2010 smart fortwo Review

Consumer Reviews
1 Review
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
January 8, 2010

The 2010 Smart ForTwo is in its element on crowded city streets, but at speed or almost anywhere else, it can feel uncomfortably toylike.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Smart ForTwo to bring you this hands-on review that covers styling, performance, safety, utility, and features from on-the-road observations. TheCarConnection.com's editors also researched reviews from other sources to give you a comprehensive range of opinions from around the Web-and to help you decide which ones to trust.High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided Smart ForTwo to produce this hands-on road test.

Despite its diminutive size, the two-seat 2010 Smart ForTwo is a real car, rather than just a novelty. But while the ForTwo is a competent city car that's fun to drive on short runs or in urban traffic, many buyers will be better served by a more conventional small car or a hybrid. When traffic thins out and the roads open up to the beltways and interstates, the ForTwo's drawbacks-a hard ride, noisy interior, lack of power, and tense roadholding-become serious. Factor in middling fuel economy and the "wow" factor is quickly muted. At a starting price of $11,990 for the most basic model, the Smart ForTwo competes with subcompacts like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris-along with lifestyle cars like the MINI Cooper and perhaps even hybrids like the all-new Toyota Prius. But many Smart buyers likely want to make a statement with the Smart's unique combination of tiny size and style, which aren't directly comparable to those of any other car offered in the United States. The only change for 2010 is a new $80 armrest option.

The 2010 Smart ForTwo offers two basic models: a coupe with a fixed roof, and a Cabriolet that has two removable roof panels for a more open-air experience. With its slab sides and non-existent nose, the ForTwo looks wide for its length of less than 9 feet, and taller than some subcompacts. It's only from the side that you notice just how short it is-it's the stubbiest car sold in the United States. All Smarts have a silver or black slash running from the windshield post, along the roof rail through the rear pillar to the doorsill, effectively outlining the door opening. The total effect of the tiny car is guaranteed to draw attention, positive and negative. Last year, the BRABUS edition-available in both coupe and cabriolet guises-joined the Smart ForTwo lineup. The BRABUS features elements meant to enhance the ForTwo's styling and performance. From the outside, the BRABUS is recognizable by its 15-inch front and 17-inch rear alloy wheels, a reduced front skirt, a rear skirt that accommodates the model's dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, and the addition of side skirts.

All 2010 Smart ForTwo models are propelled by a 70-horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine supplied by Mitsubishi, driving through a five-speed automated manual transmission. In the Smart BRABUS, the transmission is tuned to improve shifting speed in urban driving situations. The BRABUS also boasts sportier exhaust tuning and suspension components, and a body lowered by 1 centimeter, all for better handling. Below 40 miles per hour, the peppy engine, low gearing, and quick steering make the 1,800-pound 2010 Smart easy to toss around town. While the transmission doesn't shift particularly smoothly, the ForTwo is a fun car to drive on tight city streets-never more so than when it's time to find a parking space. But the same features that make it so much fun in the city-the short wheelbase, negligible length, and quick steering-work against it on the highway. The quick steering and short wheelbase combine to create a twitchy, choppy, busy ride that's especially susceptible to crosswinds, bumps, and truck ruts.

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Its 0-to-60-mph time of about 13 seconds puts the 2010 Smart ForTwo on a par with economy cars of two decades ago. Sandwiched between semis at 70 mph, the Smart ForTwo requires a brave heart and confidence in its crash-test results. Small size and fuel efficiency have to be very high on a driver's list for the 2010 Smart ForTwo to be worth the sacrifices in mixed use. And its EPA ratings of 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway just aren't that impressive. Consider that larger and more capacious hybrids, including the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, do better without the sacrifices, though admittedly they're pricier.

The interior of any ForTwo model feels basic, much like a small pickup cab, with a rather cheap and plasticky instrument panel and controls. The surprises are the remarkable amount of headroom-even for those well over six feet tall-and good legroom. However, particularly broad people may bump elbows or even shoulders, because the cabin is narrow. The driver sits upright on short seats, and the steering wheel is more horizontal than in most cars, resulting in a driving position rather like that of a commercial van. The cargo space behind the passenger area of this two-seater is disappointingly small, allowing only enough room for three large shopping bags in a row. The front passenger seat can be made to fold forward, but it's an extra-cost option. The BRABUS also adds leather wraps around such items as the three-spoke steering wheel, the handbrake, and the gear knob. At higher speeds, engine and road noise drown out conversation and the weak sound system.

Although the seating position is on the level of other cars, the lack of much car in front or behind the driver fosters a feeling of vulnerability despite adequate safety scores. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests the Smart ForTwo and gives it three- and four-star ratings for frontal protection, and five stars for side impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also crash-tests the ForTwo, earning the top "good" ratings for frontal and side impact results, along with an "acceptable" rating for rear impact. But tellingly, the IIHS crashes a Smart ForTwo against a Mercedes E-Class sedan in a typical frontal-offset collision. It finds that the ForTwo does not fare well-going airborne and spinning around-underlining that the ForTwo remains one of the lightest vehicles on the road, putting it at a disadvantage against vehicles of other sizes. Smart says the 2010 ForTwo's so-called Tridion safety cell provides occupant protection that rivals much larger vehicles, and electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side airbags are all standard.

The Coupe is offered in two different trims: Pure and Passion. The Pure is the lowest, most fundamental equipment level, giving buyers only the very basics-not even a stereo. All 2010 Smart ForTwo models do have keyless entry, a rear defroster, and an outside temperature display. Most buyers will want to upgrade to the Passion model (the only trim offered for the Cabriolet), which includes a panorama roof, flashier alloy wheels, automatic climate control, power windows, and a two-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system (although it remains inaudible at speed). The sporty Smart BRABUS model adds such features as an ambient lighting package that includes lights for the driver and passenger footwells. Top-of-the-list options include electric power steering, which frankly seems superfluous on the Smart ForTwo, heated seats, a "premium" four-speaker sound system, and fog lamps.

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2010 smart fortwo

Styling

The visual impact of the 2010 Smart ForTwo goes far beyond its diminutive dimensions.

Short of supercars, few other vehicles draw the attention of the 2010 Smart ForTwo. Cars.com reviewers attest that the 2010 Smart "generates more interest among observers than some that cost 10 times as much." All Smart ForTwos feature a "silver or black strip that loops around the ForTwo's side," says Edmunds, which it notes is visual evidence of "the Tridion safety cell." The ForTwo looks wide for its length of less than 9 feet, and taller than some subcompacts. It's only from the side that you notice just how short it is-it's the stubbiest car sold in the United States. Automobile observes, "this street-legal Tonka toy is again very tall, very narrow, and very short."

The Smart ForTwo comes "in two body styles," according to Edmunds: "a hatchback Coupe" that "is offered in Pure and Passion trim levels" and a "convertible Cabrio" that "only comes in Passion." Kelley Blue Book states "the body panels are made of dent-resistant plastic," while Cars.com contends that the design "fuses wraparound panels and extended fenders in an extroverted, ultra-chic package." Edmunds points out that the exterior of "the base Pure comes with 15-inch steel wheels," while the Passion trim adds "alloy wheels" and "a panorama glass roof" to provide some visual distinction.

The BRABUS edition-available in both coupe and cabriolet guises-adds 15-inch front and 17-inch rear alloy wheels, a reduced front skirt, a rear skirt that accommodates dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, and the addition of side skirts.

Kelley Blue Book calls the overall interior styling "unique, but not as quirky as the car's exterior design might lead you to expect." Cars.com reports "the cabin has a cartoonish look, with dimpled upholstery on the dashboard and kitschy plastic air conditioning controls" and a dashboard that "curves away as it descends." ConsumerGuide praises the Smart ForTwo's "simple and well laid out" controls, along with "easy to see" gauges and the "unobstructed" speedometer. The Kelley Blue Book reviewers also say the "relatively compact instrument panel and open space where you'd expect a center console all contribute to an interior that feels less confined than that of the significantly longer and wider MINI Cooper." For those seeking a more customized interior styling touch, Edmunds notes several "monochromatic and two-tone interior options [are] available to liven things up."

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2010 smart fortwo

Performance

The 2010 Smart ForTwo gives good gas mileage-though premium fuel is recommended-but it's slow, bouncy, and skittish at highway speeds.

All 2010 Smart ForTwo models are propelled by a 70-horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine supplied by Mitsubishi, driving through a five-speed automated manual transmission. Edmunds notes the gearbox is "shifted without a clutch pedal, via a simple console-mounted stick (and column-mounted paddles on Passion models)." But in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com's editors, this transmission is universally derided. Kelley Blue Book says "the automated manual transmission" shifts "with all the grace of a backhoe," while Car and Driver remarks that the "five-speed" transmission is "a dog off the dime and characterized by the most laughingly goofy gaps between shifts" in full automatic mode. Moving to the "shift-yourself manumatic approach," Car and Driver finds that "the ForTwo can be driven more quickly, but it takes a lot of concentration."

Below 40 miles per hour, the peppy engine, low gearing, and quick steering make the 1,800-pound 2010 Smart easy to toss around town. Kelley Blue Book reviewers have the most fun "in parking lots, where the car's micro measurements and sub-30-foot turning circle combine to deliver an almost comical sense of agility." While the transmission doesn't shift particularly smoothly, the ForTwo is an amusing car to drive on tight city streets-never more so than when it's time to find a parking space. But the same features that make it so much spirited in the city-the short wheelbase, negligible length, and quick steering-work against it on the highway. While Cars.com contends "maintaining 65 mph is within the realm of long-haul plausibility," they also note that "climbing an incline at that speed-or accelerating to anything higher-is dicey."

Its 0-to-60-mph time of more than 13 seconds puts the 2010 Smart ForTwo on a par with economy cars of two decades ago. Edmunds observes that a "1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 71 hp and 68 pound-feet of torque" is barely powerful enough to give the Smart ForTwo "a 0-60-mph time of 14.1 seconds." ConsumerGuide says that overall "acceleration is sluggish from a stop, and is plagued by annoying bogging and surging at every shift." Furthermore, the Smart ForTwo's "90-mph top speed" and poor acceleration, warns Kelley Blue Book, "qualify it as one of the slowest new vehicles on the road." Sandwiched between semis at 70 mph, the Smart ForTwo requires a brave heart and confidence in its crash-test results. Edmunds asserts the Smart ForTwo's high-speed stability is "pretty good, although strong crosswinds can wreak havoc on its boxy shape." U.S. News confirms this, remarking the ForTwo is "susceptible to crosswind wander-meaning the wind can literally push this car off course." Edmunds also notes that "handling largely depends on how one equips the Smart ForTwo," commenting that the base Pure model "with manual steering and narrow 15-inch front tires feels ponderous," while "upgrading to power steering and wider tires provides a more adept driving experience, and actually makes zipping through city streets fun." Once on the highway, Kelley Blue Book reviewers discover that "the faster you go," the "more skittish the ForTwo becomes." ConsumerGuide states that the 2010 Smart ForTwo is "stiff and choppy over all but glass-smooth roads, with sharp bumps and expansion cracks causing abrupt vertical motions."

The brakes rate highly on the 2010 Smart ForTwo. When it comes time to stop, Car and Driver reports that the "excellent-feeling brakes" bring the hatchback to a full stop "from 70 mph in 167 feet," with "the ragtop nine feet later."

Small size and fuel efficiency have to be very high on a driver's list for the 2010 Smart ForTwo to be worth the sacrifices in mixed use. And its EPA ratings of 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway just aren't that impressive. Consider that larger and more capacious hybrids, including the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, do better without the sacrifices, though admittedly they're pricier. Cars.com finds that the fuel economy "figures beat the most frugal subcompacts," though "premium fuel is recommended" for the 2010 Smart ForTwo.

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2010 smart fortwo

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Smart ForTwo offers remarkable space for its passengers-two of them-but lacks room for cargo.

The interior of any 2010 Smart ForTwo model feels basic, with a rather cheap and plasticky instrument panel and controls. ConsumerGuide feels that the "cabin materials are solid and well-assembled," but the "overall ambiance is budget, with lots of hard plastic and very few padded surfaces." The "standard cloth upholstery" of the 2010 ForTwo, according to Edmunds, offers no luxury pretenses. Cars.com feels that "build quality is respectable," and most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree, though materials leave some reviewers wanting something a bit more upscale.
The surprises in the ForTwo are its remarkable headroom-even for those well over six feet tall-and good legroom. As its name suggests, the Smart ForTwo seats just two inside its tall cabin. U.S. News contends "the ForTwo's spacious interior...offers plenty of room for two adults, even if they're on the tall side." Cars.com reviewers find that "headroom and legroom are entirely adequate." However, broad people may bump elbows or even shoulders, because the cabin is narrow. ConsumerGuide, which is typically conservative with its praise, says the "seats are supportive, with good side bolstering," but the "narrow cabin means two adults ride almost shoulder-to-shoulder." The driver sits upright on short seats, and the steering wheel is more horizontal than in most cars, resulting in a driving position rather like that of a commercial van. Edmunds suggests that the "lack of a tilt steering column may compromise comfort for some drivers." Kelley Blue Book reviewers feel the "open space where you'd expect a center console" helps contribute to the "less confined interior," but the lack of a console for storing small items might prove annoying.

The cargo space behind the passenger area of this two-seater is disappointingly small, providing only enough room for three large shopping bags in a row. Cars.com finds that "cargo room in back measures just 7.8 cubic feet, less than a third the space the [Mini] Cooper offers behind its front seats." ConsumerGuide also rates the 2010 Smart ForTwo well below the class average for cargo room, saying it is "meager overall" and claiming the "tiny glove box offers barely enough space for an owner's manual." The front passenger seat can be made to fold forward, but it's an extra-cost option. The BRABUS adds leather wraps around the steering wheel, handbrake, and gear knob.

At higher speeds, engine and road noise drown out conversation and the weak sound system. When it comes to excessive road noise, the 2010 Smart ForTwo is plagued with it. ConsumerGuide says that the ride is "never serene," and while "road noise is relatively well-muffled," the "wind rush is pronounced at highway speeds." They add that the tiny engine produces quite a bit of noise, and "engine note is always audible and rises to a loud groan under acceleration."

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2010 smart fortwo

Safety

The good crash-test scores and safety equipment of the little 2010 Smart ForTwo prove that looks can be deceiving.

While the seating position of the 2010 Smart ForTwo is at the level of other cars, the lack of much car in front or behind the driver fosters a feeling of vulnerability despite a full suite of safety features, impressive engineering, and adequate safety scores. Smart says the 2010 ForTwo's safety cell offers occupant protection that rivals much larger vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the Smart ForTwo; its scores were the lower of the two ratings agencies, with three- and four-star ratings for frontal protection, and five stars for side impact. NHTSA noted that "during the side impact test, the driver door unlatched and opened," which "increases the likelihood of occupant ejection." The ForTwo has also been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which typically has the more stringent ratings system, and it earned the top "good" ratings for frontal and side impact results, along with an "acceptable" rating for rear impact.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com register surprise at the high ratings, which Edmunds attributes to "the Tridion safety cell," a "cage of high-strength steel" that "allows the Smart car to withstand impacts as well or better than much larger cars." Thanks to the Tridion system and the fact that all the safety features come standard on every trim level, Kelley Blue Book testers feel comfortable praising the Smart ForTwo's "impressive crashworthiness."

Tellingly, the IIHS also crashed a Smart ForTwo against a Mercedes E-Class sedan in a typical frontal-offset collision. It found that the ForTwo did not fare well-going airborne and spinning around-underlining the fact that the ForTwo remains one of the lightest vehicles on the road, putting it at a disadvantage against vehicles of other sizes..

Cars.com reviewers note the ForTwo's standard safety features include "front and side-impact airbags-the latter extending upward to protect occupants' heads-as well as antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system." Jalopnik reviewers add that the 2010 Smart ForTwo "is safe," and "it feels safe, too," thanks to a "full retinue of airbags."

Car and Driver praises visibility from within the 2010 Smart ForTwo, proclaiming "the view out the windshield is panoramic." ConsumerGuide says that the Smart ForTwo's "upright driving position prevents occupants from feeling dwarfed by surrounding traffic" and affords "great visibility all-around." Despite its small stance, the 2010 Smart ForTwo leaves little to be desired in terms of driver visibility.

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2010 smart fortwo

Features

The 2010 Smart ForTwo starts at a low price, but the Pure model is defiantly basic, while some options aren't available at any price.

Yes, it's an economy car, but the standard and optional features on the 2010 Smart ForTwo are still disappointing to many reviewers. The Coupe is offered in two different trims: Pure and Passion. Starting at $11,990, the Pure is the lowest, most fundamental equipment level, and it gives buyers only the basics. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com all mention that the Pure comes with little more than four wheels and an engine. Cars.com notes "basic amenities like power steering and a radio are optional." Edmunds points out, though, that the Pure comes standard with "keyless entry, leather steering wheel and electric window defroster."

Most buyers will want to upgrade to the Passion model (the only trim offered for the Cabriolet). Cars.com notes that this trim "adds a fixed glass roof, alloy wheels, power windows, air conditioning and a two-speaker CD stereo with iPod connectivity." The only difference between the Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe and Cabriolet is that "the Passion Cabrio adds an upgraded stereo with MP3-compatible in-dash six-CD changer." The sporty Smart BRABUS model adds such features as an ambient lighting package that includes lights for the driver and passenger footwells.

You might expect an expansive options list to compensate for the minimal standard features on the 2010 Smart ForTwo, but that's hardly the case. ConsumerGuide feels the only other noteworthy optional feature is the available "two-tone paint," and some features are notably unavailable at any price. Cars.com suggests the most glaring omission is that "cruise control is not available." Kelley Blue Book says that the Smart ForTwo's options list "includes heated leather seats, a fixed panorama glass roof and a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters." A "premium" four-speaker sound system and fog lamps are also available.

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October 11, 2015
2010 smart fortwo 2-Door Cabriolet Brabus

I just bought my 2010 Smart Car and I love it . The gas mileage is unbelieveable and the spaceous inside of the vechile is encrediable all in all I love the Smart Car and I am glad I bought it

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it is a greatest little car on the market and I enjoy driving it
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