet of steel and 460 crumple before the full force of that initial impact travels through to your seat belt and into your body. The so called “Smart” Car on the other hand has absolutely NO crumple zone. So with that being said, i’ll let whoever is reading this comment do the math. And for those of you who are having trouble with that math (and i know you’re out there because i still see people driving these golf carts around) When you don’t have a crumple zone in a collision every pound of force is tranferred directly into you.

  37. I dont know whats worse the toyota prius or the smart car. Because When I wake up I have to pull them out of the grill my car there so small. There both terrible I for one would not feel safe in the smart car because of how small they are you get hit your gone. The smart car is so small if you roll down the window and stick out your hand the car will turn. I could’nt imagine a smart car driving on my road because its full of pot holes for a mile. man if it hits one its bound to fall over. If anyone finds a picture of a prius or a smart car that is that is fixed up to where it beats a real car let me know I would like to see it.

  38. We have an 05 Pulse. It has been a disappointment from day one. My wife loves it, but then she does not have to deal with the problems. Where to begin… It is crappy in winter, the heater is not strong enough below -10. Repairs are costly at $110 an hour, and it needs servicing frequently or so it seems. You cannot even change the headlamps yourself and have to take it to the dealer. The bulbs seem to burn out quicker than most cars. Must be a ploy to cash in on the public who put their faith in these little imps. I would not ever buy another one. Money saved on fuel you spend ten times over on repairs. Get a Honda or a Toyota…

  39. Owned one for a year and it is awful the way it drives over small bumps. Felt like I was driving over a large pothole. Oil changes were expensive at the dealership. Over $200. Doesnt fair well on windy days it sways all over the place. Very noisy engine and is not very soundproof. Feels very cheaply made and doors dont seem secure and gets windy inside.

  40. Just bought one in Houston tx. a/c works well for or 100 degree days.getting 38 mpg in new have to see how first service goes.

  41. A little H.S. algebra: A ‘F’art car (curb weight 1700lbs) is traveling west going 50 MPH (a couple of liberals driving no doubt). Traveling east on the same road also at 50 MPH is a Hummer H2 (curb weight 6700 lbs). They meet in the middle. CRASH!! So — Who’s SMART now?

  42. there is 2006 smart car gas engine 54k going for 6500 $ how long do those engines last and is that a fair deal

  43. My daughter bought one new 6 years ago. She has loved & cared for it. Is very economical on fuel but repairs are expensive. It has done 60,000 miles & needs a new engine which will cost more than the car is worth. Mechanic said that 60,000 miles was pretty much it for a smart car & he’d seen them blow up at 30,000, I don’t call that environmentally friendly or economical. Bit of a disappointment really.

  44. UMF I feel for your daughter. The car did the same for me at 155,000km. I paid over 10k for repairs to only be told the car was garbage. Smart Car is a joke…but the joke is on us because we have to pay for it :(

  45. my wife just had a rollover in our smart car . she was doing about 90kph and lost control on some ice. she flipped it 1 and 3/4 times landing it on the driver’s side door in the ditch. She crawled out unscathed and the smart car cabriolet did not have a scratch on it. however the engine was still running while it was on its side and sputtered to a stop. this was caused by oil spilling into the air intake and spewing into the cylinders. this caused over compression in one chamber bending a connector rod. MERCEDES DOES NOT SELL A CONN. ROD…. you have to buy either a half or full engine. half engine runs about $9600 and a full at $13000. i bought the car a month ago at $9000. i don’t doubt the safety of the vehicle but break one small component in it and your repair bill will quickly cost more than the vehicle is worth.

  46. The starte of my 2006 Fortwo died a couple of days ago: The dealership just billed me 450$ for the new one and a 5.5 hours job to replace it, plus another 3 hours because of some striped bolt (he tells me). Total: 1500 bucks… for a starter He’s never gonna see me again!

  47. The starte of my 2006 Fortwo died a couple of days ago: The dealership just billed me 450$ for the new one and a 5.5 hours job to replace it, plus another 3 hours because of some striped bolt (he tells me). Total: 1500 bucks… for a starter He’s never gonna see me again!

  48. rented one returned it he next day drove like crud was afraid it would break down any second drove like a stuttering piece of crap

  49. rented one returned it he next day drove like crud was afraid it would break down any second drove like a stuttering piece of crap

  50. Ive had my Smart convertible for 2 years now…. I love it At highway speeds a 1 inch crack in the road is a hazard yes when i see them I slow down. Handles great on the highway as in-town. I drive it nice and average 42mpg in town and 54mpg on the highway, only use premium fuel. I don’t try and race it i just drive it nice. I change my own oil, all I’ve had to do as of yet. Im 6’4 350lbs enough room for me and another. normally my son 6’3 200lbs. Yes we are over the max load weight for the car. I did several “practice” emergency stops with it with the two of us in it and it handled the added weight just fine. If out remember one main thing… Its Not a Race Car it will be fine. Insurance is less expensive with these also. They are a bit pricey for what u get so take care of it and all will come out fine.

    if and when the engine does die i will convert to electric.

  51. I have a 2008 Smart fortwo Pure. The only significant issues I’ve had were covered by the dealer. There was a recall on the transmission software and I received a new battery (even though I didn’t need one). I do my own oil changes and I’ve figured out where to buy all of the filters cheaper than what is charged at the dealership. I have put 30,000 (mostly highway) miles on my car and it runs fine.

    The car has an inconsistent transmission (meaning it’s a little jerky and not smooth). Some of that I blame on gas quality. You really need to find good quality gas and stick with it.

    I used to have a Geo Metro with the same 1.0 liter engine but you could not drive it past 50 mph without major vibration. I’ve had my Smart car past 80 mph and it ran fine. I don’t recommend doing that on a regular basis but I was curious.

    Premium gas is $4.19 per gallon and it’s a good time to own a Smart Car.

  52. I have a 2008 Smart car and it stinks. I bought it at Mercedes South in Charlotte, NC. In less than 26,000 miles the engine gave out (burned valves) and it cost $5000. to replace it. (Under normal driving conditions. ) My research has shown that many are having engine problems. Check Google. They use an aluminum block and it won’t hold up to the heat. Mercedes will begin using steel engine blocks starting in 2012. Great for them. How about the earlier cars that are no good, like the one I’m stuck with? If Smart Car USA was an ethical company they would have a recall and replace the aluminum with steel, and refund the $5K to those who had terminal engine problems. Don’t buy one of these cars, ever. Ever.

  53. I bought one of the first 2008 gas SmartCars in the Dallas area. It has over 66,000 miles on it now and still going. I drive it to work, buy groceries, go out to eat, run errands at work and visit friends in it. Only time my wife and I drive her big rig is when we do long trips. It’s been a really great car. I have gotten out of several “near accidents” in it that if I was still driving my big Mercedes, I would have been in the hospital. It stops well and the parking is great! I do my own oil changes and I have saved a ton by only having to buy 3 1/2 quarts of oil and a tiny oil filter every 10,000 miles.

    Go Smart!

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