4 Person Smart Car – When I first visited Europe, I already had cars in mind and knew I was in for something special when I arrived.
When I first visited Europe, I already had cars in mind and knew I was in for something special when I arrived. For young car fans like me who grew up on European car magazines,
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, majorette diecast models, late night WRC broadcasts on the Speed Channel and any number of car chase scenes through the winding streets of Europe, Europe is the Holy Grail. It’s not just about supercars and sports cars – there are plenty of those where I live – but more about Peugeot 206s, Renault Meganes and Vauxhall Astras (yes, those too). These cars look much cooler than their North American counterparts.
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I was particularly impressed with the headroom. With the panoramic sunroof ($390), its 1,008mm of headroom is perfect for me.
However, in all my research, one car that I rarely saw impressed me the most. Nothing could have prepared me for the first time I encountered the smart little smart city car.
The fact that I was walking along the carpeted sidewalks of Monte Carlo’s main street made the experience even stranger and more awe-inspiring. After all, this is a playground for dudes who drive Astons and Lamborghinis, not worker bees who drive microcars! I am speechless. Then, when I encountered my first Smart Dealer on the outskirts of Paris—inventory neatly stacked, one on top of the other, 10 stories high—I felt it again. Questions begin to arise: Who does this? What engines do they have? Is it possible to park perpendicular to the curb? (The inhabitants of Rome could, I tell you.) It’s a cult of wisdom that I need to learn more about than (obviously) buying a scale model Bburago version for my brother.
My research turned up more delicious tidbits that had my teenage kids gobsmacking: “Three-cylinder diesels? They make that?” Interchangeable plastic body panels? what “I’m sorry, could you say that again?” Did you say they were co-developed by Mercedes and the damn watch company? “Is there a four-door model?” And a sports car? The Brabus version? ! ? ! what is happening “This is one of the European gems I encounter on my way to North America.
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Fast forward a decade or so and here we are. The North American Smart is now in its third generation and perfectly suited to our needs
I’ve driven the previous Smart, and one of my biggest complaints from the start (driving reveals a more serious problem) was that I couldn’t get into the car without jamming the small shifter. Into my lap.
So for 2016, Mercedes (Smart’s parent company) revamped the interior to make the car wider overall so that’s no longer an issue; The gear lever is easy to reach, but is tall enough that hands rest comfortably on it.
Unfortunately, smarts give, smarts take away: like the old car, if you spec power mirrors, the mirror controls are on the door card, dangerously close to your left foot. In fact, there are times when I check in the mirror to find that my legs have inadvertently moved them. Make sure to keep the joystick in the neutral position; That way if you push it – which you most likely will – it won’t move the mirror.
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Considering the “ForTwo” is exactly what it sounds like, taking up space isn’t really bad overall. I was particularly impressed with the headroom. With the panoramic sunroof ($390), its 1,008mm of headroom is perfect for me.
It’s also easy to climb; It’s so low to the ground, assuming you’re not practicing the European art of vertical curb parking, that lowering means you’re actually walking into the car, making it easier for you to make sure. The car did not crash. When you do this, hips, knees or elbows. The fact that the doors take up the entirety of the Smart helps in this regard; Be careful when opening them within tight limits.
However: Although installing a hockey bag in the rear cargo area is impossible, the way the tailgate opens makes a lot of sense. I don’t have exact numbers here, but it seems to me that it is more rare for the rear glass opening to be independent of the rest of the hatch. The Smart has it, and since the lift height is low enough, it’s entirely realistic to imagine the big people in your life being able to reach the cargo floor through the open rear window. Then, once loaded, you can secure your cargo with the smallest cargo hatch I’ve ever seen. That is, if you’re willing to shell out $140 to get it.
If you need even more convenience, once you flip up the glass hatch, you can flip down the rear tailgate like a pickup truck for easy loading. Nice skookum stuff.
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First, the obvious: The ForTwo has been completely redesigned for 2016. The headlights in particular are reminiscent of things you see on other Mercedes products, which is a little strange considering the German manufacturer is so keen to show off the Smart as a standalone product. A brand with its own identity.
In any case, changes in style are difficult to master completely. For one thing, the new wheels and LED daytime running lights make it hard for me to imagine the 2016 Smart in the blue and white guise of the Car2Go car-sharing fleet. It’s amazing. On the other hand, some proportional issues make it look a little too much like a Fisher-Price car from certain angles.
As far as my tester goes: The optional Midnight Blue Metallic paint ($395) is pretty nice, though I’m not sure I can say the same for the white grille. It’s eye-catching, but after a week in the rain it got pretty dirty. You can opt for black grille trim; I will go that route.
Inside, along with more space, the ForTwo also gets a complete overhaul. The tachometer is now mounted on the dash to the lower left of the windshield, aftermarket tuner style. Like the rest of the interior—circular air vents, button-studded steering wheel, climate control slider/magnifier—the tachometer can be disassembled. But it is undoubtedly a more modern and airy space. There are still a few scratchable touch points on hand, but that’s not surprising considering a lot of the switchgear is shared with Renault, the co-developer of this latest smart car. If you’ve ever driven a cheap European car before, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s the king of plastics.
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Being the Passion trim, our car didn’t have leather seats or an integrated infotainment system, but after a while you realize the alternatives aren’t bad.
The nylon on the seats feels durable and the white piping contrast is a nice touch. The seats are a little too flat for my liking – I found them sliding more than I’d like – but they’re padded enough.
On the infotainment front, the Passion trim comes standard with an easily adjustable integrated phone holder. After using the car for a week, I began to understand why Uber drivers love this system so much. Yes, the advent of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means that the mobile interface you’re used to is now available on your car’s screen, but few cars currently have this capability. So what Smart does is provide a great alternative that works no matter what device you use. Additionally, it doesn’t interfere with the radio controls as much as I thought; The radio seek button is the only control that really has an effect.
The Prime trim—a step up from ours—for the cost of adding leather seating surfaces, standard heated seats ($290 option on my tester), special exterior lights, a few different wheels, and a less integrated touchscreen infotainment system (which costs $1,395 for the Passion and $295 for the Prime); That’s it.
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Like many cars, the last Smart had its problems. Chief among them is the poor and rough automatic transmission. Every gear change—up and down, at highway speeds, crawling around town—is accompanied by a tilt you can’t shake no matter how hard you try. Switching to manual mode gives you a chance to better prepare for the inevitable, neck-breaking shudder and molasses-slow gear changes that come with it.
Now, along with the manual option, a six-speed dual-clutch has been added that is more suited to the 21st century.
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