Member of Texas Auto Writers Association

2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe

2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe
2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe
Is this really the Smart answer for Texas Drivers

Review by: Mike Herzing

My test drive this week was the Passion Coupe built by Daimler Benz and sold by Smart USA. Of course, it is THE hot car in California and many other places. Its cute demeanor and tiny size draws looks, waves, and opinions wherever you go. Most of them are “it is so cute! “and “ I want one.” Of course, there was a Lady that pointed to it and said “nice looking coffin.” Like I said, it draws opinions from everyone. The truth is: it is a cool little car, a lot of fun to drive, even on the freeway, and yes,  it is safe, as long as you aren’t hit by a truck. The obvious thing about the Passion Coupe is its size: Over nine inches SHORTER than the Mini, and as tall as it is wide, the Fortwo is the smallest production car sold in America. It is a true testament to packaging because it has about the same front seat legroom as a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Fit. Engineers achieved this by putting the engine and drive train under the rear of the car. This lowers the cars center of gravity and allows the higher seating position and tall roofline. The Fortwo has a ton of legroom but it is a little cozy when it comes to shoulder room. That problem is eased a bit because the same Engineers placed the passenger seat a little farther back than the drivers seat. There is about 10-12 cubic feet of storage space and a tailgate that lowers for those tailgate parties you have been hoping to attend.

2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe Interior
2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe Interior
I found the interior to be laid out extremely well, with everything is a logical place and the gauges well placed and easy to read. Of course, with a car this small, EVERYTHING is within reach. The seats were comfortable and very supportive. Standard on the Passion Coupe is: a panorama glass roof, alloy wheels, A/C with climate control, 3-spoke leather sports steering wheel with shift paddles, power windows, electric and heated side mirrors, and AM/FM radio with CD player. Optional is: power steering (why?) leather seats, (again why?) premium sound, fog lamps, and extra gauges.

 

Performance wise, the Fortwo is powered by a 1 Liter, 70hp 3 cylinder engine mated to a slow shifting automatically shifted manual transmission. The transmission is really strange because it is lags between shifts. A six speed manual trans would make this baby sing. Even with the transmission issues, the Fortwo cruises easily at 70-75 and tops out near 90mph, faster than you need to go in one of these anyway. The low center of gravity and wide 15 inch wheels and tires help the Fortwo handle pretty well. It’s not a Mustang, but it can hold its own on a twisty road. The 2008 EPA fuel rating for this car is 33 city and 41 hwy.

Safety wise, the Fortwo achieved the highest ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for front and side crashworthiness. The secret is in what Smart calls the tridion safety cell. The occupants are protected by a steel safety cell that combines longitudinal and transverse members to displace the impact forces over a large area of the car. Engineers say that it's not about the amount of steel, but how that material will resist an impact. Racecar roll cages are designed the same way.

If you live inside the loop, mainly drive in horrible traffic, or just like the looks, the Fortwo could make sense. However, if fuel economy and saving money is what you are after, there are slightly bigger cars from Hyundai, Kia, and Scion that get only a few mpg less and cost about the same.

-Michael Herzing

Model: 2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe

  • Base price: Starts at about $13,500 and can be brought to the $15k range.
  • Engine:.1 Liter 3cyl with 70 Hp.   
  • Transmission: a manual that is automatically shifted. 
  • EPA City/Hwy Fuel Econ: 34 city-41 hwy

What I like most:

  • Cute, easy to park, MPG

What I’d like to change:

  • A real manual transmission and perhaps a hybrid?

Comment:

Will there really be a market for this once the novelty wears off?