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The Smart way to dip into the user car market

The sales success of the Smart fortwo surprised even the folks at Mercedes Benz — the German automaker who owns the Smart brand.

Model: 2005 to 2006 Smart fortwo
Vehicle type: Two-seat coupe hatchback
Approximate used price range: $7,000 to $13,000

History/description: The sales success of the Smart fortwo surprised even the folks at Mercedes Benz — the German automaker who owns the Smart brand. After long wait times and the initial market flood of the “smartie,” it quickly went on to become a popular and highly-celebrated machine in many circles.


Ideal for folks in crowded locales looking for a small, nimble and very fuel efficient car, the fortwo packed a tiny diesel engine, tiny body and an instantly recognizable look.


Smart didn’t build fortwo for feats of performance or luxury, though it offered tremendously efficient two-person travel to thousands of Canadian shoppers. Even those not residing in busy cities took a liking to the fortwo, likely because of its minimalist approach to mobility and near-nil fuel costs.


The first generation fortwo was on sale in Canada from 2005 to 2007 inclusive, and came as either a hardtop coupe or a cabriolet with a retractable roof. Three trim levels were available, ranging from the basic Pure to the mid-range Pulse to the top-line Passion.


Features included all of the staples — including power steering, a CD player, air conditioning and all mandatory power accessories. Traction and stability control were fitted too, as were antilock brakes and side airbags.


Powering all first-generation fortwo models was an 800cc turbodiesel engine with 40 horsepower and 73 lb.-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual mode was standard, though many owners say some practice with the gearboxes manual-mode is required for smooth operation.

What owners like: Mainly, fortwo owners say they love their vehicle’s fuel economy, ease of parking, ease of moving in tight spaces and decent build quality. Styling and surprisingly fun-to-drive dynamics are also appreciated.

What owners hate: The biggest complaint found amongst existing first-generation fortwo owners deals with a jerky, awkward and unrefined transmission. Other drivers wished for cruise control, better arm rests, and just a touch more power.

Common issues:
On a test-drive, be sure to check for proper operation of the air conditioning system, and note any check engine lights which could indicate a problem with one of several sensors or emissions system valves. Be sure to check for moisture or mold in the footwell area too. If you notice any, it’s probably the result of a failed rubber seal allowing water into the car.
Be sure to determine the condition of the turbocharger and intercooler on the model you’re considering — as these weren’t entirely trouble-free.


Repairing your fortwo at its dealer is a pricey endeavour, as Smart drivers pay Mercedes-Benz labour rates that can exceed $100/hr. As such, ensure the model you’re considering isn’t concealing any potentially-expensive issues under its skin. If you’re unsure of the vehicle's history, a pre-purchase inspection is strongly advised.

The verdict: A well-priced, mechanically sound used fortwo should put owners happily on their way to the world of frugal motoring.

 
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