By Cars.com EditorsJuly 13, 2009
About the video
Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder takes a look at the 2009 Smart ForTwo Passion. It competes with the Toyota Yaris and MINI Cooper.
(rock music) <v Announcer>Cars.com auto review. Hi, I'm Joel Wiesenfelder of cars.com. I've been driving a 2009 Smart ForTwo Passion version. It is the smallest car in the country and not just by a little.
It's more than three feet shorter from bumper to bumper than the Mini Cooper. It is the only micro car right now in the market. And that makes people nervous here in the land of the SUV, I guess that's understandable. It's small, other vehicles are big. I usually don't think that way though. So originally, I wondered if I was the right person to test a car like this, because I don't tend to think about the size of the car I'm in. For perspective, I drive a Mazda Miata very comfortably, I've ridden motorcycles. I even have a 38 year old Fiat, which is a death wish in a can. With that perspective, this car scares the crap out of me. Now as you can see, it's a two-seater, and it's roomier than you might think. A lot of headroom. 'Cause there are only two seats, there's room to work with. I want to make clear, what concerns me isn't one thing, it's not just the size of the car, it's a combination of things, and very important in that is a fundamental flaw. And that is the transmission. It's a single clutch automated manual, which means it's kind of like an automatic, but it shifts for you. Not well. And even though it's improved a little bit for 2009, it's still, it's unpredictable. It's erratic. I'm also disappointed in the brakes. They have a binary all-or-nothing kind of feel to them. Either you're not braking hard enough or you're braking a little too hard. It's difficult to come to a complete stop slowly and smoothly. The small size also has an effect on the ride and handling. It has the wheelbase of a Radio Flyer wagon, and wheels that are about 15 inches. That's pretty small. So here in the city, it makes for a pretty rough ride in a lot of cases. And the handling is not super grounded feeling. It's actually a pretty tall vehicle for one that's this small. It's prone to a lot of crosswind. So if you're at highway speeds, you find yourself correcting a lot. Now according to government ratings, this is the only passenger car with a rollover rating of three stars, as opposed to four. That means it's more likely to roll over in an accident than any passenger car and some car-based SUVs. It's more in the class of an SUV, a truck-based SUV, in terms of its rollover propensity. Where I think there's a real problem for the Smart here that isn't necessarily in other small cars or motorcycles, et cetera, is when people are bearing down on you, they're not giving any respect 'cause you're in a little car. They ride your bumper, they'll cut you off without hesitation. They jump in front of you if you're trying to accelerate into traffic. The problem is, in that situation, you want really good, reliable acceleration, and really good brakes, and nimble control. That unfortunately is what the ForTwo doesn't give you. <v Announcer>For more car-related news, go to cars.com, or our blog, kickingtires.net.