smart fortwo capable, but it’s an adjustment

I’ve heard all the jokes.

“Hey Neal, where’s the rest of your car?”

“Neal, if you need a ride we could put your car in my car.”

There were others, but we’ll just leave it at that.

One thing about driving the smart fortwo micro car this week, I never had to worry about a finding a parking place.

Most folks see the smart car (yes, it really is lower case) and immediately start asking about its safety capabilities due to its size, which is always the next major concern that everyone has about the smart car.

It is small — only 8-feet, 8-inches long.

But there is a lot of room for two passengers in the seating compartment. I was actually surprised how roomy the seats were.

And as for safety, the smart fortwo comes with a long list of standard safety features, including anti-lock brakes, front airbags, side airbags, emergency braking assist with electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control, traction control and tire pressure monitoring system, to name but a few.

Once you get used to it, it’s not that bad.

The most difficult part of my test drive was having to adjust from last week’s test vehicle — which happened to be a high-performance sports model.

It was a major adjustment going from a 300-plus horsepower sports car with a back seat and a trunk to a two-seat urban micro car powered by a 1.0-liter dual overhead cam I-3 engine that turns out 70 horsepower.

By Wednesday, I was finally starting to get the hang of it — especially the really funky five-speed automatic transmission.

Until you get used to it, it’s not uncommon to have a panic attack every time the car shifts gears because the shift is anything but smooth and seamless. Keep in mind, it’s an automatic transmission and you don’t have any control over the shift points. All you can do is keep on the gas and wait for the transmission to find the next gear.

On the up side, once the car finds the gear, torque is incredible.

I was actually impressed how quickly the smart fortwo gets up to speed.

But I now know what a motorcycle driver feels like wondering if the other motorists on the road see you on the road.

In addition to having no trouble finding a parking space, the other nice thing about the smart fortwo is its fuel economy, which comes in at 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway.

Not too shabby, especially when considering the smart fortwo has a base price starting below $12,000.

There is actually three models available — pure coupe, passion coupe and passion convertible. (I don’t make the names up, I just report them).

For the 2011 model year, smart has added quite a bit of technology and creature comforts to the models.

In fact, just about any amenity you would want on a vehicle is available on the smart car. Storage space has also been enhanced on the 2011 models, including up to 7.8 cubic feet of storage space behind the seats.

While I would not want this as my only source of transportation, I would love to have one just for my daily commutes to work and daily tasks in town.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2011 smart fortwo

1-seat micro coupe

or convertible 

Rear-wheel drive

Trim packages:

pure coupe, passion coupe, passion convertible

PRICE RANGE:

$12,000-$18,000

ENGINE:

1.0-L I-3 (70 hp/68 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed automatic

EPA: 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway

FUEL: Premium unleaded

TRACTION CONTROL:

Stability control with traction control system

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 106.1 inches

WHEELBASE: 73.5 inches

WIDTH: 61.4 inches

HEIGHT: 60.7 inches

WEIGHT: 1808 lbs.

TRACK: 50.5/54.5

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 8.7 gallons

TIRES: 15-inch

WARRANTY: 2-years/24,000-mile basic, drivetrain and roadside assistance.