This time last year, I headed for Canada to drive a Smart ForTwo. This year, the Smart came to us. Smart has stopped in Ann Arbor as part of its fifty-city, cross-country road show to demonstrate its cute little two-seater. It's obviously working, since more than 20,000 people have plunked down a $99 deposit for one of the sub-micro-compact cuties.
Stuffed in the rear of the 2008 ForTwo is Mitsubishi-built 1.0-liter three-cylinder making 71 horsepower and 68 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automated manual transmission sends power to the rear wheels. The Smart's surprisingly large fifteen-inch wheels (tires are 155/60 front, 175/55 rear) are disc brakes in front, drums in rear. All Smarts come standard with anti-lock brakes and full stability control.
Like the previous body style Smart (which was sold in Canada but not the U.S.) the ForTwo is strictly, well, for two. Behind the seats is enough room for 7.7 cubic feet of cargo, but this is a tiny little car - it's only 106 inches long, 61 inches wide, and 61 inches tall. To put that into perspective, the 1700-lb Smart not only weighs 900 lb less than a Mini Cooper, it's 39.5 inches - that's more than three feet! - shorter.
The small engine can hurtle the ForTwo down the highway at 90 mph, but obviously this car is meant for around-town use. EPA fuel economy estimates haven't been finalized, but Smart expects to see more than 40 mpg in mixed driving.
The Smart hits the market in January of 2008, where it will be sold from by U.S. dealerships, mostly satellites of existing Mercedes dealers. The ForTwo will be available in three trim levels: The "Pure", which will start under $12,000, includes all of the Smart's safety features (four airbags, ABS and ESP), remote central locking, a rear defroster, and not much more. The "Passion" model will cost under $14,000, and adds a panorama glass roof, alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and a CD stereo system.
The last of the models, the "Passion Cabrio" adds a convertible top and in-dash six-CD changer for another $3000.
Final pricing, equipment, and fuel economy estimates will be announced closer to the vehicle's launch. We drove a European-specification Passion model here in Ann Arbor - go to the next page to see driving impressions from our staffers, and for links to other Smart features on our site.