2012 smart fortwo Review


Pros & Cons

  • Fits in spaces others cannot
  • zippy around-town handling
  • surprisingly accommodating interior
  • attention-getting style.
  • Rough-shifting transmission
  • expensive compared to larger subcompacts
  • awkward floor-pivot brake pedal
  • ill-suited for highway travel.
List Price Estimate
$2,408 - $3,725

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2012 Smart Fortwo, with its lack of refinement, rough transmission and unpleasant highway ride, is one of the least desirable cars on the market. There are plenty of other cars we'd recommend as a compact city car.

Vehicle overview

A city car is, by definition, a small vehicle with a small engine that is easy to maneuver and park in congested metropolitan environments. For the most part, the 2012 Smart Fortwo satisfies those minimum requirements, but not much else. What we found most surprising, however, is how this diminutive little car excels in areas we would least expect.

The Smart Fortwo, despite its tiny appearance, is quite spacious inside. There's enough room for full-sized adults to be pretty comfortable. It also manages to achieve commendable crash test scores. With a 36-mpg EPA rating in combined driving, the Smart car is acceptably frugal with fuel, though it does require premium gas.

Unfortunately, there are far more drawbacks that keep the 2012 Smart Fortwo from being competitive against other small cars. While we consider its humble 1.0-liter engine adequate for city crawls, the single-clutch, automated manual transmission is one of the worst transmissions on the market today. It causes unsettling lurches at any speed, complicating precise parking maneuvers and making boulevard driving thoroughly unpleasant. On the highway, the Smart Fortwo is out of its element, being easily upset by wind gusts or passing trucks.

Then there's the price. While the 2012 Smart Fortwo isn't particularly expensive upon initial consideration, you really aren't getting much for the money. We'd much sooner pick from a multitude of slightly more expensive cars to regain all of the capabilities, refinement, confidence and features that the Smart car lacks. Topping our list would be the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, 2012 Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent. And if small is really what you want, the new 2012 Scion iQ is pretty much the same size as the Fortwo but is more refined and desirable overall.

2012 smart fortwo models

The 2012 Smart Fortwo is a two-seat subcompact available as a hatchback coupe or a convertible (Cabriolet). There are two trim levels: Pure and Passion.

The Pure includes 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and two pre-wired speakers. Options include air-conditioning and a radio with auxiliary audio/USB jack.

The Passion Coupe adds the Pure's options, plus 15-inch alloy wheels, transmission shift paddles, a glass roof, heated power mirrors, power windows and a sport steering wheel. The Passion Cabriolet further adds a power convertible top, a glass rear window and side airbags (in place of side curtain airbags).

Options on Passion models include wider tires and wheels, metallic paint, LED daytime running lights, foglights, automatic lights and wipers, power steering, cruise control, additional gauges, interior ambient lighting, heated seats, center console storage and an alarm. An optional four-speaker highline radio with touchscreen display, navigation and Bluetooth is also available, as is a six-speaker surround-sound upgrade.

2012 Highlights

The Smart Fortwo gains new stereo and navigation options for 2012.

Performance & mpg

Powering the 2012 Smart Fortwo is a rear-mounted 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 70 horsepower and 68 pound-feet of torque. This is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed automated manual transmission. The transmission can be shifted manually if desired via the console-mounted stick on all models or shift paddles on the steering wheel of the Passion.

In Edmunds testing, a Smart Fortwo went from zero to 60 mph in a glacial 14.1 seconds on its way to a 90 mph top speed. Though its fuel capacity is only 8.7 gallons, the range is acceptable considering its EPA-estimated fuel economy of 34 mpg city/38 mpg highway and 36 mpg combined. Premium fuel is required, however.


The 2012 Smart Fortwo is built by Mercedes-Benz, and as such, it offers ample occupant protection. Standard safety equipment includes side curtain airbags for the coupe models and side airbags for the cabriolet, knee bolster airbags, antilock brakes (front discs and rear drums), hill-hold assist, stability control and traction control.

In Edmunds brake testing, the Fortwo Passion came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet – an average distance for a subcompact. In terms of crashworthiness, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Smart its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal- and side-impact protection.


Don't expect too much in the way of driving refinement with the 2012 Smart Fortwo. Ruts and bumps in the road are acceptably damped and the Fortwo can be fun to drive around town, but the tiny car is easily upset by crosswinds and gusts from passing trucks on the highway. Furthermore, the automated manual transmission is as crude a unit as you'll find in any car. Shifts are not only slow, but they're also accompanied by a significant lurch. Gearchanges can be made smoother with a well-timed throttle lift in Manual mode, but that defeats the point of having an automatic in the first place.

Pulling away from a stop, the Smart car is at least capable of accelerating with more authority than a golf cart, but quickly runs out of steam as the revs and speed increase. Compounding matters, the automated clutch is slow to react and in parking lots, the car has a tendency to dart forward or backward, rather than crawl or roll. We're also not fans of the awkward brake pedal placement and its inconsistent travel.


Despite its comically small exterior proportions, the Smart Fortwo is remarkably roomy inside. There's enough head- and legroom for 6-foot-plus occupants, while the passenger benefits from an additional 6 inches of seat travel. The passenger seat also folds flat to provide more cargo space than the 7 cubic feet available in the cargo area behind the seats (12 cubes if you load it to the roof, blocking rear visibility).

The interior is pleasantly modern in design, with a choice of several monochromatic and two-tone color palates available. The Passion models feature cloth upholstery with bold colors and wild patterns, while the base Pure models are notably tame by comparison -- a radio and air-conditioning are optional.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2012 smart fortwo.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

14k to Replace engine with 22kmiles!!!!
Ramiro C,12/23/2015
pure coupe 2dr Hatchback (1.0L 3cyl 5AM)
When I first got my smart car. I was a skeptic. I wanted a small reliable car. So I decided to go with the smallest car out there with the Mercedes Benz reputation with car reliablity. I got my 2012 smartcar with only 10k miles. Great car at first. Oil changes were maintained well. I noticed the brakes went out fast. Every 8 months I needed new brakes. Then noticed my car wouldn't start regularly. Took it to the Mercedes dealership and found out I needed a whole new engine. Thank God for basic warranty. Which btw is 4 years or 50k miles. After I whole year of travels. My car had 19k miles. I never would have expected the engine needing replacement already. Uggh. So the dealership is taking care of it now. It's taking almost 2 weeks for ordering new parts. I asked the dealership how much it would be without the warranty and I almost died when I found out it would cost $14k for the new engine!!! That is way more then what I orginially paid for the car. Hope no one else gets any of my issues but please be adviced. I will trade in this bad boy as soon as I get it back from the dealership.
The best car i have so far
passion coupe 2dr Hatchback (1.0L 3cyl 5AM)
Just I love pretty good on Gas, easy and low cost Service's so far 60,000 miles never have any problems perfect little engineering machine
Great little car!!!
Got this as a commuter car for my wife's 13 mile commute. Only 400 miles so far, but last 2 fill ups have netted 43mpg (mostly hwy) and 39 (50/50). The good thing about these mpg numbers coming from someone who has had both a 2001 Honda INsight and 2007 Civic Hybrid...is that you DON'T have to try to get good mpg in this car. It just happens =) We have the Passion coupe with the wide wheels. Really though, this is a great 2nd car. You can drive it when you need to to save on gas and easier parking...and save your larger car for use only when needed. It makes perfect sense. Yeah, the transmission is a little funky, but you're used to it in no time, never feel underpowered, etc.
Over 100,000 miles?
Mr. commuter,05/09/2016
pure coupe 2dr Hatchback (1.0L 3cyl 5AM)
Bought it used with 2,200 miles on it (3/07/2013) now (05/09/2016) it has 66,833 miles and it just keeps going! 95% hwy use normal oil changes and a new set of tires. That's all! I added a better sound system my round trip from home to work & back is 130+ miles a day! This car serves its purpose. ***Update: on 09/27/2017 my little Smart car just clicked over 100,000 miles. I'm retired now and the car has 107,394 miles. It's used as a back up car and believe it or not I'm going to buy another Smart car. You can't beat the durability.


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2012 smart fortwo

Used 2012 smart fortwo Overview

The Used 2012 smart fortwo is offered in the following submodels: fortwo Hatchback, fortwo Convertible. Available styles include passion cabriolet 2dr Convertible (1.0L 3cyl 5AM), passion coupe 2dr Hatchback (1.0L 3cyl 5AM), and pure coupe 2dr Hatchback (1.0L 3cyl 5AM).

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Should I lease or buy a 2012 smart fortwo?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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