"Wow. Can't believe you fit into that thing."
That's the first thing we heard over and over again during a recent week with the 2011 Smart Fortwo. And the well-designed cabin deserves lots of recognition; at a long-legged 6'-6," this driver had absolutely no problem fitting into the surprisingly accommodating interior.
The Fortwo is a two-seater, but it simply can't be compared to the interior of any small two-seat sports car or roadster we've ever been in. You sit high, and the seats invite (and are at their most comfortable in) a sort of perched-forward driving position, but with none of the typical knees-splayed, somewhat fetal position we've seen in some other foreign-market minis. Look ahead and you don't see any hood, really no cowl either, and the front of the car is literally right on the other side of your toes.
But just as we were about to take the compliment and move on, then would come the follow-up: "But you must get 60 or 70 miles per gallon with that, right?"
Well, no... It gets about 35 or 40 miles per gallon, we'd say. And repeatedly we'd see the expression change. Shoulders would shrug, and you could see interest fade. Several again wondered why it couldn't do better, and a couple asked why it wasn't electric. As for the electric version, they're getting to that; it's just not publicly available yet.
The buildup...and the letdown
This was the drill for the time we had the Fortwo, and we have a theory. In Europe, and in a few (just a few, really) select tight urban spaces in the U.S., the Fortwo pays dividends in space efficiency. For a vehicle that takes up less parking space than two motorcycles, you can have a reasonably safe and weatherproof transportation module for two, with the space for a typical load of groceries to boot.