If the diminutive Smart ForTwo is going to succeed in America, it will need to make a strong showing in New York City—where driving distances are minimal and parking opportunities are scarce. But according to New York Times reviews of the Smart car, the cute little two-seater from Mercedes is already dead in the water.
Auto critics Lawrence Ulrich and Eric A. Taub, who tested the Smart ForTwo on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles, clearly had a lot of fun playing the role of schoolyard bullies ganging up on the 3-cylinder 1-liter Smart, the smallest car sold in America. Don Rickles would be proud:
- “Sure, the Smart is cute, if you enjoy cars from the Weebles school of design.”
- “The dreadful 5-speed automated manual transmission shifts awkwardly and slowly. It may be enough to make you reach for the Dramamine.”
- “You could practically squeeze a half-inning of baseball into the maddening delay between the release of one gear and the engagement of the next.”
- “The Smart has been described as fun to drive by some reviewers, but other than showing taillights to the neighborhood riding mowers, I don’t see it.”
- “The experience [of driving the Smart on the highway] was akin to crossing the upper level of the George Washington Bridge in a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle on a windy day.”
- “The [storage] shelf is large enough to carry one standard suitcase and a carry-on bag, but not much else…My wife summed it up best: “This is a car for people without much of a life.”
Worst of all, what’s billed as the two biggest advantages of the Smart ForTwo—good fuel economy and the ability to easily park—are non-starters for the reviewers. They only managed to achieve fuel economy in the low-30s. And, Urlich points out, New York City’s parking department won’t allow the Smart to park motorcycle-style by parking perpendicular to the curb.
The consensus was that “this trendy twerpy ride” will enjoy strong sales at first, but after the word gets out about “limited carrying capacity, seemingly mediocre fuel economy, erratic handling and fitful acceleration,” the Smart ForTwo “will begin gathering tiny pieces of dust in showrooms.”