I was nearly hit by a Smart fortwo while crossing the street earlier today and it made me realize how many other cars I would rather be killed by. Among cars that are easy to hate on the fortwo is unique in that it has few redeeming qualities that could be argued for on the basis of practicality.
There lies the rub: If it’s not practical than what the hell is it good for besides running down auto journalists on the way back from doing laundry at their parents’ houses?
The fortwo just doesn’t make sense in so many ways. To make matters worse, many of the people who drive them seem to have a tendency to love them for ideological reasons, most of which are built on shortcomings. The fortwo is a social statement at best, one that says, “I am making a social statement. Look at how effing small my car is.”
Here’s why the Smart fortwo is dumb enough for 3:
For a car that looks like a toy suffering through the late stages of gigantism the fortwo’s fuel economy is lackluster at best. According to the United States’ fuel economy ratings it’s good for 34city, 38 highway, or 36mpg combined. A 2013 Ford Fiesta will get 29city, 39highway and weighs nearly 900 pounds more. That’s good weight that comes with a usable car attached to it.
So maybe the fortwo doesn’t live up to certain compact cars in the way of fuel economy, but at least it’s still priced like one. It starts at close to $12,490. Those are big numbers for a micro-car. The Ford Fiesta mentioned above starts at $13,200, leaving one to ponder how a vehicle that could fit into the bed of a used pickup can justify costing more than the truck.
Compounding the fuel economy issue the fortwo isn’t a cheap date with the petrol. Her 1.0L three cylinder engine prefers to sip premium when out on the town. With the good stuff she makes 70hp and 14.1 second road trips to 60mph. For those of you unfamiliar with 0-60mph times that's very bad.
WHY SO SMALL?
Seriously, why? There’s no practical reason in these great United States the fortwo needs to be so tiny. Even in its most densely populated areas nearly every major U.S. city will still easily accommodate parking for a compact or sub-compact car. Parking garages were invented quite some time ago and seem to be working just fine for every ass that still manages to stuff his Escalade into a “compact” stall.
Although the man in the fortwo who nearly ran me over chose to stop I'm led to wonder if he may have contemplated for a split second whether blasting my corpse into a roadside shrubbery would be worth the erasure of my carbon footprint from his neighborhood.
And yes, for the purposes of this blog I may very well be playing the part of a hack auto blogger chicken-pecking a poorly conceived rant as a stopgap between valid story ideas. I may live in a studio apartment with an ugly fern that probably hates me, but I am nobody’s fool when it comes to cars.
It should be noted that Edmunds, one of the most respected and widely read automotive review publications of our time described the 2012 Smart fortwo as one of the “least desirable cars on the market.” (1)
Take a look at this paragraph from the full review:
“..The single-clutch, automated manual transmission is one of the worst transmissions on the market today. It causes unsettling lurches at any speed, complicating precise parking maneuvers and making boulevard driving thoroughly unpleasant. On the highway, the Smart fortwo is out of its element, being easily upset by wind gusts or passing trucks.” (1)
Being upset by wind gusts and passing trucks is something that should be reserved for people old enough to flag down a passing Access bus.
The mystery man in the fortwo was right to be upset that I sauntered diagonally across the quiet residential street we share, lazily assuming his tiny toy car wouldn’t suddenly appear from behind a roundabout. He was forced to brake curtly and threw up his hands in disgust, as if to proclaim he had caught me blatantly disregarding the most important rule of pedestrianism; to look both ways before crossing the road.
I’m sorry for the trouble this must have caused him.
“We're also not fans of the awkward brake pedal placement and its inconsistent travel.” (1)
What I’d like for him to understand is that his Smart fortwo is a dark mark in the very important early attempts of automakers to build more economical, practical modes of transportation for a future that can’t expect to run on over sized fossil fuel vehicles much longer. Faux progression in the struggle is more unforgivable than honest failures.
If I had my pick I'd like to be run down by a late sixties V8-powered American pickup truck, rusted out and backfiring black smoke, driven by Norman Rockwell. A truck like that holds a golden place in automotive history. It made perfect sense for it's time.
The same just can't be said about the Smart fortwo.