Function Be Damned! Smart ForTwo is Not So Smart


Since Mary Jo has shunned Function Be Damned! this week, as the resident car nut I will take this opportunity to sneak in an automotive-related post on CH+D. This week, I’ll be taking a look at the Smart ForTwo, whose form-before-fucntionness makes it as viable for daily transport as your son’s Powerwheels.

Actually, it kind of is. Photo:

My disdain for Mercedes Benz’s micro car stems not just from the fact that it is the vehicle of choice for those too pompous even for a Prius, but that the little roller skate on wheels is for the most part, useless. 

On paper, I dig the concept: A tiny, quirky, inexpensive, super-efficient, and fun to drive car that’s perfect for urban environments. The problem is, the Smart Car misses the fun-to-drive, efficiency and value points. Big time.

Really, I am not being mean just because it’s a total weenie mobile. Little cars with tiny engines and double-digit horsepower can be a riot to drive, even for someone like me that is more drawn to big, powerful 1960s muscle cars. Think of the original Mini Cooper with its moped-like mill that had as little as 34 horsepower. This is where the idea that “driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car fast” came from. 

The Smart Car, however, is not only weighed down with heavy safety equipment so you don’t get mushed while being broadsided by an Escalade, but its squishy, fun-sapping CVT automatic transmission is horrifyingly bad (there’s no manual available in the US) and its narrow wheelbase and high roofline also make it tippy during spirited driving. 

I know, it does not say SMART all over it.

On top of all that, the fuel mileage is abysmal when considering the sacrifices you are making driving a car that can only carry two people and a small box of Triscuts. The much larger Ford Fiesta gets about the same fuel mileage, it’s available with a 6-speed manual transmission, it costs about the same, and you can fit a whole crate of Triscuts in the back along with four of your friends. And the Ford is actually fun to drive.

The Smart ForTwo amounts to a $14k piece of jewelry for the holier-than-thou environmental urbanite to remind them how much better they are than you. The reality is, you can get more efficiency, more fun and more car for the same money. Seriously, it is not that hard to find parking in San Francisco, folks.


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