Test Drive: 2013 Smart Fortwo electric green news reviews smart car test drives
2013 Smart Fortwo. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Manufacturer’s web site
Smart Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2013 Smart Fortwo

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

On October 29th 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall across a massive stretch of the American seaboard. While the storm absolutely devastated townships up and down the east coast, 60 km/h sustained winds arrived in the Toronto area with gusts approaching 100 km/h. This just happened to be the same day I was to pick up the lightweight 2013 Smart Fortwo coupe. After picking up the 750-kg two-seater, I began my hour-long trek home on the highway while pummeling crosswinds constantly tried to make the Fortwo change directions quicker than a convict running from a bloodhound. With skinny 155/60R15 tires up front (175/55R15s are equipped in the rear), the tall, narrow smart seemed to be confused that it was indeed a car and not a kite.

Although it felt at times like someone was pushing on the front corner of the car willing me towards the guardrail, the Fortwo never once achieved ‘scary’ levels of instability and with constant minor corrections, the vehicle maintained a straight line. If the Fortwo could make it through conditions like these at highway speeds, it will make it through anything.

When first introduced in 2004, many Canadians thought the Smart Fortwo was nothing more than a novelty. However, now in its 10th year of production, the Fortwo continues to sell well for a city vehicle; 1,868 sold through September 2012, which already exceeds the 2011 totals. Making this feat more impressive is the fact that the Fortwo now has legitimate competition like the Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark, and Fiat 500.

Test Drive: 2013 Smart Fortwo electric green news reviews smart car test drives
Test Drive: 2013 Smart Fortwo electric green news reviews smart car test drives
2013 Smart Fortwo. Click image to enlarge

One can only imagine how well the Fortwo would be selling had Smart been able to keep the original Fortwo’s three-cylinder diesel power plant. But due to this oil burner’s love for polluting, it was yanked in 2007 as it would not meet new emission standards. Replacing it was a 1.0L inline-three gasoline engine that produced 72 hp and 70 lb-ft of torque. The mid-engine Fortwo sends power to the rear wheels by what I consider the world’s most bizarre transmission. The five-speed single-clutch dry-plate automated manual takes a siesta between every gear change and creates what Associate Editor Peter Bleakney refers to as the “Smart head-bob”. Hit the throttle with anything less than overt aggression and the Smart lurches away from a stop as its tall narrow body sways onto its rear springs. Upon reaching the shift point from first to second, all forward moment is cut off as the Smart’s transmission plays ‘Where’s Waldo’ looking for second gear. The car sways forward onto its front springs and just as it crests that magical point where it can bob forward no more, second gear is engaged and the Smart sways back once more.

Smart claims the Fortwo will accomplish 0–100 km/h in 13.3 seconds, which is farm-tractor slow, but a bit deceiving; a few of these seconds are eaten up during the lackadaisical gear changes. Keep the Smart in gear using the paddle shifters and both response and flexibility from the three-pot engine is more than enough for this little glockenspiel. But this can create a different set of nuisances as heavy throttle inputs in high gears around 2,000 rpm create an NVH nightmare as the low droning engine actually vibrates both chairs vigorously. Think of it as massage function and maybe it isn’t a nuisance after all.

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