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#31

in 2011 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $6,788 - $9,045
Original MSRP: $12,490 - $17,690
MPG: 33 City / 41 Hwy
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2011 Smart Fortwo Performance

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

Smart designed the Fortwo to be a fuel efficient city car, but according to reviewers, the Fortwo doesn’t meet these expectations. The Fortwo’s fuel economy ratings are high, but it requires premium fuel. Reviewers also have mixed feelings about the 2011 Smart Fortwo's performance. Its small frame makes it incredibly maneuverable, but acceleration is poor and braking distances are too long.

  • "Never serene. Road noise is relatively well-muffled, but wind rush is pronounced at highway speeds. The engine is always audible and rises to a loud groan under acceleration. Top-down conversation is possible in the convertible at highway speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Power output is OK when pulling away from traffic lights, but the rear-mounted engine quickly loses steam as the revs rise, and its fuel economy isn't that much better than what you'd get from many other larger and more practical vehicles." -- Edmunds
  • "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

Acceleration and Power

Overall, the 2011 Smart Fortwo’s acceleration and power critiques aren’t very positive. The Smart Fortwo has a weak 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 70 horsepower. An automated manual transmission is standard. Reviewers say that the Fortwo is sluggish from a start and that its gears don’t shift smoothly.

There aren’t many cars in the Fortwo's price range that offer decent acceleration, but the Toyota Yaris has a zippier ride than the Fortwo while still boasting a high 29/36 mpg city/highway fuel economy. It provides seating for four passengers and more cargo space.

The EPA gives the 2011 Smart Fortwo high fuel economy ratings of 33/41 mpg city/highway. While these are some of the highest averages in the class, shoppers should know two things. First, the Fortwo requires premium fuel, which means you’ll pay more at the pump even though you have high gas mileage. Second, the Fortwo is an okay driver, but you can get a comparable five-seater with good fuel economy and better performance at a similar price.

  • "Smart pegs the ForTwo's 0-60 mph acceleration at 12.8 seconds; Consumer Guide testing suggests ForTwo is slightly quicker than that figure. Still, 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." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With 70 horsepower provided by the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed paddle-shift automatic, the 2-seater Fortwo scoots around briskly." -- Road and Track
  • "This sort of rough shifting is unacceptable in any car at any price, making it a deal breaker for some. Drivers can work around this by shifting manually and lifting off the throttle momentarily (as you would with a traditional stick shift)." -- Edmunds
  • "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

Handling and Braking

The Smart Fortwo works best as an urban runabout, excelling with close-quarters maneuverability and responsive steering. Reviewers, however, are disappointed with the Smart’s braking performance. They say braking distances should be a lot shorter for such a small car.

The Smart Fortwo handles a lot differently on the highway. It’s so slow that merging can become difficult.

  • "Agile around town; tiny dimensions help provide outstanding close-quarters maneuverability. Light, accurate steering contributes to an almost sporty demeanor, though some testers complain of tippy sensations in corners." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The rack-and-pinion steering is precise and gives the vehicle a bit of sporty flair, although the Fortwo is slow." -- Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "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

Next Steps: 2011 Smart Fortwo

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