Smart Car

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Today for the first time I saw a smart car on US roads. I've seen them before in Alberta, and I thought they looked tiny in a parking space. Today I saw one alongside an 18 wheeler on the highway, and it didn't look that small any more. It looked about the same size as a Honda Fit, in fact thats what I thought it was at first from behind. Once I got along side it I realized it was shorter than the Fit.

I would almost consider the fortwo cabriolet if it was cheaper, but it is basically useless for more than moving 2 people, heck, you could hardly fit groceries in it. It would be nice for commuting to school, but the fuel economy isn't even that fabulous, 40/45 on 91 octane.


I find it funny how there are like 20 dealers each in Southern California, Florida, and the NY/NJ/CT tristate area, and like 5 other dealers for the rest of the US. guess you can't exactly throw a hay bale in the back of it...
Some how the smart car seams like another one of those feel/look good things for environmentalist wackos, along with cloth bags and "earth hour"

posted by  dvdrose18

The styling is alright, but it's pretty pointless seeing how you have the storage capacity and fuel economy (a bit worse than that) of a motorcycle--and less power than a motorcycle.

Pricing is pretty good though, for what you get. There's a Mercedes dealership about 5 minutes from my house that sells them, but they aren't that popular. Between the Fortwo and the Fit, I'd take the Fit.

posted by  chris_knows

They've been for sale here in Baltimore for a few years, first through the local exotic car dealership for the mid $20k range, now through official Smart dealers in the area. A couple co-workers have them, and they seem to do fine.

What they are is a fashion statement, in the same way that a smaller cell phone or smaller laptop computer is a fashion statement. At that, they are a great way of popularizing getting into tiny city cars in urban settings, and OUT of oversized vehicles like SUVs that are only being used to ferry one person on a commute.

The problem they face is the same one that's faced every small car ever: there's always something bigger and "more practical" for the same or a little more money. Well, if a little bigger is better, then a LOT bigger must be best yet, which is the exact mindset that got people out of small cars and into SUVs in the first place.

In order to reverse that thinking, we HAVE to stop comparing them to bigger cars and making the bigger car out to be the better value.

That's also why all small cars have become so much bigger over the years. Compare a modern Civic with a '70s Civic. The new Civic is so big they had to introduce a smaller car, the Fit, to move into the slot it left years ago. And even the Fit is considerably larger than a '70s Civic.

So, encourage this particular fashion statement, even if it's not the most fuel efficient. By making them popular and a viable market, then NEW, efficient versions will be introduced, and keep prices down, just like with laptops and cell phones.

posted by  ChrisV

My problem is that they have absolutely no flexibility. Unless they made a small trailer for them or something, I don't see how they could be practical. My car, i could shoehorn small pieces of furniture in if I had to. The smart, I don't even know if it could hold a folding chair. Then what about a few 80 lb bags of rock salt for the water softener? or an 8' 2x4? or 3 people? Sure, the Smart would be great for a commute, but you would need another vehicle for everything else. Then as Chris_Knows stated, you would be better off with a motorcycle.
I would love to have a Fortwo, especially with gas prices going the way they are, but I can't afford to insure 2 cars, never mind purchase them. If they had a little trailer you could throw on for that occasional trip to Home Depot, I would seriously consider one, but it's just not practical.

posted by  dvdrose18

I don't see a trailer in the near future, the Smart only puts out 70hp.

posted by  chris_knows

They make trailers and sidecars for motorcycles, it wouldn't have to be anything big, just a little extra room for some larger items, or a little more luggage.

posted by  dvdrose18

And what do the little hatchbacks of yesteryear produce? I'm talking Chevy Sprints, Pontiac Fireflys, Suzuki Swifts, Geo Metros. All those little 1.0L I3 engines couldn't be cranking much power, yet I know people who have used Sprints to TOW other vehicles(albeit other small hatches, but still).

In fact, for example, the first gen base engine in a Firefly only put out 46hp...

posted by  dodgerforlife

When the car gets moving, it doesn't need much power, but from a stop it feels like it can barely carry its own weight lol.

But yeah, I guess towing something that isn't particularly heavy could be a good idea.

posted by  chris_knows

Interesting, we've had the Smart here in Canada for a few years now, but they are diesels. 800 cc turbo diesel I believe. --Just checked, they must have changed it this model year.

posted by  Mathew

I voted "no, its not safe". Smart claims to have the "tridion safety cell" or whatever they call it, but the fact is that the crumple zones are tiny compared to any other car. Maybe I am missing something, but I can only assume that the whiplash in a crash will kill you quicker than you would die if your hand got crushed in the roof or something else.

posted by  newyorker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxmiV2PFluM


70mph into a brick wall and you can still open the passenger door.....seems pretty damn safe if you ask me.

posted by  dodgerforlife

Your body wouldn't get crushed by the car, but without crumple zones, it could still do some internal damage. Also, how big is the car? Like could your forehead reach the windshield when you're wearing a seatbelt?

posted by  chris_knows

Trust me, they're as safe as anything you're driving now.

And for most people 90% of the time you're just carrying yourself, no furniture. Remember that's the current complaint about SUV drivers, that they don't actually use the vehicles.

Most people in urban (and suburban) environments rarely need to take more than just themselves and maybe a passenger with them. Especially for commuting into downtown in stop and go traffic. Parking is easier, they fit in traffic better, they fit in the driveway or garage better, and really, when you NEED to move a lot of stuff, rent a truck. Or borrow one from a friend.

There's nothing stopping someone from having a second, larger vehicle for those occasional times when you need more vehicle, but for most commuters and city dwellers, small cars like this are perfect.

Compared to a motorcycle, there's no case of helmet head, no being out in the weather, especially when it's cold or wet, and your passenger doesn't have to put up with either of those things, either.

posted by  ChrisV

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I love 'em! I've been waiting for them to come locally since a trip to Europe a few years ago. I think they would fit my needs perfectly. I have too many cars at the moment as it is, however I wouldn't mind adding another if it was a Smart car. Not cabriolet though...

Maybe I'll buy one in the next year or so...
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posted by  BavarianWheels

Right, but that doesnt mean anything. Whiplash will break your neck in that situation, because once that crumple zone is used, the cell takes the impact and since the cell is ridgid, it transfers the impact energy to the driver, in regular passanger cars, the crumple zones supress that energy making the impact feel softer to the driver.

posted by  newyorker

Why do you think the body paneling essentially disintegrated on the car? That's what absorbs the energy of the impact. If they weren't safe, do you think they would even be allowed on the roads?

posted by  dodgerforlife

I would like to see someone put an accelerometer in one of them and measure the G's compared to any other car. The way I look at it is it went from 70MPH to 0MPH in 12 inches max, where in most other cars you have a much longer crumple zone so you slow down more gradually. I still think the internal damage would be fatal or close to it, but the cell would allow your body to be recognized. And if you think about it, 70MPH into a wall is almost the same as a 35MPH head on colission, so even if it never saw highway speeds, it could still be dangerous. I still think they did a great job making it as safe as possible for the given size, but a bigger crumple zone could have made it safer without adding much weight.

posted by  dvdrose18

Yeah but then it depends on whether it's cheaper to insure 2 cars, and drive a fuel efficient one most of the time or to have just one average car, and drive it all of the time. So, why not just buy some other small car that seats 5, and gets like 5 less MPG?

posted by  chris_knows

Because, that's the kind of thinking that got everyone into oversized cars to BEGIN with. And we need to counter than with logic that gets peopel into SMALLER cars in urban, and even suburban, settings.

I mean, if a little bigger for slghtly more money is good, then a lot bigger for more money is best, right? Where does it stop? When Civics are the size of full size sedans, and eveyone drives Suburbans on the off chance that they need to carry a sofa?

posted by  ChrisV

Yeah, I guess...That's like hybrids; they won't do much for the environment, but manufacturers see that there is a market for environmentally friendly vehicles, and it snowballs from there.

posted by  chris_knows

Sorry but a 70mph, a few pieces of plastic are not an acceptable energy suppresor. The fact of the matter is if you hit something hard enough, the rigidity of the impact will break you.

posted by  newyorker

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-04-03-smart-crash-test_N.htm

It's pretty safe, but not the safest thing on the road.

posted by  chris_knows

Argue all you want. The fact is, it's as safe to be in as your Civic is. As has been proven repeatedly by Mercedes.

posted by  ChrisV

Its actually a lot safer than newyorker's civic, if newyorker is driving it.

posted by  Mathew

They've been available here sinse about 2000 in LHD, and a few years later in RHD. Not really my cup of tea, and any fear I had about safety was proved incorrect. I havn't checked out the link above, but I've seen the test results and it seems as safe as anything else on the road! Chris, on a side note, NY'ers Civic is alot older than even the newest Smart, so I'd hope that the Smat is ALOT safer, as safety standards have risen alot in the last 10-yrs!...I see what you're saying though, they're generally as safe as the next small car!

The following link shows a head on impact with a Merc. Now considering the engine is at the back of the Smart, I'd say both occupants would escape this crash.

Test (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnVNUvixWUQ)

posted by  Cliffy

My sister has one, quite spacious inside but I'm not a fan of it. Sticking a GSXR 1000 engine in it would however get me interested.

posted by  fudge

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