Saturday, July 4, 2009

Smart Fortwo Car: I Don't See The Smart

I see these cars now and again, that is, if you can call them cars. I had a go-kart when I was 12, these Smart Cars are not much bigger. So I thought maybe I'd do some research and see what they are and what they're made of.

I was surprised at the price, $11,000-$20,000, really expecting something approaching $30k. Right now you can finance them for $99/month for the first 3 years. It has a standard (only one offered) 1.0 Liter engine that makes 70HP. It has a list of standard and optional features including anti-lock brakes, AC, power windows, power steering, heated seats, and something they call ESP (electronic stability program). But you won't be hauling too much with this car It has a maximum permissible weight of 2315lbs. The base model has a curb weight of 1808lbs. That leaves 507lbs for everything else, including passengers. The web site specs do not specify if that includes the 8.7 gallons of gas (gasoline is 8lbs per gallon = 69.6lbs). It's also unclear if the 1.3gallon reserved is in addition to that, it would make sense to add up to 10.

In any case you're not going very far on a tank of gas. The EPA estimates are 33 mpg for city, and 41 mpg on the highway. That's 287-356 miles on a tank of gas. Ok, so I thought maybe this car was a hybrid. It's not, at least not in the U.S. Here's an excerpt from their web site FAQ:

"The smart fortwo is designed to achieve 33 city/41 highway mpg according to 2009 EPA standards, which involves measuring mpg while taking into account real-life driving conditions such as start/stop city traffic, air-conditioning, heating etc. According to information obtained on, the smart fortwo is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid gasoline-powered vehicle in the USA today."

So, you have this Smart Car, you gas it up and get in. This car would be perfect for a single person (or married with no kids), that lives in an apartment that has limited parking available. I think I just described half of the European population, which is maybe why this vehicle is so popular there. In any case, if two adults are in the vehicle, they will be shoulder-to-shoulder, and they will be over their weight limit if they make a stop over at the grocery store.

I don't see what's so smart about it? Is it the built-in MP3 player? The rear-engine design? Can someone tell me what's so SMART about this car? Did I mention it comes with just a 2 year or 24,000 miles warranty. It is customizable, that means you'll pay extra for it. One high note, is their free road side assistance, as quoted from there brochure:
"smart 1 service provides free, speedy and straightforward breakdown assistance around the clock in the first 2 years."

There are many other SMARTER vehicles widely available that don't look like a claustrophobic death trap. The Ford focus, for example, is in the same price range (starts at $16,000), and gets 24-35 mpg. It has a tried and true list of safety features and options, and it's made by the only American car company the U.S. Government has not had to bail-out.

The Ford focus is just one of many. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Saturn, and Mercury, to same some of them, produce vehicles that are worthy of being "smart". MSN Autos has good information on this. While I think the Smart Car looks cool, and might be cutting edge, it's also allot of smoke and mirrors. It's an OK solution for the single guy or gal.

3. Picture courtesy of

John Crawford

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