For city life, the Smartcar is great for condo-dwellers or as a second family runabout. It’s cute and sips gas sparingly, but there are cheaper, albeit less striking-looking alternatives.
It comes with a surprising number of safety features, assuaging nervous North Americans about its ability to take a punch. Certainly, the electronic stability control seems like overkill. You’d have to push extremely hard on a supremely slippery surface to roll its corner-fitted wheels.
Indeed, when you tap hard, the Smart lurches between gears. No wonder: its inline three-cylinder engine coughs out 70hp.
Fortunately, when you switch the automatic transmission to paddle mode, the ride actually becomes pleasurable. You feel the road and receive your first indication that it’s a Mercedes-Benz. Still, there remains a frustrating lack of pickup and cities demand some guts to seize a space in traffic or competitive parking lot.
But you can feel the centrifugal force. Its hilariously diminutive turning radius is 8.75m. Imagine doing donuts in your parking spot.
The power steering is balanced — not too loose, but no 20-minute workouts when parallel parking. Not that parking’s challenging, ever — the coupé’s truncated length is just 2.7m. Park sideways.
It’s easy to get in and out. The Smart’s tall like a tower, not sprawling like a bungalow, though that shape can act like a sail. In strong winds at highway speeds, I sometimes struggled to maintain my lane.
Inside, it’s actually roomy for two, with good cargo space in the back. Fold down the passenger seat for even more. (Mind, you can fit more people in the Scion iQ, which drives a bit better and is slightly cheaper.)
With such limited space, some engineering decisions may leave you scratching your head. The ignition is on your right, beside your leg. Gesticulating, I inadvertently swatted the key, stalling the car, having turned off the ignition. Fortunately I was 10 meters from home, not struggling to maintain a windy highway lane.
My advice: keep it in the city and let people admire your parking.
2013 Smart Fortwo Coupé
As Driven: $18,400