Experience with a Daimler fortwo smart car?
July 17, 2016 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm seriously considering a smart car and am looking at the Daimler fortwo. I don't know anyone who has one though. Would love to hear people's experiences of the car and things to consider when I go to the dealership tomorrow. Thank you!!
posted by namemeansgazelle to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
I don't own one but I drive them all the time as Car2Gos.


- teeny tiny, you can park them pretty much anywhere. Even spaces that don't look like spaces.
- crazy high MPG


- Feels a bit like driving a go-cart. Very loud on the freeway.
- pretty cramped inside
- very limited space inside for transporting things.

I honestly feel like they are pretty overpriced, unless parking is the most important thing.
posted by lunasol at 4:12 PM on July 17, 2016

The only people I know with a Smart car live in an insanely congested area with very limited parking, and they only have it so they can fit into really small parking spots on the street. They're terrible to ride in, terrible to drive, have almost no cargo space, they don't get great gas mileage for the size, they're not terribly reliable...

If there were no alternatives, ok, but subcompact cars like the Toyota Yaris are hugely more practical, and they get around the same mileage and are the same price or maybe a little cheaper.
posted by Huck500 at 4:16 PM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would recommend a Mini Cooper instead, which is a bit more expensive, but a vastly more usable car. You will need to be careful in what options you choose, otherwise the cost will balloon.
posted by coberh at 4:30 PM on July 17, 2016

Or the FIAT 500, which is not massively different in price at the low end, with double the cargo space and comparable MPG, and won't feel like a Suburban or Escalade could run you over or swat you off the road at any minute. Smarts are fundamentally 'city cars' for old-world cities with tight parking and without any freeways.
posted by holgate at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Why a Smart? What does a Smart do for you that other subcompacts—the Fiat 500, the aforementioned Yaris, the Honda Fit, etc—don't? By all accounts they are terrible to drive, impractical, and expensive both to buy and run compared to other cars in their class. They also have a reputation—rightly or wrongly—for being very performative and driven by terminally smug people, which honestly their name and unusual looks do nothing to dispel.

What attracts you to this car? If we knew that, it might be easier to help you—or at least it might stop everyone from trying to talk you out of buying one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:36 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also have driven them as a Car2Go customer. I don't recommend them. The drivetrain is terrible: they're underpowered, and the automatic transmission shifts late. I can barely get two good-sized suitcases in the luggage compartment. They can, somewhat amazingly, maintain highway speeds, but it is not a pleasant experience.
posted by adamrice at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2016

My husband and I have temporary custody of a friend's Smart convertible while he's traveling abroad. As cute and quirky as it is, I would not consider it to be a practical choice, especially for US buyers. The fuel economy is good, but not better than another friend's Honda Fit (keep in mind that the US does not get the full range of engine choices that are available in Europe.) The Smart's primary advantage over other subcompacts is that it can be parked tail-in in a parallel spot. This is useless in the US, as I've never been in a US city where this wouldn't result in a mountain of parking tickets.

The thing is also the butt of endless jokes. I like small and idiosyncratic vehicles (my daily driver is a 30-year old Benz and I also ride a sidecar motorcycle). But I'm really surprised by the amount of sheer disdain I encounter in the Smart, and I'm also surprised at how much that disdain bothers me... especially since it isn't even my car.

The ride is rough (short wheelbase) and the cabin is loud. Maybe they've fixed this since 'ours' was built, but the automatic transmission is the worst I've ever driven; it hunts constantly and there's a 2-second lag between gears. A CVT would be a huge improvement.

The convertible top is nice, but has obvious downsides for city dwellers.

For my money, I'd look at a Fit, Versa Note, Yaris and a Mazda 2.
posted by workerant at 4:42 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Like the others, I've driven the Fortwo through Car2Go. I find them totally un-fun to drive; clunky and slow. The mileage isn't anywhere near good enough to justify the tractor-like handling; you can get similar mileage from cars that are larger, sportier *and* cheaper.

However, I also had the chance several years back to drive the Smart ED - the electric version of the Fortwo - and I was shocked at how much fun it was to drive. Unlike its gas-powered sibling, the electric version was quick off the line and easy to handle, a zippy little bumper car. While it wouldn't be the right car for my family's daily needs, it was a major influence on my later decision to buy an EV. If you have a small garage and don't need much range, you may want to look at the ED.
posted by eschatfische at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2016

Response by poster: Strong feelings about the car! So I'm interested in it because my workplace had a great offer for faculty/employees to lease the car (workplace is big into electric cars, lots of charging stations at work)--it would cost me less to lease per month than what I'm paying for gas. And parking is also a HUGE consideration for me. I appreciate everyone's thoughts--though I'm not "terminally smug," (current car I drive is 13 years old and looks it). I am just weighing my options here. Thanks.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 4:53 PM on July 17, 2016

Response by poster: Also I guess I should clarify I'm taking about the 2016 Smart Fortwo ED, which it sounds like at least one person likes.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 4:56 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a 2013 Smart and love it. I plan to drive it for at least a decade.

I can park it anywhere which is amazingly helpful here in DC. The gas mileage is very good - I average about 40mpg in town, and 65mpg on the highway. It is comfortable inside and not cramped. (I'm pretty short - but my taller friends say it's comfortable for them, too.) It is a little loud, but in the same way that most non-luxury cars are. It's no louder than, say, my folks' Civic.

I emphatically disagree with the "go-kart" thing - I've taken it up to 95mph, and have taken it on long (14hr each way) roadtrips. Once you get used to them they feel pretty safe, too. And I've encountered mostly curiosity and pleasant conversations, not disdain, even on drives deep into the rural South.

I will say that the transmission isn't my favorite. I've gotten used to it now but at first I definitely struggled with it - when you're in Automatic mode and are speeding up, it momentarily "catches" between gears.

It's obvious that I'm an outlier here, but perhaps you'll want to take advice from someone who has actually owned and driven one for a substantial period of time, rather than people who drive Car2Gos occasionally or are for whatever reason opposed to the Smart car but lack firsthand experience with them.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have a 2008 Smart and we love it!
posted by rossination at 5:08 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I guess I should clarify I'm taking about the 2016 Smart Fortwo ED

Oh! Well then. You might want to get the mods to edit the question. While the two cars may have the same body, the Fortwo ED is a totally different value proposition and is really quite different, both in its enhanced performance and with its limited range, than the gas version.

While I generally like the Smart ED, there are two big things to consider. First, there's a new version of the ED that won't hit American shores until 2017.

Second, it only has a 68 mile range, which isn't a whole lot in the world of electric cars. While workplace charging seems like a good idea, in practice, many workplaces quickly end up with more EV drivers than chargers, and people have to jockey for a charge (and sometimes have to end up waiting until inopportune moments to get one). You should talk to the electric car community at work about what capacity for electric cars really is like - at my wife's workplace, there are ongoing frustrations with the cars-to-charger ratio - and you should almost definitely invest in a level 2 charger to charge at home as well.

Taking into account the battery degradation that gradually occurs with any electric car, the need to have a little extra charge at the end of the day to avoid range anxiety, and the possibility of not being able to charge at work in the future, I would probably only consider the Smart ED if the drive to work one-way is 25 miles or less.

If that sounds like it might be iffy, there are two other small, zippy electric cars with low lease prices, the Fiat 500e and Spark EV, that get much better range and might better fit your need.
posted by eschatfische at 5:16 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'll second checking the Fiat 500e, Fiat is somewhat infamous for having pretty crazy lease deals on them.
posted by Huck500 at 5:46 PM on July 17, 2016

I have a 2012 that I bought used last year. I love the car irrationally. I am completely serious when I say I can see myself only buying smart cars from here out. I think smart cars inspire love, hate, or wtf from people. I'm definitely in the love camp.

One thing I was not impressed by was the service department at the local smart center but that had nothing to do with the car.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:51 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had one (2004 model). Loved it. Easily enough cargo space for the number of people it can carry. I fit a 42 inch TV in it once. Yeah it feels like a go kart, but that was a plus point! Great in cities - can fit in tiny spaces and do a u turn without having to go back and forth. Have to drive a big family car now and I've never been someone who enjoys driving, but I still miss it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:40 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

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