By Nate Gnau
Have you ever wondered what driving a porta-potty to school would be like? Wonder no more! I’ve driven it. And I hate it.
Over my last weekend, I had the chance to drive a pre-owned 2008 “passion” cabriolet with a clean CarFax. Since the smart lineup has not changed at all since their introduction to the US Market in January 2008, the year of build is completely irrelevant.
The car I drove was a little-optioned unit with the available “highline radio upgrade”, which is basically a tarted-up navigation system with two speakers, and a rain/light sensor that turns on the lights & wipers automatically. To smart’s credit, the car is built like a brick—well, you know. But that’s where anything good about the car ends.
The car’s handling is atrocious. Plain and simple. It handles like a mid-70s Oldsmobile; slow and tiresome. But there’s no reason for this. The car’s got a wheelbase no longer than Gilbert Gottfried’s arm span. It should be nimble and lively. Instead, it’s slow and cumbersome, with no feel of the road at all. It is truthfully horrible. Though the brakes are exceptional, I did think the car was going to face-plant during one particularly hard braking emergency maneuver…
The ride quality is appalling. I’ve owned several small cars, one being a Suzuki Swift (Geo Metro). The Swift had horrible ride quality. But this is bad on an entirely new level. You feel the exoskeletons cracking from every ant you drive over. Those poor, poor ants.
The engine is a 1.0L three cylinder Mitsubishi-supplied field mouse in an exercise wheel. I mean that in the kindest way possible. It sounds like a ’37 Mack Truck is bearing down on your back side at 60mph. It’s also highly anemic, with only 70 horsepower. One would think that something the size of a lawnmower engine would be capable of more than 41mpg.
The transmission in the fortwo is ridiculously bad. The 5-speed automated manual that is supplied is such crap. It took what felt like a second and a half to shift gears in automatic mode. Thank God it has a manu-stick mode. It works so much better if you drive the car in manual mode, like an actual manual transmission ie: letting off the throttle, shifting, getting back on the throttle. But this is wrong: So many other European manufacturers have wonderful automated manual transmissions, so why does smart’s stick out so badly?
But what irritates me the most about this car, is that it was supposed to be such a fun car, efficient as a Japanese quartz watch, and affordable. But it’s not fun, It’s not that efficient compared to other cars in it’s category, and it’s not priced very competitively. The current MSRP for the passion cabriolet is $17,690.
Do not get me wrong, I love the styling of this car. I have nothing against small cars. But there’s nothing smart about the Smart.