By on July 19, 2008

Dark times for SUVsAs TTAC's Best and Brightest know, Smart's proud parents, the German geniuses who adopted, abused and then disowned Chrysler, long resisted the calls to bring the Smart stateside. And then, eventually, did. In the first six months, 11,400 Smart fortwo have found new closets homes. If you're an aspiring American smarty pants, you'll have to wait a year; some 30k prospective buyers are holding their [70] horses. And while used full-sized SUVs are worth less than a plate of cocoa and lefse, you can sell your Smart fortwo with a nice profit. Elizabeth Szewczyk tells the Washington Post she gave up her Jeep Wrangler for a Smart car and never (couldn't?) look back. Szewczky (pronounced “Schwwwing”) remembers “watching the fuel gauge drop as she drove down the highway and realizing it was time to trade in her childhood dream." [ED: Safe driving or what?] And anyway the Smart gets her a lot more attention than the Wrangler did. Is that point? We report, you deride.

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57 Comments on “Smart fortwo?...”


  • avatar
    Andy D

    yup,I saw my 1st Smart on the MA pike in ’06 a yellow ad mule with Ontario plates. Now I’see them quite often around greater Boston. From what I understand , the MPG isnt much better than what a Fit delivers.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Good idea, poor execution.

    I think there’s a market for cute, fashionable, inexpensive two-seaters that fit in half a parking spot. It’s the fashionable aspect that they could milk the most… being able to buy style like that for the price of an econobox is attractive to many. But c’mon, how was Mercedes Benz of all companies ever going to be the right company to do it?

    Imagine if Swatch had taken their idea to Fiat or any of the kei-car makers. They have the right small engines, the right transmissions for small engines, a parts bin to raid (judiciously) and experience making decent cheap and small cars. In other words, the Japanese companies in the US market should develop kei-cars that fit our sense of aesthetics, and try their luck with them!

  • avatar

    Saw one here in RI. Looked… small. I asked the driver if he’d considered a Prius or something a bit more practical. He looked at me as if I had pin lice in my eyebrows.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Oh, come on…

    It’s not the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s a good city car/commuter/third car in the household.

    Aren’t you glad that some people are trading in their suvs for something more fuel efficient?

  • avatar
    ptr2void

    Been seeing one frequently around my town in MA with a vanity plate like EINSTEN. It’s very small; I would figure it would be far more efficient. Given that it’s not, I think I’d prefer a Fit.

  • avatar
    Macca

    As a Nissan Versa owner (my wife’s car) I’m highly disappointed in the Smart’s efficiency angle. C/D got 32 MPG on their test run, which was certainly not ‘hypermiling’ by any stretch of the imagination, but still.

    I understand that in Europe the diesel version gets somewhere north of 50 MPG in town – and it provides a great city car for crowded, small streets.

    In US form, however, low-to-mid 30 MPG from this car just isn’t acceptable. The Fit offers 27 in town (EPA rating) and is a veritable limo compared to the Fortwo. The Versa is even larger (has 50 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, no less!) offers more rear seat leg room than most full size sedans, AND has a 122 hp engine to boot.

    It’s no performance car by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s 0-60 is nearly 5 seconds faster than the Fortwo. My wife averages 30 MPG in town without hypermiling in her Versa, aided at least in part to the low-rev CVT.

    I respect the idea behind the Fortwo – I’d just like to see a car that weighs in 1100 lbs less than a Versa get more than a couple MPG better. It’s not like it has a powerful mill under the hood trunk.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    .
    . .”Smart”.

  • avatar

    Macca is right. The USA version of this car is a joke.

    I live within a slapshot of the Canadian border in “the other Washington” and both business and pleasure bring be up to BC (eh) quite often. As such I’ve been seeing these things for quite some time both there and here (the later being 99% Canucks over here to buy “cheap” Diesel.) I’ve had several conversations with the owners of these little cars while standing at the Tesoro-Alaska Diesel #2 pump off Exit 208 of Interstate 5.

    The CDI engine in the Canadian version sees well north of 50 MPG, more like ~70 MPG in mixed city/highway travel. They are very lightweight as well as small, so it is like a double boost. How the hell Daimler dumbed down the USA-spec Smart to a mere 30 MPG is beyond me! Could it be that Americans themselves add too much weight to the car? Or is the gasoline engine in this thing THAT bad?

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  • avatar

    I’ve seen two and i feel scared for the poor souls inside them. The first time i came up behind one it looked like the wheels were really off camber. I’d feel safer on my 250cc bike in an ice storm (and get more than twice the miliage)

  • avatar

    Despite being a sports car lover, I think small economical cars are wonderful. Many of my friends have picked up Honda fits and Toyota yari(?). Not only do my friends love their cars, but their wallets are fatter thanks to the improved gas mileage. However, when I see a Smart I quickly develop this strong urge to knock it onto its side and stand on the door, trapping the driver while I laugh at his misfortune. I didn’t have this thought when I first saw them, in fact I considered buying one, but the more I see them, the strong this feeling gets.

    I’m glad I have self control…

  • avatar

    They’re filling the streets where I live – seriously, more and more appearing. We have a rule where you can park your supercompact perpendicular to the sidewalk, and they find room everywhere.

  • avatar
    bjcpdx

    From what I have seen in Europe, the Smart is nothing more than a fashion statement, albeit a practical one from a size standpoint. In Paris a few years ago, almost all of them I saw (and there were lots of them) were driven by obviously wealthy middle-aged women who live and lunch in the center of the city. I never really saw one anywhere in Europe that was not used in the congested centers of various cities by people who could afford to live in the centers of those cities. Perhaps others have different observations.

    Fashion and trends being ephemeral, there could be some new Parisian voiture du jour by now. In the 90s, the same role was filled by the original Rover Mini which was still being manufactured at that time.

    I just don’t see much demand for the Smart Fortwo in the U.S. once the initial demand for novelty has been satisfied. As others have said above, there are better choices.

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    My xA gets at least 29 and at most 33 mpg in city, with a (ScanGauge reported) 29MPH average per tank. That’s pretty damn good for an automatic (non-diesel), Texas car (A/C always on full blast) with a driver like me; how I avoid the tickets is beyond me…

    The Yaris gets better gas mileage than the xA – better aerodynamics and less weight, yet same space (and a more comfortable ride). It would take a lot to sway us to a car as small and as (reportedly) uncomfortable and sloppy as the Smart, especially when we already average 30+mpg in city.

    When you can get 50+mpg, let me know – it would make a great pure-city car. As far as highway, the insanely-tall stance (for such a small car) is very deterring, especially considering how poorly my xA performs @ 75 with crosswinds.

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    p.s. With the rear-engine, extremely lightweight, auto-manual layout, I imagined a lot of potential for fun. Maybe not acceleration, but at least handling. Is there any room for modification?

  • avatar
    CT Guy

    We have a guy at work who has one. We can’t help but wait for the clowns to start coming out of it.He was bragging that it got 32 mpg.I deflated him a bit when I said “Wow,that’s only 13 mpg less than my 96 Passat TDT. Of course, I can fit 5 people in my car.”

  • avatar
    rtz

    Bring on the electric models.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’ve seen many of them on the roads here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I suppose that is to be expected. I just don’t get the appeal of this vehicle. A Fit only burns about 15% more fuel, is a real car and sells for about the same amount of money. Or, move up to a Prius or Civic hybrid and you gets a much more useful vehicle with far better fuel economy. Would you really want to drive from San Francisco to LA in a not-so-smart?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The business of “fitting two into a single parking space” is useless in the U. S., at least if it’s a metered space, since you’re not allowed to park two vehicles in the space of one meter, even if it’s two motorcycles.

    Amd if it isn’t metered space, you need to find another Smart with which to share the space.

    As for parking a Smart perpendicularly, many Americans still unpark by backing until they tap the bumper behind, then moving out of the space forward. On a Smart, that would be the door.

  • avatar
    thoots

    One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was a car hauler full of Smarts zipping along the freeway. Eight on top, eight on the bottom — SIXTEEN of those little buggers all in a row!

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I think they’re being bought by people who would never buy anything as cheap as a Honda Fit. Like the Prius, it appeals to people in much higher price ranges.

    It’s a toy; a third car.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    once again I say, “No clutch, no sale”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The CDI smart that Canada gets (well, got) does get good mileage, but it’s not appreciably better than the Yaris (~4.3L/100km versis ~5.5), which, given the loss of functionality, is hard to justify.

    Oh, and the CDI smart is really, really slow. Like 0-60 in 15-18 seconds. The Yaris is manages the same in under 10.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    It would have to get twice the mileage and be 50% of the current price for it to even begin to make sense

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    It’s not about gas consumption with these Smarts, its about being trendy. For only a few thousand more you can get a vastly superior Toyota Yaris with more interior volume and better fuel economy. But then, with a Toyota, you don’t stand out.

  • avatar
    davey49

    And a Yaris has a stickshift

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I have seen more & more of these popping up, and I also don’t get it. Doesn’t it have less room & get worse(same?) mpg as a yaris? Isn’t it more expensive as well? Um, then……..??

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    The fuel economy is really disappointing on these. Too bad they didn’t get the 3-cylinder from the Honda Insight to power it. I doubt it would be much slower and probably get 50mpg.

    If someone ventures outside of city street traffic, the fuel economy would take a serious hit just to keep this thing moving. I wonder how a traditional manual transmission would help with fuel economy and acceleration?

    People obviously buy these for style and to look different. It also seems that many of them will pay whatever the asking price is, whether buying from the dealer or an individual re-selling one. It reminds me a lot of Miata-mania way back when it hit dealers. Buyers were paying double the sticker or even more! Then, a year or so later, the initial demand subsided and any premium paid immediately turned into “negative equity”.

    The people who are blindly dumping their SUVs for $10-15k less than the loan payoff just to get something with better fuel economy are in much the same boat. Sure, you’ve traded a vehicle that gets 17mpg for one that gets 30mpg, but you also just burned $15k! Driving the SUV for another four years would only have cost you about $4700 (at $4/gallon).

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Safety cage notwithstanding, I think I’d prefer a vehicle that might actually stay on the ground after a collision.

  • avatar
    Durask

    It’s a nice toy but I can’t see it as a daily serious commuter car.

    Third car for people with extra cash.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Does the fortwo NOT have a manual option???

    Re: Yaris/Manual:

    I went to test one at a “big” Toyota dealership here and they looked at me like I was from Mars when I asked to test drive a stick. Took about 30 minutes to find a hatch/stick combo. They had Qty 3, all red, all with the same trim. Eck.

    It did drive better than I thought it would (I did have pretty low expectations though), however I would have preferred something other than red.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    lewissalem Says: “It’s not about gas consumption with these Smarts, its about being trendy. For only a few thousand more you can get a vastly superior Toyota Yaris with more interior volume and better fuel economy. But then, with a Toyota, you don’t stand out.”Exactly. And like all fashion statements, this one will quickly fade once the ‘fashion’ becomes commonplace.

    Mercedes really lucked out on their timing. The only things holding Smart sales together right now are the uniqueness and high cost of gas. For a vehicle as small as it is, it should get much better gas mileage. Remove either of those two factors and Smart sales will plummet.

  • avatar
    ian6466

    Hi

    yes they are small, but with the right modifications they are great fun.
    A family friend has just done the European Cannonball Run 2008 in one and WON. !!!!

    http://cannonballruneurope.co.uk/blog/

    Up against your slightly more powerful Mustang and quite a few Ferrari and other exotics. Spent about £600 on fuel as opposed to the £2500 one of the Ferrari’s spent.

    He drove the Brabus version see below

    http://www.seriouswheels.com/cars/top-2008-Brabus-smart-fortwo.htm

    As a brit it does make me laugh reading all you guys going on about V8’s and cup holders and electric seat button memory….. I think you have been conned and brain washed into believing to have fun in a car you need a lot of toys and a big engine. Face it, how often do you get the chance to exploit your v6 or v8 potential in every day driving…….

    Hopefully the rising cost of fuel will allow your Big 2.8 to put european engines in the likes of the mustang camero and charger. you can then export them to Europe and actually sell american cars. Which idiot thought we would buy Cadillac’s in europe!!!

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    Have to agree with the “no stick/no sale” comment.

    And I think the dealers for these things should offer defensive driving courses to the people that buy them. I’ve now had two of these things come up from behind in the next lane over and then “park” directly in my blind spot….and stay there for at least a 1/2 mile. Being a “car guy” I saw them in my rear view coming up so I knew they were there, but I can just imagine what will happen to them when they do this next to grandma in her LaSabre. Guess what Fortwo driver……your not driving a Yukon anymore.

    Be cool if Honda can pull off the CRZ concept two seater and blow this thing outta the water on MPG. But knowing Honda lately they’ll have to “super-size” it and screw it all up.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I thought you folks wanted people to drive smaller cars. What gives?

    On a side note…

    Face it, how often do you get the chance to exploit your v6 or v8 potential in every day driving…….

    For me, at least once a day. Granted, I’m not testing the power of my V8 engine all the time, but it’s nice to know I have that extra oomph when I need it. I’ve noticed something rather disturbing. They put a stop sign at the on ramp for the highway where I live. I think that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen, forcing me to come to a complete stop before I enter the highway. What makes it worse is that the merging area is about 30 yards long, so I have only 30 yards to go from a dead stop to around 60 mph and enter rush hour traffic without causing an accident. Absurd, I tell you!

    On another note, who has time to have ‘fun’ when they’re stuck in traffic? These sporty suspensions are absolutely unnecessary for our straight roads and traffic jams.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    Critics of the smart overwhelmingly have no experience with the car, and so miss the point of why owners tend to like them so much.

    They are FUN. Fun to drive, fun to park. It’s a rare smart that sits in the driveway.

    I test drove one and I recognized right away a big part of the motorcycle experience, that ordinary driving is suddenly transformed into something special, because you are piloting a vehicle that is so small.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    i had great hopes for this car.

    my wife and i stood in line for about 2.5 hours last summer in the hot sun, on hot asphalt, just to drive one around the mercedes-benz parking lot, here in san diego. and we put our deposit down the same day.

    i was suppose to close the deal and take possession way back in may, but was very dismayed to learn the actual gas mileage this car is capable of achieving.

    however the real deal-breaker for me was when the benz dealership only offered me $9500 for my original-owner, dealer-maintained, obsessively-pampered ’97 boxster, which had only 60k miles on the clock at the time and was/still is in immaculate condition.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen quite a few of ‘em here in South Florida. They’re as dinky as I thought they would be. I’ve also seen a few on the highway and thought that the driver inside is rather suicidal.

    For the money, I’d rather take a Mini Cooper, non-S. It gets about the same mileage, and it isn’t a death trap. Am I the only one here?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    i LOVE the cabrio- i’ve seen a few around here, they are the definition of cool.

    I wish we’d get more tiny little cars here, europe is full of them.

    it’s the hummers that draw laughs and the shaking of unbeleiving heads.

    fashion is so fickle

  • avatar
    Macca

    quasimondo:

    “I thought you folks wanted people to drive smaller cars. What gives?”

    I’m all for people driving vehicles with space they need versus the space they want – but the Fortwo is sadly the case of style over substance.

    A Yaris, Fit, or Versa are all smarter choices based on size, efficiency, and safety. These cars can all achieve around 30 MPG in town and fit more than 2 people inside and get from 0-60 MPH in less than 10 seconds. These are all real cars that are safe at highway speeds and don’t need a quarter of a minute to get up to speed on an onramp.

    Carlisimo:

    “I think they’re being bought by people who would never buy anything as cheap as a Honda Fit. Like the Prius, it appeals to people in much higher price ranges.”

    Funny thing is, the Fit is far more refined and polished than the Fortwo for the money. Plus it doesn’t suffer from the Fortwo’s shift shock. But I get what you’re saying – the Fit doesn’t scream ‘toy car’ on your driveway like a Fortwo.

  • avatar
    ZCline

    philipwitak – I’ll give you 11k ;)

    We have a ton of these in downtown Portland, where the official cars are either old Volvo wagons or the Prius.

    I think carlisimo has it exactly right, they are for people with a lot of discretionary income who probably aren’t too concerned with the (relatively) poor mileage. If your SUV got 12mpg and the smart gets 30, that’s still a pretty big leap, even if you could be getting 45 or so in a Prius or an old TDI VW.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    A smart is pretty close to a Prius, fuel wise.
    Comparing mileage using CR’s real world averages:

    Prius 42
    Fortwo 38
    Navigator 13

    Gallons used per year (12,000 miles)

    Prius 286
    -30
    Fortwo 316
    -607
    Navigator 923

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Disclaimer: I like the Fortwo. I rented one for a week, both in Europe (twice) and in Canada (back when I was childless and living in downtown Toronto). I like the car, conceptually, and nearly bought one, but I have two real problems with it:

    * Dollar for dollar, in Canada, it exceeds the Yaris’ price. You gain 1L/100km, but lose a lot of power and a back seat. If the car was 60% of the Yaris’ price, this would be acceptable. At the same or more than the Yaris or Fit, it’s a hard sell.
    * It’s a Mercedes. This means you have to put up with MB dealers, MB service and MB markup. Oh, and MB, ahem, “quality”.

    It’s an image car, instead of a practical option. If kei cars ever make it to North America, the Smart is going to get slaughtered by cheaper, more reliable competition.

    If Mercedes could tone down the ego and sell it for a reasonable price, they’d manage a real coup d’etat: beating the Asians at their own game (small cars) in a market that’s prime for it. Due to their operational excellence (or pigheaded persistence, your pick) Toyota is almost unstoppable after they get a foothold in a market. If you can beat them to it, though, you stand a chance at carving a slice of the market before they steamroll in.

    Of course, the operative phrase is “tone down the ego”. Mercedes management is, by a long shot, the most insufferably arrogant group in the industry.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Golly gee! So many of you best-and-brightest commenters are deriding Smart buyers for wanting to be “trendy,” to “make a statement” or to “establish an image.” Thank god that isn’t true of stunningly intelligent Camaro, Challenger, Bullitt Mustang and Charger buyers.

    I also love all the “yeah, I saw one the other day on the Interstate” and “some jerk down the street has one in his driveway” comments. So that makes you an instant expert?

    We have a saying in the aviation world, “Yesterday I couldn’t spell pilot and now I are one.”

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I’m all for people driving vehicles with space they need versus the space they want – but the Fortwo is sadly the case of style over substance.

    I just find it baffling that people will go on and on about how SUV’s are too big, they never see more than one person driving them, and they’re better off getting a smaller car. So here comes a smaller car that might occasionally see a passenger and it’s derided for being too small. According to the argument I’ve seen against SUV’s if they’re not carrying kids or cargo, then this is the exact vehicle a person should be driving.

    A Yaris, Fit, or Versa are all smarter choices based on size, efficiency, and safety. These cars can all achieve around 30 MPG in town and fit more than 2 people inside and get from 0-60 MPH in less than 10 seconds. These are all real cars that are safe at highway speeds and don’t need a quarter of a minute to get up to speed on an onramp.

    I think you guys hate this vehicle for no reason. How many times have we heard people say they’re unconcerned with 0-60 times (especially in QOTD topics concerning horsepower and acceleration) and boast about some old claptrap jalopy that had painfully slow acceleration and they didn’t mind? Why harp about it now, especially when this is not a performance car? Put that GSX-R 1000 engine from the Smartuki in one of these, then we can discuss 0-60.

    Safety won’t be an issue either. It’s recieved a five-star rating from the IIHS, and then there’s this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcuimw8ql_A

    I’m not one to be a cheerleader for any vehicle, but let’s be honest. There’s gallons of Haterade for this vehicle sloshing around in this thread, and for no good reason.

  • avatar

    @I’m not one to be a cheerleader for any vehicle, but let’s be honest. There’s gallons of Haterade for this vehicle sloshing around in this thread, and for no good reason.

    It’s just the transition, is all. We’ve been driving around in silly vehicles, as if we would need to put industrial steam hammers in our kitchens to chop meat with. We’ll wise up.

    And then people are worried – they’re seeing the second hand value of their SUVs and trucks plummeting, and would like that downward slide to go a little slower.

    I do have to laugh at the “trendy toy” statements, though.Sure, of course — building brands and hitting waves in demand means being attuned to what people will be willing to pay a premium for — that way lies success.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I’m not one to be a cheerleader for any vehicle, but let’s be honest. There’s gallons of Haterade for this vehicle sloshing around in this thread, and for no good reason.…

    Good point, but if you look past the hate comments of some, the overriding theme is that the fortwo misses the mark for purchase cost and mileage. A car of this size simply should be blowing away the MPG of a car like a Fit and it doesn’t. Similarly, slow is ok if you save the gas. The fortwo is slow and, for a tiny car, thirsty. In this category, that just does not cut it. If one is going to sacrifice as much space, power, and possibly safety that the Smart requires, it should be returning 60 MPG. Otherwise the benefit ratio simply is wrong. No hate here, as I prefer small, nimble cars. Just the facts as I see them.

    Much of the “hate” BTW, seems to stem from the trendy aspect of the car. Fashion statements tend to polarize people. Vehicle purchases based primarily on intangibles like “trendy” don’t sit well here…

  • avatar
    minion444

    We have one on Order since Jan 08′ I had been debating about it for 6 months. Now I am waiting and waiting. But, rest assured I will have it before anyone on the Tesla list, receives their Tesla.
    No, I too haven’t look at other small cars for transportation. This is all about the “cute” factor. There, I said it. I am ashamed. All 6’4″ 275lbs of me.

  • avatar

    I have seen 3-4 of these in Lexington and Lincoln (Boston suburbs) and in Boston.

    If these will get people out of their SUVs, more power to them.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Good point, but if you look past the hate comments of some, the overriding theme is that the fortwo misses the mark for purchase cost and mileage. A car of this size simply should be blowing away the MPG of a car like a Fit and it doesn’t. Similarly, slow is ok if you save the gas. The fortwo is slow and, for a tiny car, thirsty. In this category, that just does not cut it. If one is going to sacrifice as much space, power, and possibly safety that the Smart requires, it should be returning 60 MPG. Otherwise the benefit ratio simply is wrong. No hate here, as I prefer small, nimble cars. Just the facts as I see them.

    If it misses the mark due to cost, then we’ve fallen into the argument that small cars must be priced as low as possible, and for what you’re paying, you could be in a larger car. It’s a fine argument, one that GM uses to justify not developing the Cobalt into a real competitor. It also goes along with Ford’s line of reasoning why the U.S. market doesn’t get the Euro Focus.

    I will agree with you on the fuel economy. I can only guess that the reason it’s so poor (relatively speaking) is because of that transmission. Replace it with a real stick and you’re sure to see some improvements.

    Having said all that, I think the success of this car may spur other manufacturers to step into the market with kei cars. If people can be convinced that the Smart is a safe car, it paves the way for better cars, like the Subaru R1. If the smart tanks, it gives ammunition to the idea that Americans don’t like small cars and when the Dollar regains its footing and the oil bubble pops, it’ll be revenge of the SUV.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s not that we collectively hate this car, it’s that it’s just not a good value, no matter how you slice it:
    * The fuel economy isn’t that good. Were Toyota to offer a sub-1.5L and/or CDI Yaris, this car would lose it’s one advantage.
    * The feature content isn’t there. I’ll pay the premium for a B200 or Mini (or a leather+nav+ESC+eighteen airbags Fit or Yaris) because, well, they’re worth it because they’re well-equipped small cars. The Smart is small, but isn’t well-equipped. It’s got no more kit than the Fit does, and costs more to boot.
    * It is slow and small. Again, were the price and economy problems above not an issue, this would be palatable.

    I almost bought one, but I just couldn’t get over these shortcomings. I have no issue paying for a nicely trimmed small car (I bought a Fit Sport and love it; I would have bought a B200 Turbo id it were made by someone other than Mercedes), but I won’t pay more money for less car unless there’s a really good reason.

    In the case of the Smart, there isn’t.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    * Dollar for dollar, in Canada, it exceeds the Yaris’ price. You gain 1L/100km, but lose a lot of power and a back seat. If the car was 60% of the Yaris’ price, this would be acceptable. At the same or more than the Yaris or Fit, it’s a hard sell.
    * It’s a Mercedes. This means you have to put up with MB dealers, MB service and MB markup. Oh, and MB, ahem, “quality”.

    Except Mercedes is not going after the utilitarian, subcompact market with the fortwo (and for good reason, why compete in a segment with so many other players). It’s really in a class of its own, somewhere between a subcompact car and a motorcycle.

    Comparing with a Yaris/Fit/Aveo or whatever misses the point, much as comparing a motorcycle with them would do.

    Agree on the Mercedes part. I think the iQ is going to be tough competition for Smart.

  • avatar
    limmin

    I’m seeing more and more Smarts here in MA.

    Boston is a college town and its surrounding communities are “progressive” liberal enclaves–at least when it comes to cars. Imported cars have outnumbered domestic iron for decades, especially around colleges.

    I think perhaps the Smart frenzy is misguided. As noted by others, the Smart isn’t much more efficient than a Versa or even an Accent. Interestingly, I see very few Versas and even fewer Accents parked around Boston-area colleges.

    I think people are buying the Smart for its attention-grabbing value.

  • avatar

    @psarhjinian

    It’s not that we collectively hate this car, it’s that it’s just not a good value, no matter how you slice it

    I see where that is coming from, but when was a purchase decision on a brand rational? We did, after all, have an SUV craze. People did buy Hummer H1s. And people have ordered Teslas.

    Since you can buy a Smart fortwo now, and immediately turn around and sell it with a profit, I would say that you’re failing to account for the emotional equity portion of the equation.
    In your case, that wasn’t enough — while others do not hesitate for a second.

    What is worth considering is that the Smart platform was originally conceived as an EV …

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Since you can buy a Smart fortwo now, and immediately turn around and sell it with a profit, I would say that you’re failing to account for the emotional equity portion of the equation.

    I’m actually looking at this from the perspective of it’s being available for several years (I’m Canadian) in our market. I agree that there’s an emotional factor, but after watching the Smart sell for a few years, I’m certain it’s not enough. Its Canadian sales haven’t been great since it’s first year, and it really hasn’t gotten the mass-market acceptance it needs to be really viable–and the new model has actually made matters worse!

    A good counterexample would be, say, the Mini or PT Cruiser. Both (again, in Canada) sell fairly well, even after the emotional appeal has died down because you can make a justification for them on a practical level: the Mini is a nice car with a modicum of practicality; the PT is a very practical car at a reasonable price. The Smart? Not practical, not economical and–importantly–not selling.

    And this is Canada, where small cars do comparatively well (Acura’s best-seller here is the CSX, which the US doesn’t even get). In the US, Daimler will be lucky to get a year or two of decent sales, less if the Aygo, iQ or similar get brought over.

    In Europe, this car sells reasonbly well because it’s priced and optioned sensibly. In North America, under Mercedes, it doesn’t work.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    Not sure where you are getting all this from.
    Fortwo sales in Canada followed gas prices closely, and had their greatest sales month in May 2007, after the car had been for sale here for 2 1/2 years.

    Sales to date of the new model (Jan to June 2008) are 20% higher than that of the previous diesel version (Jan to June 2007).

    They are selling close to Mini levels (2351 Mini vs 1964 Fortwo so far in 2008) and this year greatly outsell the PT.

    Note that the initial sales projections by Mercedes for Canada were 800 per year.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    And anyway the Smart gets her a lot more attention than the Wrangler did. Is that point?

    Without reading all of the other comments, yes, yes that is the point.

    By the way I saw my first Smart Fortwo a couple of weeks ago heading east on I80 out of Sacramento up to Tahoe.

  • avatar
    fmaxwell

    It’s not that we collectively hate this car, it’s that it’s just not a good value, no matter how you slice it:
    * The fuel economy isn’t that good. Were Toyota to offer a sub-1.5L and/or CDI Yaris, this car would lose it’s one advantage.
    * The feature content isn’t there. I’ll pay the premium for a B200 or Mini (or a leather+nav+ESC+eighteen airbags Fit or Yaris) because, well, they’re worth it because they’re well-equipped small cars. The Smart is small, but isn’t well-equipped. It’s got no more kit than the Fit does, and costs more to boot.
    * It is slow and small. Again, were the price and economy problems above not an issue, this would be palatable.

    I bought one because it’s a great value. I’ve driven the Fit, the Yaris, the Corolla, etc. They are boring. You can talk all day about how many seats they have, how much power they have, etc., but they are still boring. If a car does not make me smile, then it’s not a good value for me.

    I think that you’re ignoring what the smart fortwo does have, though. I bought a cabriolet and it has:

    1. More front seat room for a driver and passenger. If I’m the only one in the car commuting to work, knowing that the Fit/Yaris has a back seat doesn’t make up for it having a smaller front seat.

    2. Tridium safety cell — like a roll cage.

    3. ESC

    4. ABS

    5. Heated seats

    6. Power windows, door locks, mirrors, brakes, and steering.

    7. A power convertible top that can be put up or down at any speed (I can attest to it working at 80mph).

    8. AM/FM/CD changer with MP3 capability, door speakers, in-dash tweeters, and under-seat subwoofer — from the factory.

    9. Body panels that are plastic, don’t get door dings, don’t rust, and can be replaced as a set in a couple of hours to completely change the color of the car.

    10. Better fuel economy than the Yaris or Fit. I commute in it and I drive fast. I usually get about 40mpg commuting.

    11. It’s a cool car. You can tick off lists of features, specifications, recommendations from Consumer Reports, and measurements, but that just won’t turn a Yaris or Fit into something cool that cause people to smile and give you a thumbs-up when you drive by.

    How much is a convertible Fit? Yaris? Oh, that’t right — they don’t make one. Which, as far as I’m concerned, means that they suck. Period. It means that they were not a good value, because I wanted a small convertible.


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