Model: smart fortwo, 2005-2006

Vehicle type: Compact ‘Minicar’

Approximate used price range: $8,000 to $13,000

History/desciption: The fortwo took the market by storm for the 2006 model year with its tiny diesel engine and stare-grabbing cuteness. The successor to this original is now on sale, with a gas engine.

The fortwo crosses boundaries of age and gender as a frugal and cheap-to-run car that can be enjoyed by anyone. As a maneuverable runabout or a cheeky weekend escape-pod, it’s appealing on numerous levels.

The big draw to the fortwo is its minimalist approach to fuel consumption and space-hogging. Get over the funny looks and lawn-equipment levels of performance, and you’ll likely find the first-generation fortwo is as charming and sensible as a four-wheeled scooter with a roof.

The fortwo ‘Pure’ was the basic car, while the ‘Pulse’ or ‘Passion’ badge were fitted to mid-level and loaded fortwos, respectively. Features included a CD player, air conditioning, power accessories, stability control and antilock brakes.

Mounted between the rear wheels, the heart of the fortwo consisted of an 800 cc turbo diesel engine with 40 horsepower and 73 lb.-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual mode was standard. You won’t be picking on any Mustangs at a traffic light, but the fortwo’s fuel mileage figures of around 3.5L / 100km say it all.

What owners like:
Owners of the first-gen fortwo love the low fuel consumption and minimal refueling trips. Ease of parking and maneuverability are also among the cars most highly rated attributes. Build quality levels are appreciated, and many owners use comments like ‘fun to drive’ and ‘eye catching’ to sum up their experiences.

What owners hate: The fortwo’s transmission is its biggest weakness, and many owners describe it as jerky, abrupt and unrefined. Some owners wish for cruise control and tilt steering, and others wish for more power, too.

A more major owner complaint deals with servicing costs. Since smart vehicles are sold and serviced by Mercedes Benz dealerships, labour rates can easily exceed $100/hour.

Common issues: Be sure the air conditioner is in proper working order on a test drive, and check for any ‘check engine’ lights, too. The latter could indicate numerous problems with the diesel emissions system or the engine itself — so be sure the light isn’t illuminated.

Check for yucky mildew or moisture on the carpeting in the driver footwell, as a leaky seal could let water into the cabin. This is an easy and cheap fix.

The verdict: The fortwo may have above-average maintenance costs, but issues look fairly minor and fuel costs are near-nil.

There’s no direct competition to this model either. If the fortwo is your sort of ride, look for a good deal and prepare for miserly motoring.

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