Smart car indicates it has a five-speed automatic transmission. What does this mean, exactly?
The Smart’s transmission is not a traditional five-speed automatic, it’s an automated manual that’s similar to a manual transmission but is driven like an automatic, meaning there’s no clutch pedal. It can be driven in either a fully automatic drive mode or a manual mode. When in manual mode, Smart drivers use a plus/minus gate on the gearshift — or, in the uplevel Passion trim, paddles on the wheel — to shift up or down.
Even though when it’s in automatic mode the Smart car is driven like any other automatic car, it isn’t a true automatic. That means the Smart’s is not the smoothest transmission when driven this way. Many of the Cars.com review team and staffers have been jerked around by the Smart and its rough gear changes.
In his review of the Smart ForTwo, Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays says about the automated manual transmission, “What that means is that you drive the ForTwo like you would a regular automatic, but the transmission lurches through gear changes with the awkwardness of a 15-year-old learning stick on his brother's Corolla.”
Many of us have found a trick to driving the Smart smoothly. According to Kelsey, “Let off the gas slightly at each shift, like you would while driving a stick, and the gear changes are much smoother (though still not very fast). It's hard to tell when the shifts will occur with the transmission in Drive, so smooth acceleration requires using the gearshift's manual mode. There's a plus/minus gate on the shifter, while the Passion adds shift paddles on the steering wheel.”
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