The Fortwo is the original Smart model, launched in 1998 as City Coupe. The name Fortwo was introduced for this car when Smart began producing additional models.
The Smart "Micro compact car" was designed primarily for urban use in European cities, where parking is scarce and fuel economy is of great importance. The Smart Fortwo's length of only 250 cm allows as many as three of the vehicles to be parked in the space normally taken by one standard-length car.
Providing adequate passenger safety was a challenge to the designers. To solve this and to provide a rigid frame, a solid steel "Tridion" frame, left visible at the exterior as a major design element, completely surrounds and protects the passenger compartment, and defines the basic shape of the car as well. Interchangeable plastic body panels complete the exterior. With a weight of 730 kg, it is one of the lightest cars in the European market.
In order to make maximum use of the minimal crumple zone at the front, the Smart Fortwo has its engine positioned at the rear of the vehicle.
The engine range is composed of only turbocharged three cylinder motors. Originally, the base petrol engine had 599 cc, but displacement was increased to 698 cc along with the restyling. It is available in 37 kW (50 PS) or 45 kW (61 PS) variants. The turbodiesel engine has 799 cc displacement with 30 kW (41 PS). Engines are mounted in the boot.
Although only a manual transmission is offered, there is no clutch pedal per se; instead, input from floor-mounted shifter or optional steering-mounted paddles is fed to a servo-operated clutch to shift the sequential automatic gearbox.
The Smart averages 4.7 L/100 km (50 mpg or 21.3 km/L) for the gasoline model and 3.4 L/100 km (69 mpg or 29.4 km/L) for the diesel.
As free parking spots are hard to find in many European cities, official parking is expensive, and illegally parked cars are fined, immobilized or towed, the original idea behind the very short "smart car" is that the vehicle may be parked back-in in parallel parking zones. Its length of 250cm (98.4 in) equals the width of a truck or a regular parking slot, allowing two or three Smarts to park in the same space as one normal car if parked side-on to the usual parking direction. However, this type of parking is very dangerous because drivers are unable to see the parked vehicle's brake lights to know that the car is operational. As such, this type of parking has been banned in Munich, Germany, amongst other places.
The Fortwo is available with targa-style removable roof panels (originally City Cabrio, now Fortwo Cabrio), introduced in 2000, and was restyled in 2002. Model variants include the base model "pure", sporty mid-spec model "pulse", luxury top-spec model "passion" and the "BRABUS" tuned version - all of which are available in both coupÃ© and cabrio form.