The first Smart Car models go on sale in the United States this week. Manufactured by Mercedes parent Daimler AG, the two-seater Fortwo is powered by a 1-liter, 71-horsepower engine. CNET Car Tech recently visited Rome, the Smart Car capital of the world, getting a glimpse into what we might expect our streets to look like soon if this little car makes it big over here.
U.S. customers will initially get the choice of six colors for their fortwos: silver, gray, black, yellow, blue, and red.
The entry-level Fortwo "pure" comes with a starting price of $11,590 and without much else (the base-level car comes with manual crank windows and has only "provision for radio installation"). The upgraded Fortwo "passion coupe" (starting price $13,590, pictured) comes with a host of extra goodies including nine-spoke alloy wheels, a single-CD radio, a leather sports steering wheel with steering wheel shift paddles, a panoramic glass roof, and power windows. The Fortwo "passion cabriolet" starts at $16,590 and comes with manually-opened sunroof and a six-disc CD player.
The Fortwo is built around a "tridon safety cell"--essentially a steel frame--which, according to Smart, combines longitudinal and transverse members that dissipate the force of an impact over a large area of the car. For those who want to jazz up their Fortwo, the black outline of the safety cell can be upgraded to metallic silver for an extra $175.
The three-cylinder Fortwo gets an estimated 33 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway, and is rated as a ULEV vehicle by the California Air Resources Board. According to Smart, the car's dashboard and wheel housing covers are made from 100 percent recyclable synthetics.
The Smart Fortwo is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall, and 5.1 feet wide. It has a top speed of 90 mph and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 12.8 seconds. It comes with a single choice of transmission in the form of an "automated manual" five-speed gearbox. As-standard safety features include an electronic stability program, antilock brakes, and four air bags.
One Smart Car model that we won't be seeing this side of the Atlantic is the Forfour, a four-door version of the Fortwo. Smart has canceled production of the Forfour--as well as its Smart Roadster--worldwide.
It's no secret that the compact Fortwo is easier to park than other cars. However, be careful before you park it perpendicular to the curb Italian-style. Some U.S. ordinances state that both right wheels must be within a certain distance to the curb.