2017 smart fortwo Review
One of the most infuriating issues that anyone living in a big city will inevitably have to deal with is parking. Perhaps a sports car is splitting two stalls. A pickup is crammed into a spot marked "Compact." Or maybe the only opening is next to a sidewalk, and you aren't the world's greatest parallel parker. If any of these scenarios seem familiar, you might be drawn to the small footprint of the 2017 Smart Fortwo.
The Fortwo is instantly recognizable for its compact dimensions (competing subcompacts such as the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper are even bigger). It's the ruler of the parking lot, slotting into spots too tight for normal cars. It's also easy to maneuver on the street, especially the Electric Drive EV, with the instant power afforded by its battery pack. But take it out of crowded cityscapes and much of its appeal is lost. Acceleration is extremely slow at highway speeds, the ride is unforgivably rough, and its blind spots are wide. Unless you absolutely need a Fortwo for its short length, most rivals are a better buy, even if they are slightly pricier.
We think the upper-mid Prime trim is a good way to go. Its leather upholstery, heated seats, ambient lighting and panoramic glass roof add an air of luxury to a car that is otherwise draped in unappealing plastics and an overwhelming sense of thrift. The top-end Proxy doesn't cost much more, but we can do without its sporty suspension. That said, its shift paddles make living with the automatic transmission a bit more palatable. The Electric Drive Fortwo is much easier to drive, but we can't recommend it until we know how much more it costs than the gas-powered version.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Smart Fortwo is a pint-sized city car with seating for two (get it?) and a surprising amount of passenger space inside. Available as a coupe or convertible, its rear wheels are driven by your choice of a gasoline engine or an electric drivetrain. The gas-burner is a turbocharged 0.9-liter three-cylinder (89 horsepower, 100 pound-feet) paired to either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Electric Drive's 17.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 60-kW motor (81 hp) drive the wheels directly. The gas Fortwo comes in Pure (Coupe only), Passion, Prime and Proxy trim levels, while the Electric Drive is available in Pure, Passion and Prime trims.
The Fortwo's base Pure trim includes 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, power windows, cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a two-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary input and a USB port.
Also standard is the ability for iOS and select Android smartphone users to download a free Cross Connect app that controls phone, audio, internet streaming radio, vehicle information and a navigation system.
Stepping up to the Passion trim adds alloy wheels, black exterior trim, heated and power-adjustable mirrors, contrasting interior upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, an additional storage compartment in the center console and a retractable cargo cover.
The Prime further dresses up the Smart with silver exterior trim, foglights, cornering lights, a panoramic glass roof, automatic headlights and wipers, leather upholstery, heated seats and interior ambient lighting.
The range-topping Proxy trim adds 16-inch wheels, white exterior trim, a sport suspension, alloy pedals, shift paddles (for the automatic transmission only) and an eight-speaker JBL sound system (six speakers for the Cabrio).
Available for Passion, Prime and Proxy models is the Brabus Sport package. It includes the Proxy's sport suspension and shift paddles and adds a stiffer anti-roll bar, gray-painted wheels, staggered-width performance tires, and unique interior and exterior styling elements. A separate package bundles a rearview camera with rear parking sensors. Individual options include a forward collision warning system, imitation-leather (premium vinyl) upholstery and a phone cradle that positions smartphones in the middle of the dash and allows it to function as a touchscreen controller. A conventional touchscreen will be available as an option later in the model year for gas-powered models.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Smart Fortwo Proxy hatchback (0.9L 3-cyl. turbo; 6-speed automatic).
Being tiny and lightweight affords some intrinsic fun, including a higher perception of speed and the tightest turning radius for a current production car (22.8 feet). Despite the improvements made, the Fortwo ultimately misses its mark of being a great car for the city.
You might assume the Fortwo gets dinged on comfort due to its smallness, but size doesn't factor in here. Seat comfort is compromised for aesthetics, and the suspension is much too stiff to provide any peace over rough city roads.
Noise & vibration
Some cost-saving measures, such as the nonadjustable cupholders molded into the hard plastic center console, are laughably obvious. But there are some redeeming qualities to the Fortwo's interior, such as generous passenger leg- and headroom and a cabin design that feels modern and fun.
Ease of use
Getting in/getting out
You don't buy a Smart expecting much in the way of storage solutions, but the Fortwo does the best with what it's got. The pull-out drawer from the center console is clever, as are the storage nets behind the seats. The bottom edge of the soft top folds up to increase the cargo opening.
The free Cross Connect app that turns your phone into an audio and navigation controller is an inventive way to integrate touchscreen controls with a very basic radio setup. The 7-inch touchscreen is a worthy upgrade, but it won't be available until well into the 2017 model year.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.