LA Auto Show: Ecodriving the Smart Fortwo

by Benjamin Jones on November 26, 2008

Well, calling it ecodriving is pushing the limit a little bit, but I did get to take the fortwo out for a serious spin around the block. I test drove the U.S. version of the car, and not any of the cooler, European options, so that certainly needs to be taken into account. On that note, I was very happy with my drive, aside from a few caveats.

Despite the fortwo’s reputation as a cheap ride, it felt very solid and well constructed. The seats were comfortable and the cabin well designed, with the open top a welcome way to avoid the claustrophobia you might feel in a vehicle with such little overall interior volume. The gauge cluster was well laid out, and the analog clock on the dash added a nice touch, though it might make reading the clock more time intensive than safe when on the road.

As far as the actual drive is concerned, the car felt very solid and had plenty of pep. Compared to the i MiEV electric car, it wasn’t as fast, but it till avoided the age old “too slow to get out of it’s own way” stereotype that still plagues the subcompact section of cars. I was actually following the i MiEV during my test drive and found myself easily able to keep up with its lead-footed driver in most circumstances.

However, that brings me to my two main criticisms of the car. The first is that the transmission available in the United States is very unsatisfying. The shifting is much rougher than it needs to be, and makes the overall experience of the car seem rather unrefined, especially for a product from Mercedes. I am under the impression that this isn’t the case with many of the European models, but that doesn’t erase the fact that U.S. options still have major flaws.

The second complaint from me is that Smart really needs to add some sort of fuel economy gauge to the car. Sure, this may be a little expensive, but I think most drivers would welcome the information, especially since many of them are certainly buying the vehicle for its impressive fuel economy. I hope smart will jump on the bandwagon with this in the next few years.

That said, I can’t tell you what fuel economy I delivered with the car, but if you live in the city and are looking for something small and fuel efficient, the fortwo is a worthy choice.

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