If you have seen The Da Vinci Code, what you will remember from Sophie and Langdon's escape from the Lourve is Sophie's red Smart car. This cute little two-seater may not really be capable of the maneuvers Sophie put it through, but nevertheless it is a great little car that is fun to drive and is considered number 7 in the world's green cars.
What is a smart Car?
No, it's not a typo. The smart car is licensed as "smart" -- all lower case. It is manufactured in Böblingen, Germany. The company, part of DaimlerChrysler, changed its name from Micro Compact Car GmbH to Smart GmbH in September 2002. In 2006, the company merged with Mercedes-Benz Group.
The smart care is designed to be easy to park and environmentally friendly. The idea for the Smart car is attributed to Nicolas Hayek, who is the inventor of the Swatch watch. Swatch collaborated with Daimler-Benz to build the vehicle. The first Smart car was introduced in Germany at the Frankfort Motor Show in 1997. Disillusioned by the Smart car because he had wanted a hybrid or pure electric vehicle, Hayek pulled out of the partnership, leaving Daimler-Benz as sole owner. It is now a part of DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes group.
What are its Features?
The smart car really shines as an urban vehicle, used for about town commutes and errand running. This doesn't mean that it isn't easily comfortable on the highway. With a top speed of 68 mph, it isn't exactly a freeway flier, but it does well on class B and state roads. The top speed is regulated by the manufacturer for obvious safety reasons.
The smart car is powered by a 3 cylinder internal combustion motor. Two types are available: a 50-horsepower in the Smart Pure and a 61-horsepower engine that powers the Smart Pulse and Passion. Currently, the Smart Fortwo is the only one available. It comes in the three flavors mentioned above. The only real difference between them is the smaller engine in the Pure, and comfort and design features. The current price for the Smart Passion begins at $13,590.00. Although a bit pricey, this car offers many features that make it worthwhile, and with an average mile per gallon rating of 43.6 mpg city and an unbelievable 68.9 mpg highway mileage, it is a bargain.
What About Safety?
Because of its small size, passenger protection in this vehicle might be suspect. With the Smart Fortwo however, this is not the case. The car is built with a Tridion safety shell, which is basically a hemispherical steel cage that protects the passengers in a crash. The front of the car has a built in crumple zone to lessen impact. The engine resides in the rear, so you don't have to worry about an engine in your lap in a head on collision. The car weighs a scant 1,500 pounds, and while not as safe as a larger vehicle, the Tridion shell holds up remarkably well in a crash. Need proof? The British TV show Top Gear did a 70 mph crash test. The test revealed that the Fortwo body remained mostly intact as compared to a sub-compact. Decelerating instantly from 70 mph is going to injure anyone no matter what the car offers. It is evident, however, that the German engineers had safety in mind when building this car.
What about Unique Features?
The car is manufactured with the Tridion shell mostly exposed. Body panels are recyclable, replaced easily enough by the owners if they want to change the car's color. Another great thing about the Smart car is that it is small enough to park straight in a parallel parking space. Three Smart cars will fit into one parking place side by side.
What About Availability?
Smartusa.com has a reservation program for 2008 models of the Smart Fortwo vehicle. These cars need to be brought up to US emission standards before being sold to the US market. Original European smart cars are now available and converted to U.S. standards, but the prices quoted are very high, with the Passion high-end coupe beginning at 26,900.00. In February of 2008, the smart car should meet regulations and will be available at much lower prices.
A smart car is a very good option for people concerned about air pollution and the high price of gasoline. This would make an excellent commuter car if freeway use is infrequent. Own one today. The environment will thank you.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.