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2011 Smart Fortwo: Driven Page 3

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For 2011, the instrument panel has been redone; it eschews the early 1990s econobox dash appearance that it had up until last year and brings a mix of textured plastics and brighter matte-metallic-toned trim. It's more stylized, especially around to the doors, and much better-looking—and in all fairness, the dash trims feel a step ahead of those in many other sub-$18k vehicles. Seats themselves are surfaces in a meshy, foamy material that doesn't look very lavish but seems to be very comfortable and breathable. This isn't a car you'll in which you'll be spending hours on end, after all.

Finally, this year the Fortwo gets a proper Daimler stereo. It has just two speakers and its sound quality is no better than in the sound systems of econoboxes out of the 1990s, but the interface adds just a hint of Mercedes-Benz to this appliance.

Mileage, price tag a belly-flop into the market

After a week and about 140 miles—topping off the gas tank very carefully each time, as there's no trip odometer—we averaged about 36 miles per gallon in a mix of about half city streets and half suburban freeways and boulevards. That about matches the EPA ratings, but again, feels a little disappointing given it's not too much larger or more extravagant than a golf cart. Its mileage is just a few mpg better than a number of roomy compact sedans like the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus while doing about the same on the highway.

To that again, most Americans are going to ask: What's the point? You only have to test out a few cars to realize that a larger exterior doesn't reliably correspond with more interior space; and the Fortwo is a good example of that. Our Fortwo Passion Coupe came with quite a bit more than the base Pure trim, including air conditioning, heated power side mirrors, power windows, an upgraded steering wheel and the potential for cruise control and premium sound-system options. But considering its $16,300 total, you have lots of other choices that are better suited for the driving needs of most American commuters.

The Fortwo is a good example of, "In another time, another place, it could have been love." Indeed. 

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