2009 Smart Cabriolet
by The Car Family

for more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

This is a very cute car. Thus, if you like its looks you should consider buying one. Does it make sense from the standpoint of logic? Well, if you live in a congested area where parking and maneuverability are important and getting about 34 mpg is a plus this is a worthy vehicle to consider. If you want attention and a good driving position with excellent visibility the Smart is worth considering. If you want to drive one of the world’s least expensive convertibles that lowers its top electronically, the Smart is worth considering.

That sums up the Smart ForTwo. It is not a car for those who are logical and need to haul a lot of people and equipment. It is not a car that can get you impressive fuel mileage. It is not a car that can disguise its short wheelbase on rough roads.

In our extended weekend with the ForTwo we couldn’t help but smile every time we looked at it. Here is a vehicle that is almost cuddly. Inside there is plenty of room for two and enough cargo space to haul at least six grocery sacks or a set of golf clubs. The Smart is very easy to enter and exit and the controls are easy to master.

Mom’s view: I honestly won’t mind owning this vehicle. It is susceptible to side winds and you must get used to cars appearing to drive right into you at stop signals as the car has a very short rear-end. Outside of that, this is a perfect beach mobile and fairly practical as well. Its real forte is parking in tight spaces.

The newest version that we tested was much improved over previous generations. The ride was smoother and the transmission not as jerky. The dash is colorful and the optional tachometer and clock pods are a must order, although the readouts are a bit small. The high seating position and large window areas make driving in traffic easy and the overall fit and finish must improved. There is even more cargo room in this model, although the convertible top does take up some room. By the way, to lower the top only requires a touch of a button, but it is a cabriolet and so the metal side beams of the top remain in place.

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Recent crash tests have shown that the Smart does well, but it is a small car. On the other hand, if you are worried about safety the best vehicles are always large sedans and not large SUVs. With this in mind the question is whether I would own one and the answer is in the affirmative. The Smart does not mind keeping up with traffic that is going well over the posted highway speed limit and the brakes and handling are acceptable. The cost is somewhat a concern with our test vehicle coming in around $18,000 dollars. However, being practical has nothing to do with buying the ForTwo.

Dad’s view: The three cylinder, one liter engine provides 70 horsepower and arriving at 60 mph takes over 12 seconds, but it can cruise very well at high speeds as the engine easily revs up to its 6500 rpm red-line. If there is one weakness it is the five speed automatic gearbox. Despite paddle shifters, the transmission remains a bit harsh. There is always some delay between your request for speed and the transmission’s acceptance of this request. It gets a bit jerky. If you are planning a passing maneuver on a two lane road you might want to reconsider as the ForTwo’s transmission doesn’t like to be rushed. Otherwise this is a fun and fairly frisky ride. The suspension isn’t pleased with rough roads and the short wheelbase can bring a shuddering feel. Handling is quite good considering that this is a tall vehicle with a thin width.

I did find that the brake pedal position is a bit uncomfortable and the air conditioning was hard pressed to keep the small cabin cool. If I were to own one I would tint the large windows immediately to keep the sun’s rays at bay.
The other downside of a hard-sprung car is that you can be fooled into believing it handles well. Yes, the steering is excellent and at low speeds there is a bumper car type of feel to its handling, but don’t be fooled. This car understeers greatly. The Smart’s rollover rating of three scores is satisfactory, but not nearly that of wider vehicles. Using the Smart ForTwo for what is was designed for and the run factor make it a unique buy. I liked it and I would buy one if I lived where its character and traits could be used to advantage. I would also love to see a manual transmission that could improve fuel mileage and driveabilty.
Working Woman’s view: Even at a starting price of $12,000 the base Smart isn’t inexpensive. You can order a Nissan Versa or some Korean vehicles for less. But you can’t get any more fun for the money. Driven properly you can probably poke 40 mpg from the engine, but with a 8.7 gallon tank you are going to be hard pressed to get over 300 miles between refuelings.
People constantly asked me if the Smart was safe. These were the same people who buy large SUVs and think they are safe. The answer is that the Smart does fairly well in crash testing and has standard ABS and front and side airbags as well as traction control. It does not have two tons of steel behind it, but the Smart’s 1800 pounds have been engineered around a crash cage that works such as those in race cars.
I very much enjoyed the Smart ForTwo, but it simply is meant to be a second car or a commuter vehicle and I don’t have the funds for such a novelty.
Young working male’s view: With just 70 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 68 ft-lbs. of torque available from 4500 rpm the engine is very much willing, but the effort is weak especially when confronted with a stiff headwind. Shift it with the paddles and you are going to enjoy your ride much more. The 28.7 ft. turning radius is a joy, and its 73.5 in. wheelbase makes it the shortest car you can buy. Speaking of which, this isn’t an inexpensive vehicle and even less so with the designer version from Brabus. The rear-mounted engine is challenged by the slow shifting transmission, but going fast isn’t what this head-turner is about. It is useful, attractive, and fairly fuel efficient, although it requires premium fuel.
The Smart Fortwo comes as a hatchback coupe or cabriolet and you can order them in three flavors with the base, Pure model only available for the coupe. The next level is the Passion, which we tested, and the most expensive is the dolled-up Brabus.
As for the stereo it is barely average. I would replace it with an aftermarket model that fills the interior with more sound. In other words, this is an interesting vehicle and one that you don’t have to be afraid to drive as some automobile reviewers feel. The real question is whether it is smart to buy a Smart. The answer is in your heart, not your head.

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