RAfter years of struggling to commit,
Smart says it's finally bringing its tiny ForTwo to the U.S. market.
And we mean tiny: The Smart ForTwo is just 106 inches long, more
than 3 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper. Park it perpendicular to a
Ford Expedition, and its rear end extends just 14.3 inches beyond
the Expedition's side mirrors.
Under the auspices of DaimlerChrysler and car dealership mogul Roger
Penske, Smart plans to sell the ForTwo in hardtop and convertible
form in the U.S. starting in early 2008.
This is the second-generation ForTwo. Looking past its size — easy
to do because it's so tiny — the Smart features high door sills,
bulging fenders and a gaping grille up front.
Plans call for the ForTwo to be sold as both a hatchback and a
Cabrio (convertible.) The hatchback opens clamshell-style, which
Smart says helps in loading the car. The convertible features a soft
top, but it's really more like a fold-down roof section than a
full-on ragtop. The doors and a rear roll bar remain upright when
the top is down, so there's less of an open-air sensation than you
get in other convertibles.
The Smart that is expected to come to our shores is marginally
larger than previous models sold in Europe. It gains more than 7.5
inches in length, largely so it can meet tougher European
pedestrian-protection standards, provide more rear-impact protection
and offer a better ride.
Still, its 106-inch length is paired with a wheelbase of only about
73 inches. Put another way, stand a Smart on its tail, and it's less
than 9 feet tall; Shaquille O'Neal could totally dunk on it.
Smart markets the car as offering an unexpectedly large cabin for
its shrink-wrapped size. There is adequate legroom for those
approaching 6 feet tall. Headroom is plentiful because the ForTwo is
as tall as most compact cars.
With an interior layout aiming to provide plenty of room for its two
occupants, the biggest indication you're in a minicar comes from the
elements surrounding the seats. The dashboard is crammed with the
usual items, leaving it starved for space.
The stereo controls are about as big as those in a compact car,
which seems monstrous in the ForTwo. Climate controls are sandwiched
between the two central air vents, and the tachometer and analog
clock perch near the windshield.
Behind the seats are two storage nets and a tote for the owner's
manual, and all three are wedged beneath the rear window.
Under the Hood
Full details have yet to be released, but this much we know: The
ForTwo is powered by a 81-horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder and
is estimated to get around 40 mpg in combined city and highway
driving, but it can only go 90 mph. There are other engine options
in the European market, but it's unclear if any of those are
destined for the U.S.
There are a bevy of standard safety features, including four
airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. The
Smart has not yet been crash tested by any U.S. safety agency.