The 2012 Smart Fortwo offers just one powertrain, a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine developing 70 horsepower that transmits its power through a five-speed automated manual transmission.
At city speeds (40 mph or below), the little Smart is easy to toss around town--not to mention park in the tiniest imaginable spaces. Around town, the engine feels peppy and the shifts keep the engine in its power zone. The tight steering ratio lets you hustle the Fortwo around corners and from lane to lane as fast as any other motor vehicle on four wheels.
The transmission may be the least pleasant one we know of in any production car, however. It shifts abruptly, and without an experienced foot modulating the acceleration, the car slams back and forth on its short wheelbase as power is suddenly cut and then restored. And acceleration times revert to the performance of economic cars from the 1980s. The 0-to-60-mph sprint takes an agonizing 13 seconds, for instance.
At speed, however, the Smart's advantages in cities work against it in highway travel. The short length, quick steering, and minimal wheelbase create a busy, choppy, twitchy ride, and there's not a lot of power left for emergency maneuvers. The Smart Fortwo is also susceptible to crosswinds, as well as ruts in the road and potholes and bumps. If you're at the wheel doing 70 mph and get sandwiched between semis, you'd better bring a brave heart and great confidence in the Smart's crash-test results.
Overall, you have to prioritize the Fortwo's tiny dimensions over its ride comfort, slowness, and decent but unexceptional gas mileage ratings. If you want a balance among all of those factors, the 2012 Smart may not be worth the sacrifices you have to make.