First Impressions - 2009 Passion Coupe

After an eleven month wait I received my 09 Coupe yesterday (23rd), new darker metallic gray/black, pretty much loaded. I've only been able to drive it 50 miles so far but here are a few 1st impressions.

- Fun to drive with the exception of highway driving (65-70 mph). I'm hoping I get used to driving it on the highway since that's about 75% of my driving. Even the smallest of wind gusts, semi turbulence, or larger cars and utility trucks will get you off course. Impossible to keep on a straight line even with both hands on the wheel.

- No matter what configuration I adjust the driver seat the seatbelt is always cutting into my neck. Without an adjustable seatbelt height I don't see any way around this. It also pulls tight on top of that, hoping over time it will loosen up.

- Lots of road/engine/wind noise and vibration from the engine. I think that's all expected, getting used to it. I was probably too excited to notice this when I test drove months ago.

- Put a change cup in one of the cup holders. Nowhere to put change, coin slots are useless.

- I went for the $350 Premium Sound System. The sound is really, really bad. Ended up opting for the dealer to install a JVC unit with Sirius/Bluetooth add-ons for $1,700 which is about $500 markup but I don't have the patience or time to do it myself. At some point I'll get better and rear speakers.

- Tons of leg room. In the passenger seat I can put my legs out straight and I'm 6 ft tall.

- I know there are tons of posts on transmission lag and I expected it, but even with the 2009 there are still lags/surges. Trying to learn best way to manipulate the gas pedal for smother shifting and acceleration. Can be annoying at times, seems worst between 1st and 2nd.

- Auto wipers seem to work great but read a post on here that there's a problem if you leave it in Auto position in the 09's that it will kill the battery.

- Everyone at the Cincinnati dealership has been great and very responsive during my waiting period and turnover.

Overall, love the car and looking forward to driving it more and more.

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Comment by ultrajim49 on March 28, 2009 at 1:12pm
I copied this info from 'Smart car of America' and it seems to work for me. I drive 120 miles a day to work and back ( 90% on the hiway ). I have cruise control and set it for 65mph. That seems to be the best speed for the best mpg (45-50). My highest was 53 1/2 mpg. Hope this info helps...

The Smart Fortwo has a manual transmission with an automatic cluch that shifts according to an optimized high mileage program. It is marvelous and it works perfectly.
It even allows you to defeat the high mileage overlay with manual shifting similar to a Tiptronic that you find in high end sports cars and sports sedans.

This is the first transmission I have ever seen that is designed to do this. It even took me a while to figure out what it was.

I was also under the illusion that the transmission was faulty in some way. I was even told at the dealer that I should lift my foot between shifts for proper operation. That is not the case.

One can make the Smart behave like a performance car and impress people who think its really cool to go fast and waste energy. I've been there, done that, and if that's where you want to be, there are a lot of cars that will make you very happy and do a much better job than the Smart Fortwo.

This is because the Smart Fortwo was designed to go a long way on a tank of gas. That was the primary design goal, urban or highway. That's why I bought it. I'm a hypermiler.

Most of all, the Smart Fortwo reminds me of big, big trucks. Not in size, of course, but the way it shifts. some of you have probably driven big trucks. Big two axle, three axle, maybe some eighteen wheelers with 5 axles. Possibly a few of you pulled the heaviest 5-axle jobs, bulk liquids with a gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds. But I'm talking about the trucks I drove in the western states. Supertrains. Tank trucks with two trailers. 9 axles. 34 wheels. 120 thousand pounds. 105 feet long. Big, big trucks. Over mountains. Big, big mountains.

Those trucks are so heavy you don't use a clutch. You'd burn it up in one trip. Instead, you dog clutch through all 15 or 20 gears. That's right. You put it in low gear and drop the clutch at idle to get going. The flywheel gives you the momentum to start moving. Not the engine. Not the clutch slipping. From there on, you never touch the clutch again. You match the gears. You match the gears perfectly for every shift, for thousands of shifts. You pull through the torque curve, let off the accelerator, slip the shift lever into neutral, drop the revs to the insertion point for the next lower ratio gear, slip into perfect engagement, give it throttle, then repeat the process. You don't rely on the synchros to make your shifts work. Pros like me use the tach to slip the transmission teeth in neatly. We know every shift point for every gear, upshift or down shift. Our lives depend on it. So do yours if you are on the highway with us.

Anyway, I don't do that anymore. But the Smart shifts like that. Try it. Put the transmission in D and give the Smart Fortwo a tiny bit of gas and lock your foot against the carpet to the right of the pedal to hold it in place. Don't move it. Moving the pedal wastes gasoline. The Smart knows what to do to give you the best economy possible. It moves you up through first gear, stops delivering fuel to the engine (even though your pedal's down), gives the engine just a little fuel to match the revs for the next gear, smoothly engages the teeth, then brings the power up to your pedal setting and repeats the process through all five gears.

To this old truck driver, that is not a fault. That is magnificent technology, perfectly applied for optimum economy and power delivery. It is hard to improve on that but you can really screw it up by not understanding it.
This great article was written by Rick Master.
Comment by Sandi Eldredge on December 28, 2008 at 6:28pm
Your car is beautiful! First time I have seen that color so you should be proud to be driving that one! You will get use to the shifting that is for sure. I hardly relize it anymore, except coming to a stop light and then starting up again it is sluggish but I just keep going and enjoy the looks! I am smaller being a girl so I haven't had the seat belt problem, I have had large cars that do that to me so I know how that can be a real pain. I am sure they have something to put on it to help out there.

Just enjoy your car that is what it is all about. Be prepared to have everyone come up to you and it is difficult to go into a store without being stopped. I sometimes walk with my head down so I can get in and out when I am in a hurry.

Again your car looks absolutely beautiful...enjoy enjoy
Comment by SandraK on December 27, 2008 at 6:56pm
When I first drove around on the highways, I remember feeling like I was driving a square van or something, with all the wind gusts. But, eventually, I think I've gotten used to it, as I don't even notice it now. (and I'm no slowpoke on the highway--in Chicago you have to keep up with traffic--though I'm not one of those lane-changing maniacs, either.)

Anyhow, I've driven my car cross-country (Chicago to Arizona & back), and have just had great fun with it--which will offset some of those odd quirks.

Re. the seat belt--my driver's side one was fine, but we discovered quickly that the passenger side one locked up and kept retracting--never relaxing--until it was choking. I told my dealer, and they went ahead and replaced it--said they didn't want to mess with trying to fix such an important piece of safety equipment. It seems to be better now, though it seems taller passengers have more difficulty with it twisting etc. than those who don't need the seat back all the way.

I think there is a blog or discussion line for suggestions for improvements--you should add the coin holder & other suggestions there, as I agree it would be better than those little coin slots!
Comment by grwhitaker on December 27, 2008 at 1:12am
On the stability issue, have either the dealer or a local tire store [or check it yourself if so inclined] to make sure the front and rear tires are set to the recommended PSI's. They are supposed to be different - front (26 psi) and rear (31/32 psi).
Can't help on the seat belt-I sometimes have the same problem on my neck. I haven't found an adjuster I like yet.
Change - buy the factory "smokers kit" and install it for your change. Prices are from $40-55, aftermarket and dealer.
Stereo-I guess my rock concert days have made my ears less sensitive. I have a cabrio and spend a lot of time adjusting the treble, base and balance to get it to where I like it. I don't seem to notice the lack of clarity others have mentioned.
The shifting is already smoothing out at about 400 miles. 1 to 2 is the first one to smooth out, but I mix my driving about 50/50 city and freeway.
Good luck and enjoy!
Comment by MICHAEL CURZON on December 27, 2008 at 1:09am
Love my car got it on december 15.Just started to use the paddy shifting works much smoother for me.Becoming adjusted to size on main highway,im coming from my merz 350 sd turbo desiel.But you know we in us aren't use to these small cuties just go to Europe and they are all over the place.Getting great milage seems to increase with time.Haven't had this much fun since 1965 when i ordered a new GTO from the factory for 3500.00 what a driving machine that was.looking forward to be able to install the performance package ive heard about that will become availible in 2009. In any case it's a unique car to drive,
Comment by Sandra Breland on December 26, 2008 at 8:54pm
I try and drive my passion coupe not over 65 mph;you get better gas mileage and the wind turbelance is not so bad. 55 mph or 60 works great and you will learn to love the feel of the car. I'll admit that shifting from 1st to 2nd is slow but when you feel it start to shift, lift upon the gas and the car shifts smoother.Been getting 45-50 mph and that is what this vehicle is all about
Comment by Sara Ax on December 26, 2008 at 8:49pm

I also got my '09 (dark metallic gray) about two weeks ago. I feel like I'm learning when best to "shift" on the gas as I adapt to the car, although I've noticed it's not consistent in "automatic" and is a little smoother using the paddle shifters. I've read in other posts where the car "learns" the temperment of the driver, but might be the other way around. Today was the first day I felt the seat belts get in my way (too close to my neck) so I might also have to look into the adjusters. The regular "premium" stereo with the cabrio seems fine, even though I can feel the speaker vibration through the door. I've also noticed the lesser suspension and stability with the car, esp on the highway at higher speeds. But I didn't expect much more from a small car - I wonder if getting larger tires will cancel out the extended tire coverage I purchased? (Roads w/lots of pot holes and other crap in the northern VA area). Still, wouldn't change it out for the world and can't wait for the spring when I can go topless :)
Comment by Foy on December 24, 2008 at 6:04pm
i fixed the highway handling issues.. i went with wider tires on the front if you get 175-195 size tires you will have very little wind problems and its rock solid at 70+ speeds

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