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  • 2009 Smart ForTwo

#23

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $4,965 - $7,831
Original MSRP: $11,990 - $20,990
MPG: 33 City / 41 Hwy

2009 Smart ForTwo Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

For a city driver, the 2009 Smart Fortwo's agility is literally unlike any other car. But beware of the car's awkwardly-shifting transmission, slower-than-expected brakes and premium gasoline requirement.

  • "Take a corner quickly and the Fortwo lolls and rolls like it's on old bedsprings. And yet, even this quality has a quirky fun factor." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "It rides well, it holds the road, it maneuvers as if it's controlled by a video-game joystick, and its performance is quite respectable." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Yes, it really does go up to 90 mph. It takes a bit of nerve and two hands on the wheel, though the reaction on other drivers' faces as you pass them is worth every penny." -- Bloomberg News
  • "While I am not particularly taken with the Smart, it really doesn't have that much to do with size. More with the grabby, unpredictable brakes; the darty, go-kart-like steering and that transmission." -- Orlando Sentinel

Acceleration and Power

Though most auto reviewers find that the Smart Fortwo's three-cylinder engine is not built for speed, a vocal minority praises the car's pep. Both the base Fortwo and BRABUS edition feature the same engine, but the latter has a sports suspension that lowers the Forwto by 10 millimeters.

  • "Acceleration is sluggish from a stop and is plagued by annoying bogging and surging at every shift whether transmission is in manual or automatic mode. ForTwo's small engine struggles to provide adequate highway passing power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Despite the lack of horseflesh, the Fortwo is a lively little cavort. The engine revs fiendishly to its 6,500-rpm redline and the gearing is such that the car can nick through city traffic easily." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "While the Fortwo is one of the slower cars on the road today, it's not a moving traffic jam. Smart quotes a 0 to 60 mph time of 12.8 seconds, but the three-cylinder engine delivers its power best from a stop, allowing the car to keep up with the flow of traffic." -- New Car Test Drive
  • Reviewing the new BRABUS edition Fortwo, the Times wrote, "Despite the tuner affiliation, it's still the dinky 70-horsepower 3-cylinder that gets 41 miles to the gallon on the highway. And with the addition of those BRABUS emblems, it's probably at redline all the time." -- New York Times

Transmission

The Smart Fortwo's automated manual five-speed transmission is generally disliked. Test drivers notice too much pause between shifts.

  • "The transmission...is so lousy it verges on being a deal breaker. ... While other manufacturers talk about shifts that take 10ths of seconds, this one feels like tens of seconds." -- Bloomberg News
  • "The Smart's transmission is its Achilles' heel. Between the slow upshifts, the car lurches back and forth, especially between 1st and 2nd gears. This sort of rough shifting is unacceptable in any car at any price, making it a deal breaker for some." -- Edmunds
  • "If you're approaching a hill, you click the left paddle and drop the five-speed sequential manual transmission from fifth down to fourth to spike the revs before you hit the incline, because if you wait until you're already there, it's too late -- momentum is a precious commodity in the Smart ForTwo." -- Automobile Magazine

Fuel Economy

The 2008 Smart Fortwo gets an EPA-estimated 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway, and the 2009 model's ratings are expected to be just as good. Test drivers commend the Fortwo's fuel economy as one of its best qualities, but there are numerous gripes about the need to use premium fuel.

  • "While power isn't the Fortwo's forte, fuel economy is." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "It flaunts its eco-ness - the highway's equivalent of the recycled canvas grocery bag." -- Seattle Times
  • "The Fortwo's 8.7-gallon fuel tank should be good for 350 miles or so. But to achieve these results, the Smart's highly tuned engine requires pricey premium-grade gasoline. It will run on regular, but not as well, although we're not sure you'd feel it in the seat of your pants." -- Edmunds

Handling

The Fortwo is strictly a city car. While it's great for U-turns and parallel parking, it's vulnerable to crosswinds on the highway.

  • "Agile around town; tiny dimensions help provide outstanding close-quarters maneuverability. ForTwo feels slightly tippy in fast maneuvers, with noticeable body lean in turns. Steering demands frequent corrections in highway speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With its extraordinarily short wheelbase, one would expect the 2009 Smart Fortwo to feel like a shopping cart on the road. Surprisingly, the suspension manages to reduce everyday bumps and potholes to acceptable levels. Though it's a bit harrowing among trucks on a flowing highway, high-speed stability is adequate." -- Edmunds
  • "Highway stability is surprisingly good considering its size, though it is more susceptible to crosswinds and pavement irregularities (where it tends to get a bit bouncy) at speed than would a heavier vehicle." -- Forbes
  • "The car does do things no other car we've driven can do, namely make U-turns on some pretty narrow streets, and fit into parking spaces that would keep even a MINI, with its 12 feet of overall length, rolling past." -- The Family Car

Braking

It's a good thing you're not going very fast, because the Smart's dual circuit, anti-lock brakes were generally disappointing on test drives.

  • "The Smart's braking performance is adequate, but pedal feel and response from the bottom-hinged pedal is strange. The Smart stops in 124 feet from 60 mph, a distance that identically matches the performance of the Honda Fit." -- Edmunds
  • "Standard antilock brakes employ discs up front and drums in back. The execution is disappointing: I found the pedal rock-hard, imprecise and never all that powerful. After two days' driving, I still couldn't stop the car smoothly." -- Cars.com
  • "For a car so small and light, why do you have to stand on the brake pedal to stop?" -- Chicago Tribune
Used car average prices are provided by ClearBook™, a TrueCar™ product