Model: 2008 to 2015 Smart Fortwo

Vehicle Type: Two-seat microcar

History/Description: Changes to diesel emissions standards meant that for the 2008 model year, Smart had to scrap the diesel engine powering their tiny model and install a gas-powered unit instead. The second-generation model, on our shores, remained similar to its predecessor – with a rear-mounted little engine, rear-wheel drive and an automated five-speed manual transmission.

Look for a coupe or ‘convertible’, which featured a fold-back fabric roof. The ‘Pure’ designation was given to more basic models, with the ‘Passion’ after it. Models in the used market wearing the ‘Brabus’ badge got sporty exhaust, wheels and some extra equipment.

Fully featured, the Fortwo was available with power accessories, automatic climate control, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth, heated leather, a CD player, cruise control, and more.

Engines/Trim: All units came with a one-litre three-cylinder, packing 70 horsepower and nearly as much torque. The transmission was a unique and often-debated five-speed automated manual, basically utilizing the guts of a manual transmission with mechanisms for automatic shifting without a clutch pedal.

What Owners Like: No surprises with owner likes. The Fortwo is commonly praised for good fuel mileage, good all-around visibility, giggle-eliciting maneuverability, and the uniqueness, exclusivity and attention-grabbing factor built into its funny styling. A pleasing level of luxury feature content and surprising headroom for taller drivers are also noted. Finally, many owners stress that the Fortwo is bigger inside than it looks, offering more passenger volume and cargo capacity than many folks think.

What Owners Dislike: Common gripes centre around a rough and bumpy ride, partially thanks to the Fortwo’s short wheelbase and stiff shocks. Some owners wish for a smoother and more responsive transmission, too.

Here’s a look some owner reviews.

The Test Drive: Start your Fortwo test-drive with a full and complete inspection of all interior electronics. You’ll want to triple check for proper operation of all lights, the stereo system, the horn, the instrument cluster and more. Scattered reports of hard-to-diagnose electrical problems have popped up, possibly caused by lower-than-required battery in some cases. Have a mechanic start diagnosing any electrical gremlins with a check of battery and charging system health.
Numerous owners have reported issues with the climate control fan motor, relating to sporadic operation or total non-functionality. Confirm that the fan in the Fortwo you’re considering works consistently on all speed settings, maintains its speed, and turns on and off every time you engage it. Non-functionality could require a new motor, at a cost of a few hundred dollars, though the owner’s community has some interesting reading for do-it-yourselfers.

Outside the car, check for rust and the overall condition of the vehicle’s paint. Pay special attention to the roof panel on coupe models, which is known to be easily ‘crazed’ when exposed to the elements over time. (Crazing is the development of a series of small cracks in the paint membrane). Some owners have had the panel replaced multiple times – so look closely for this problem. Here’s some more reading. Some owners have reported broken interior sunshades that come off of their track, so confirm proper operation of this accessory, if equipped.

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