2008 Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe: Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner
July 22, 2009
I'll hate to see our long-term Smart ForTwo go, because if you really love to drive, truly enjoy the mechanics of wringing the last ounce of joy from a bit of rolling iron, the Smart is a hoot. When was the last time you celebrated getting a jump on a Cavalier at a light? And trust me, the slow-motion lead won't last unless you perfectly time the paddle shift up to second gear. Firing off that gearchange would be easier with a tach, but it's all by ear cupcake, and simply keeping up with the L.A. rush-hour grandprix is a satisfying experience in the ForTwo.
When was the last time you gathered momentum for a hill, or worked desperately not to bog the motor after a shift? The Smart makes you earn your automotive thrills and at a speeds that wouldn't stop a peace officer from finishing a yawn. It's also held up remarkably well (inside and out) to our best attempts to hang with traffic. The citrus-shaded fabric coating most of the interior still looks showroom fresh, adding a warm, late-day hue ("...orange mocha cappuccino!!!") cunningly engineered to cheer your ride home. Of course, nothing's cooler to an old Saab guy than an ignition between the seats.
Left in the transmission's somnolent automatic mode, the Smart is a daily commute backmarker. But if you fully commit to this wheeled hightop, take command of the shifts and go easy on the wonky brake pedal, you can make mincemeat of the rush-hour drudgery. Capitalize on the ForTwo's dimensions and you'll deftly slip through partially blocked right lanes and slot into traffic holes just behind your shirt collar. What the first Miata did for backroads, the Smart is to the urban jungle: loads of fun if not terribly fast.
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 18,543 miles.