You have all seen them! Those tiniest of tiny cars that seem to fit into any parking spot, but look like you would need a can opener to get you out of it. They are the Smart cars as you well know, but do you know their history?
The Smart car was the idea of a Swiss company called Swatch, and they were originally designed for fuel economy and for getting in and out of tough parking spots in Europe. Swatch teamed with Mercedes-Benz and designed the Swatch Mercedes Art, or the acronym SMART, and in the early 1990’s they hit the automotive scene.
The Smart was eventually bought out by Daimler-Benz and just recently hit the United States and it is a good bet it is here to stay. Benz has plans of opening several U.S. based dealerships, so you will likely see more and more of these little buggers on the road in the near future.
The Smart Fortwo is a two-seat subcompact that is only 8 feet 10 inches long. It comes in a hatchback Coupe and a convertible Cabrio. It is “powered” by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine and produces 71 horsepower. It has an automated sequential-shift manual transmission and can go from 0-60 in 14.1 seconds. Not exactly a road warrior but it does deliver on fuel economy.
Currently the Smart is rated at 33/41 and with a 8.7 gallon gas tank you can get quite a bit of driving in before you have to gas up. The question everyone asks about the Smart is: is it safe? Well, the answer is that it is as safe as it can be. The engine is in the rear to protect the driver and passenger and the car is built around a steel cage. It also has side airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control. It has done well in crash tests and appears to be as safe as one could hope for in a 8-foot automobile. It is sort of like a re-enforced golf cart.
The other things that will surprise you about the Smart is the interior room. It is actually quite comfortable to ride in. However, make no mistake about it, the Smart is not the ideal vehicle for freeway driving. It has a very hard time maintaining pace at seventy mph and crosswinds will give it a run for its money on the highway.
Replacement auto parts for the Smart are not readily available. There are some showing up in salvage yards but until a few years pass the used parts will be a little difficult to come by.