EDITORS' NOTEBOOK: 2008 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet, Day 2
Read Sam Smith’s comments on driving the 2008 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet.
Ha! What a pile of contradictions. What a goofy little nutter. What fun. What a ridiculous attempt at producing a real car.
That’s it, I guess, isn’t it? I put roughly two hundred miles on the Smart ForTwo, and I was both highly impressed and hugely amused. As an eight-foot-long novelty, the Smart makes for a surprisingly decent – and ordinary – small car. As an ordinary small car, however, the ForTwo is…well…little more than an eight-foot-long novelty.
Where to begin? Yes, it’s awfully space-efficient for its size. Yes, it makes you feel like you’re doing something to combat our fat-fingered society’s ills. And yes, it’s remarkably comfortable, stable, and well-finished for something that retails for $11,590 and takes up as much space as a golf cart. But in the real world, it falls short. Gusty winds pitch it from lane to lane on the interstate. There’s next to no cargo space or carrying capacity. And while forty miles to the gallon initially seems like a lot, it’s only marginally better than most of the small cars on the market.
If you live in a bubble – or, alternately, a congested and parking-starved European city – the Smart makes sense. But in our land of big skies and wide interstates, the Smart simply seems like a little lost dog. There are better options that cost only a little bit more (Honda’s $14,810 Civic coupe, for example, gets 36 highway mpg in base, manual-transmission form) and trade a little bit of fuel mileage for a whole heap of practicality. There are far more stable and entertaining small cars out there, regardless of price, that offer a more sporting package and consume little more space or fossil fuels. (Honda’s Fit, Hyundai’s Accent SE, etc.) I just can’t see living in a non-European world where the Smart’s advantages would be worth its tradeoffs.
Other complaints? Although its traction is impressive, the ForTwo is hugely, amazingly, laughably unstable on wet or snow-covered roads – the tail steps out with the slightest provocation, and the standard stability control waits far too long before intervening. The slow-shifting, lurch-drive-pause-lurch transmission is a nightmare; the ForTwo practically comes to a halt in between gears. (If ever there was a car that cried out for a manual transmission, this is it.) The driving position – you sit ON the car, not IN it, and the tops of the door sills hit you at about elbow height – doesn’t do much to instill driver confidence or sense of safety. (This isn’t helped by the ForTwo’s disappear-in-traffic size; you have to drive/ride it like a motorcycle, assuming the other guy doesn’t see you.)
Cute. Attention-getting. But a lame excuse for a real car.