Tiny Smart car takes on V12 Lamborghini

This is the fastest Lamborghini EVER
This is the fastest Lamborghini EVER

The sky was clear with a few wispy clouds to add visual interest. A perfect day for filming. We were driving two cars along twisty roads hugging the hills and craggy shorelines of central California. Both machines were exotic European two-seaters with their engines in the back.

One of the cars was the 740 horsepower V12 Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce. That's "super fast" in Italian. The other was the all-new redesigned Smart ForTwo, a tiny 89 horsepower "city car" from Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler.

We'd already been driving the Smart ForTwo around Monterey for a couple of days when we had an opportunity to shoot video of the Lamborghini. I had the great idea to use the Smart as our "camera car." The puny city car would carry our equipment and serve as a shooting platform for driving shots. And it mostly worked!

You might think these cars are not well matched, and you'd have a point there. If you're rolling along at 55 miles an hour in the Aventador Superveloce and you step on the gas and it feels like you just got rear-ended by an out-of-control Japanese bullet train.

In the Smart car, it feels more like you're on the Disney World Monorail. It's fast enough, really, it's just not that fast.

But speed's not what this car is about. Tiny is what this car is about. Teeny tiny. Fun in this car -- and, really, it is a hoot -- is discovering all the stuff you can do in a car that's this ridiculously small. Think you can't possibly pull off a U-turn in that skinny two-lane road? Oh, yes, you can! No way any car can fit into that half-sized parking space? This car can! Worried about getting around that double-parked delivery truck? Stop worrying. You've got this!

smart fortwo
In case you were wondering, the Lamborghini could easily outrun the Smart but if you factor in time spent pumping gas it might almost be close.

Yes, it feels like driving a real car. It was even fun to bop down California's twisty canyon roads in the bouncy little Smart. You're sitting up pretty high and the wheels are close together under you, so it chucks you around a bit over big bumps. But it doesn't feel too different from a lot of other subcompacts, like the Ford (F) Fiesta and Honda (HMC) Fit.

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In fact, since all of its interior space is devoted to just two individuals, the Smart ForTwo is surprisingly roomy. There's plenty of legroom and you can even move your elbows around. It's only when you turn your head and realize you can almost lick the back window that you realize how small it is. Still, we managed to get our camera gear back there -- well, most of it -- and even fit in a folded-up cameraperson for some on-road driving shots. (Seriously, don't try this at home.)

smart fortwo
Do not try this at home. Seriously, don't. CNNMoney video producer Bronte Lord squeezed into the cargo space for a driving shots.

The best thing about it is the new automatic transmission. The old Smart car's transmission was a nausea-inducing head-tossing mess. The new one is much better. Unfortunately, it's great in everything except, ironically, stop-and-go city gridlock which is supposed to be this car's native ecosystem. Smart is now offering a 5-speed manual transmission, too. I haven't tried it, but that should solve the problem.

Overall, the new Smart feels more like a real, regular car, just smaller. As a much-improved Smart ForTwo, it's kind of the ultimate "niche car."

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