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- Easier parking than any other car
- Beefier design
- Better refinement
- Roomy interior for two
- Modern features, finally
- Gas mileage not stellar
- No safety ratings
- Four-seat cars can be cheaper
- Few active-safety options
The 2017 Smart ForTwo is the easiest car to park that you can buy, but if you have other needs, four-seat cars can offer more cabin space, equal fuel economy, and more flexibility.
The 2017 Smart Fortwo is the second year of a complete redesign for the tiny two-seat car, and this year the Cabrio soft-top convertible has rejoined the lineup. Both body styles remain at 8.8 feet long, but they're wider and more modern than the previous generation, with a better array of standard and optional features.
The Fortwo can be ordered in four different trim levels—known as Pure, Passion, Prime, and Proxy—and the company offers a wealth of options that make it unlikely Smart drivers will see a car identical to the one they've ordered.
The little Smart minicar is perfect for buyers who need a car that's easier to park on crowded streets than any other vehicle sold in the U.S. But its two seats and very limited cargo space, not to mention fuel economy that's decent but hardly exceptional, mean it's significantly compromised for pretty much everyone else.
Its overall rating reflects those limitations; we score it at 5.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Smart Fortwo styling and performance
The lines of the 2017 Smart retain the perky styling, snub nose, and passenger compartment outlined by the Tridion safety cage, usually in a contrasting color. The wheels sit at the very corners of the vehicle. But the front end is more clearly defined now, and the short hood is less beveled than before, giving better pedestrian protection. The "grille" between the lights is no more than a blanking panel perforated with holes, and all Smarts have LED running lights.The door windows are frameless, and the tailgate is split horizontally: upper portion opens for access while the lower half flips down to provide a useful temporary surface.
The second-generation Smart finally gets a modern interior. It's still simple, but different trim colors and a variety of rounded shapes give it a more substantial feel. A small instrument cluster behind the wheel has the usual gauges, and two eyeball vents sit on top of the dash. A touchscreen display sits slightly proud of the central console.
A turbocharged 0.9-liter 3-cylinder engine, making 89 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque, is mounted between the rear wheels. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard, and a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission provides automated shifting for those who prefer it. (Smart says four out of five customers will order the automated option.) Combined EPA fuel economy is 34 or 35 mpg, slightly lower than last year due to changes in the EPA test calculations. Smart says 0-to-60-mph acceleration is 10.5 seconds for the DCT, 10.1 seconds for the manual.
The 2017 Smart feels like a compact car behind the wheel, if you don't look over your shoulder. The turning circle is an astoundingly small 22.8 feet from curb to curb, or 24 feet between two walls. That makes the Fortwo pretty much the most maneuverable car you can buy, and a perfect urban warrior. Thankfully, it's now more capable on the highway than the old one was, and the ride is quieter and smoother under almost every circumstance. Given its small size, noise is well suppressed for such a small car, and it's simply a much more pleasant vehicle to drive or ride in than the first generation.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Fortwo hasn't yet been rated for crash safety by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All models come standard with eight airbags, and a standard Crosswind Assist function keeps the Smart straight during side winds. Forward-collision warning is available as an option.
Beyond the base ForTwo Pure, the Passion, Prime, and Proxy trim levels provide a mix of different features, using interior trim and fittings to give the different models distinct characters. All new Smarts include power windows, central locking, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, power steering, and audio and other controls on the steering wheel. The audio system includes a CD player, Bluetooth streaming for playing music and hands-free commands. The instrument cluster includes a 3.5-inch color display, and a trip computer and an exterior temperature display are also standard.
A top-end JBL sound system with eight speakers and a 240-watt amplifier should provide substantial sound in the small cabin. Other infotainment options include smartphone integration and a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather data. The Smart Cross Connect app lets owners access their car and other useful functions while away from the vehicle.
Pricing starts below $16,000 including delivery, and Smart says a fully loaded model with multiple high-end options runs between $20,000 and $21,000. The Cabrio model with a roll-back cloth roof has been added this year; a redesigned Electric Drive version joins the lineup soon.