Peter drove the Smart Fortwo when it was first introduced in the U.S. market in 2009. At the time, he was impressed with the tiny car's interior roominess, dismayed by its rough-shifting transmission and wary of its potential price.
Fast-forward almost a decade, and the car — now in its second-generation here — hasn't changed much. You still get quirky styling — both interior and exterior — surprising headroom, a rough idle and parking-space supremacy. The transmission, thankfully, has been improved. What commuters don't get is a vehicle that's comfortable on longer drives, gets fuel mileage (36 mpg on premium gas), or inspires a lot of driver confidence.
To that final point, Lyra was a bit wary of taking it on the interstate, but the two-seater surprised her with its adequate pickup for a turbo 3-cylinder and stable ride — except around large trucks. The Fortwo has no problem maintaining highway speeds but it does get skittish as speeds increase.
The Fortwo comes in two models — a coupe and a cabrio— with lots of options to personalize the car. In the cabrio, the top is really more a power-retractable canvas sunroof. There are three cabrio trim lines with prices ranging from $18,600 to $20,400. There is also an electric Fortwo.
Lyra and Peter say: We love the concept of the Fortwo more than the reality. In its price range, you can get subcompacts that offer more of everything — room, MPG, performance, features, safety. Still, if the Fortwo matches your need for something offbeat and the ability to wedge into tight city parking spaces, is a priority, then it's worth a look.