By on April 29, 2009

Per Wikipedia, the Marxist theory of False Consciousness claims, “material processes in capitalist society are misleading to the proletariat.” Trabants aside, it’s pretty clear that the founders of Communism would love today’s Smart ForTwo. It’s the one-dimensional vehicle that denies its occupants the luxury of time, space and value. But it’ll pop eyeballs like Gisele Bündchen in a Target. It didn’t hurt that my tester had the blessings of noted Mercedes tuner, Carlsson Autotechnik. Too bad it didn’t help.

Styling is one of the few (marketing) advantages of the Smart ForTwo, and your average pedestrian and shallow fashionista already know that. But I reckon most readers of this website cringe after spotting one. The Carlsson styling upgrades neutralize that stomach acid but still keep the general public’s interest. The muscled-up front fascia sports a lower valance, subtle fog lights and a mesh grille are a vast (OK tiny) improvement, while the rear’s wanna-be diffuser looks the part with a quad tipped exhaust. Win.

But the metal’s meaningless without the 25mm lowering springs and upgraded hoops; the standard 15-inch wheels make way for 16s in the front, 17s at the rear. Measuring an inch wider than stock and pushed to the fender’s edge, the Carlsson Smart ForTwo is a pissed-off tween: adorable, assertive, but more than a little awkward.

Since everything’s bigger in Texas, I was more than a little surprised at how well the Smart’s interior fared in a random test of excited bystanders. Classy polymers, fabulous fabrics and a panoramic roof offer more interior blingery than other “economy” cars. The Smart’s ergonomically advanced dashboard is a boon to cubby-seekers: the (normally wasted) space around the steering column makes a great home for your Blackberry, finger foods or spare change. While Carlsson’s aluminum pedals and embroidered floor mats look tuner car cool, they aren’t over the top enough to draw eyes away from the factory stuff: even the stock, leather wrapped, tiller feels even better than it looks.

Fire up the Smart’s three-banger motor and a robust one-liter of engine displacement bellows through Carlsson’s tuned muffler. Even with the hot-rod demeanor accentuated by the lively 10:1 compression ratio, there’s no escaping the Smart’s disappointment of owning one (or three) fewer cylinders than anything else at this price point. Put the tennis ball stitched gearshift in drive and the letdowns roll on like a government-funded bailout.

With an 1800 lb curb weight, the 75-ish horsepower (up from 71 hp stock), naturally aspirated Carlsson Smart ForTwo is somewhat lively on surface streets, especially between 20 and 40 mph in second gear. Leave that magical window of respectability and the five-speed manumatic’s absolutely horrendous gear changes crash the party. With the added exhaust rumble magnifying the loss of engine revs, the dramatic sighing-to-grunting action is “granny shifting” über alles. And it’s a shame the wheel-mounted paddles can’t change the Smart’s tune.

From the moment you fart [ED: dart?] out of a parking spot to a WOT run on an onramp, the Smart is a no fun zone. Freeway maneuvering is an exercise in calculated risks, since you are faster than nobody. Breaking free of the crowd risks exposure to stiff crosswinds that push the Smart around with the veracity of Nelson Muntz. If more people knew what it takes to keep a Smart ForTwo tracking straight in deteriorating weather, the roadside “haw-haws!” would be imminent.

Given the European tuner car quotient, perhaps the improved handling compensates. Like a stocker, the Carlsson Smart ForTwo pushes in corners, unable to defy its SUV-worthy center of gravity. The larger tires add an extra modicum of grip: a welcome margin of safety to ensure the Smart’s copious body roll becomes nothing more than a wake up call for wannabe hoons who missed the latest IIHS crash tests. Turn-in and steering feel is unbelievably dull for a rear engine vehicle: a not so subtle reminder that the Smart ForTwo is a commuter car with zero sporting intentions.

Which normally equates to a smooth ride. But if a stock Smart ForTwo can’t muster a reasonably isolated passenger compartment, the Carlsson tweaks don’t stand a chance. The ride is terrible, “thanks” to low profile tires, lowering springs and a miniscule footprint. Not to mention the noise: road growl is so prevalent that an impromptu phone call from Farago needed a follow up email to clarify our conversation. Or lack thereof.

The Carlsson-fettled Smart ForTwo fixes none of the platform’s inherent deficiencies. It’s still a deeply flawed fashion statement living in a hotly contested price point. Product features, safety and dreadful performance (on premium fuel) are only the beginning. But the Carlsson Smart ForTwo looks like it’s got a pair, which admittedly is half the battle. A better transmission is next on the wish list.

[Motorwerks of Houston provided the vehicle reviewed]

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101 Comments on “Review: 2009 Carlsson Smart ForTwo...”


  • avatar
    Bytor

    One of the consistent main complaints with this “car” is the transmission. They should have at least offered a proper manual to help alleviate that.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    Hmm, I’m so curious about why people are so down on this car. It is a niche car. It sacrifices ride quality to get to terms with the short wheelbase, which makes it eminently parkable and nippy.

    “But I reckon most readers of this website cringe after spotting one.” Really? Can some of the readers chime in here? I always cringe when I see people driving HUGE cars and being completely unable to parallel park them.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    One of the consistent main complaints with this “car” is the transmission. They should have at least offered a proper manual to help alleviate that.

    If they had offered the previous car’s drivetrain, this wouldn’t be an issue. I was very much enamoured with the previous-generation (excepting the you-got-dusted-by-a-Prius performance) and was really disappointed by the new model.

    Both were automatics, yet the new car is just awful where the old one was actually fun (but slow).

  • avatar
    LennyZ

    I agree this car would not get a fair evaluation on this truck and SUV heavy site. I drove one in Philadelphia and was pleased at the ease of maneuvering and parking in the city. Smart’s niche is crowded Eastern cities with small streets and scarce parking. Automatic transmission was a weak point. I wonder why they don’t take the drive train from a big motorcycle, like a Honda Gold Wing, and plop it into a vehicle this size. There are lots of sophisticated motorcycle drive trains that are powerful, economical and reliable.

  • avatar
    TwoTwenty

    Can some of the readers chime in here? I always cringe when I see people driving HUGE cars and being completely unable to parallel park them.

    Agreed – as a New Yorker, this car makes sense to me, despite its flaws. I think it needs a proper manual transmission, and the “mild hybrid” feature offered on European models.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Hmm, I’m so curious about why people are so down on this car.

    Because it and the Prius are on the opposite end of the automotive spectrum from the Ford Crown Victoria Police Package, which many enthusiasts consider to be the pinnacle of automobilia.

  • avatar
    marshall

    Interesting. I owned a 1984 Honda CRX 1.3; it had a 1.3L (60 HP) engine and weighed 1850 lbs. It got 48/64 MPG.

    And it was fun to drive.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    You don’t have to be a truck-driving redneck to detest this ‘car’, you only have to be someone with a little bit of common sense.

    This abomination is ugly, overpriced, slow, uncomfortable, impractical, not fun to drive and not even that fuel efficient. The only advantage it has is ease of parking. I don’t know about you, but I buy cars to drive, not to park. This thing makes absolutely no sense.

    Oh yeah, I forgot, it’s a ‘fashion statement’. I’m sure this car would garner more positive feedback at tmz.com

  • avatar
    RayH

    “But I reckon most readers of this website cringe after spotting one.” Really? Can some of the readers chime in here?

    I cringe when I see them on the highway in Ohio. Even though they’re fairly tallish, I find them much harder to see than a Miata, or some motorcycles.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    They’re everywhere in Seattle (big surprise), and I do cringe when I see them.

    Having driven a perky, efficient grey market semi-manual turbodiesel Smart about a decade ago, I really had hope for the brand’s eventual US rollout. But the current US spec is disappointing.

    The cute little emperor has no clothes. A small car with very little utility would make sense to me only if it were significantly more efficient and/or a riot to drive. The current US Smart is emphatically neither, which makes it little more than a slightly deceptive fashion appliance.

    Things like the Fit and Versa come close to the Smart’s economy and price numbers, but offer way more utility, and are usually way more fun. Hell, my motorcycle gets twice the Smart’s fuel economy for half the price, plus it is stable on the highway, carries more, and can go off road. But it doesn’t “look” green, so no one congratulates me for riding it (yes, I have seen random public congratulations – Seattle’s a weird city.)

    I’ve also seen people struggle with parallel parking their Smart – but that’s another rant.

  • avatar
    pista

    The F word gets pedalled out a lot for this car.

    I like it. Cute, easy to park in the city and very little else it’s just a pity they’re priced the way they are.

    There’s a Brabus version in black which lives near me. Always makes me giggle.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    There’s no good reason to buy a Smart. I can think of half a dozen alternatives which are just better on all counts. Ok maybe not fuel economy, but at what cost MPG?

    Mini
    Mazda3 i
    Fit
    Soul
    xD
    Sx4 Crossover

    Easy to park? So is a Wrangler, but you don’t see people buying one of those for that reason alone.

  • avatar
    twotone

    There is a much better car for difficult to park cities (NYC, Amsterdam, London, etc.) and it’s called a taxi.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    crc

    I just saw some deusche nozzle with vanity plates on his Smart that said “my part”. I now dislike these cars even more.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    these cars would be amusing if:

    1) They installed a real transmission, with a clutch pedal and another gear so that tiny motor could stay in the power band

    2) the stability control would settle the f*$@ down

    3) They imported the turbocharged version. Or, heck: bring it to your local tuning shop and get them to install a borg-warner K03, the turbo on the VW 1.8T and 2.0T, etc. Big enough to make some power, small enough that it might actually spool. Cherry bomb muffler, side-exit exhaust.

    That’s really about it. The n/a version is about as much fun as punching your grandma.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    thetopdog: “You don’t have to be a truck-driving redneck to detest this ‘car’, you only have to be someone with a little bit of common sense.”

    Well, actually, I think you do have to be a truck-driving redneck to detest this car. Otherwise, if you’re merely looking at this thing from a common-sensical point of view, you’ll just dismiss it as a car designed for a nearly impossibly tiny niche market and move on.

    Detesting it requires considerable effort.

  • avatar
    rehposolihp

    Detesting it requires considerable effort.
    -
    Unattractive
    Pricy
    Poor performance
    Poor fuel efficiency (relative to class/cost)
    Poor utility
    Poor comfort

    How again does this make it hard to detest?

  • avatar

    A few things -

    We up here in Canerduh got the turbodiesel model up until last year (two years ago? I forget); it was axed to make way for the American-friendly gas sipper. But it makes no sense. You give up a good 10-15 mpg for no appreciable advantage, other than it not being a clattery diesel.

    Safety wise, it’s much ado about nothing. I recall a British programme (not Top Gear) doing a “crash test” a few years ago to show how strong the safety cell was despite zero crumple zones. They drove it into a brick wall at around 30-35. It simply bounced off with minimal damage, mostly the plastic body panels shattering. The passenger cell was unmolested. That shows that it’s a remarkably safe vehicle considering its size. Drive anything else into a brick wall at that speed and see what happens.

    Handling wise, I refer you to Top Gear. They gave the Smart the comedy-handling-award a few years ago. It simply plowed its way clear off the track at the first corner. So it’s a city-only car (or a fast golf cart), hardly surprising given that IT WAS DESIGNED TO BE A CITY CAR and not a corner carver. Don’t expect some big wheels and firm springs to suddenly make it a track demon.

    Plenty of people have stuffed motorcycle engines into the Smart chassis. Hyabusa and GSXR1000 mills in particular. You get 170-180 hp in an engine that weighs 150-200lbs (including transmission). Do the math. But it still won’t get around corners.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Sales of these matchbox cars are not close to expectations, 2 dollars a gallon saw to that. Not to mention they don’t excel in any area except sideways parking.

    The Overhauling TV show needs to outfit one with TVs on the mud flaps, 24 inch wheels, turbo motorcycle motor, and a giant woofer in the passenger seat.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    @Mrb00st – you can just pop out the ABS fuse, #12 or #18, I forget. Then you can slide all around. I agree about the transmission. I agree it is over priced.

    But as for detesting them? I’m not saying you have to *buy* one, I’m just saying I love having them on our streets. I also like seeing Peterbilts, Dodge SRT’s, new Beetles, and Harley’s, although I’d never buy any of them…

    Maybe we’re talking about a different type of detest. Would I buy a smart? I’d go for a miata, in my situation. But do I understand why people like them? Yes. I also understand why people don’t. But I do like seeing them drive around.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    The smart’s biggest problem is ZipCar. In the areas where smart is the smartest choice, dense, scare parking, cabs/public transit are generally a viable option (as everyone mentioned above) and on the occasions where you need a car for a road trip or to haul stuff, you can ZipCar it or rent a truck/SUV/cargo van.

    $17,000 buys a lot of cab rides and zipcar time.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    Detesting it requires considerable effort.
    -
    Unattractive
    Pricy
    Poor performance
    Poor fuel efficiency (relative to class/cost)
    Poor utility
    Poor comfort

    How again does this make it hard to detest?

    Many of those things you mentioned are all subjective to individual people.
    I own one for the simple fact that its not have any of the qualities you mentioned above, and above all I don’t feel like I’m following the Jones with buying A fit.
    Talk about a car the Commies would love
    I only needed a car for myself to drive to school and work and it works just fine for that.
    It was cheap in the fact that I’ve got equipment that Fit couldn’t even provide, and in CT I paid no sales tax
    Even with my heavy foot I consistenty get around 36-38 MPG.
    I regulalry fill it to the gills with anything I need to buy at Costco
    And there is room to spare, even for a 6’1″ guy like me.
    I love everything about it, its quirky, so I guess if you are a boring person then you just wont get it.
    As a bona-fide car guy, I don’t see why someone would dislike something so unique. More variety in the automotive world is always welcome.
    I guess I’m just a little confused at the downright hate for the thing. Its not like people are being forced to buy something they don’t want.
    I know a car for me isn’t just an economic proposition, I enjoy cars far more than that.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    We up here in Canerduh got the turbodiesel model up until last year (two years ago? I forget); it was axed to make way for the American-friendly gas sipper. But it makes no sense. You give up a good 10-15 mpg for no appreciable advantage, other than it not being a clattery diesel.

    The diesel was comparatively dirty (which is why it didn’t make it to the US) and it was agonizingly slow. It did have a better transmission, though.

    It simply bounced off with minimal damage, mostly the plastic body panels shattering. The passenger cell was unmolested. That shows that it’s a remarkably safe vehicle considering its size. Drive anything else into a brick wall at that speed and see what happens.

    Very few people drive into brick walls. That said, very few people drive headlong into other cars, so the redneck counterpoint is equally invalid. Suffice to say that the smart is safe enough versus other compacts and subcompacts, and that it’s certainly safer than a motorcycle or any number of tin-can cars made in the eighties and nineties (Civic, CRX, Metro, etc) that got similar mileage.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    This thing was designed for dense European cities; only New York has that kind of density in the US. So, unless you really, really need to park in a small space, it’s completely impractical. They focused too much on keeping the length down.

    And, speaking for Pittsburgh, anyone who tries the perpendicular parking trick on our narrow streets is in danger of being hit. 8 feet is too far out.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    I have a John Deere Gator that can run for 6 hours on two gallons of diesel (biodiesel works, too). It can go 40 mph, drive through 3 feet of water, tow 2000 lbs, and costs half as much.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    KixStart :

    I can’t stand SUVs and I’m not really a truck guy, but I still detest this piece of shit vehicle.

    If you think looking at any form of transportation “from a common-sensical point of view” requires “considerable effort,” I don’t even know what to tell you.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    Casual Observer: How fast are you going during that six hours? I’m assuming you aren’t getting 120mpg ;) Is it street legal? I have a bicycle that I’ve never put gas in, it can go 50mph, I can swim with it on my back, and I got it at a garage sale for $60.

  • avatar
    afuller

    I too don’t understand the outright hatred for this car, why are people so threatened by what other people drive?

    Like Roundel I like that it’s just enough car for what I would need, I don’t need or want those extra 2 seats in the back.

    If you think NY City is the only place in America where this makes sense from a parking standpoint I encourage to get out of your living room and actually travel the country, I live in a city of 6000 in AZ where these make huge sense due to the dearth of parking areas.

    I don’t own one, but I’ve always been intrigued. My Insight weighs about the same, probably has close to the same amount of interior space, has about the same hp but I average about twice the fuel mileage with it.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    afuller: word, I think an insight is much more functional looking, and I love driving them. I’d take an insight over a smart any day.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    It does take effort to “detest” this car. If it’s not your cup of tea, so what, you move on, but to detest it does take effort. I personally see no use to this car in my lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t. And for the record, they do make me smile whenever i see one driving around DC where they do seem somewhat practical. (for parking if nothing else)

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    I don’t think it’s such a horrible car, at all. I’ve ridden a number of smarts and even written a feature story about one. It’s a niche car — small urban commuter with minimal power, decent cabin space and very easy to park — argueably as good at its desgnated role as hyper MPH screamers or pickups are at theirs.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    Nick2NY: the point is that a company that makes lawn mowers can build a vehicle with more utility and only slightly less drivability than this car – for half the price.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    thetopdog, rehposolihp, roundel:

    If you don’t actually own one, then why give it any thought at all?

    It’s not relevant to you, unless you inadvertently crush one and then you might just as well be happy the driver didn’t buy an Excursion, instead.

    The only routine effect on you is that whoever chooses to drive one is using less fuel than he otherwise might, which is a benefit to you (there’s more for you).

    If it was cheaper, I’d probably give it more consideration because parking in our driveway and garage is actually at a premium but… Premium gas? Only 40-ish mpg? Over $12K? Only 2 seats? For the single advantage of parking convenience, it’s not the kind of value I seek. Since it doesn’t meet my needs and has no adverse impact on me, there’s no point in my detesting it.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Casual Observer,

    If that is true, why doesn’t some lawnmower company do that? Half the price with more utility would bring in customers.

    People would give the Smart another look at half the price.

  • avatar
    johnss

    Perhaps you could drop the Marxist references until you figure out what they really mean?

    This car is a capitalist model par excellence — it serves a very narrow market niche, and charges a relatively high amount for the privilege.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Agreed,its too much work to detest them.I personally don’t like tiny cars.I guess other folks don’t like big cars whatever floats your boat. The Smart has been sold in Canada for 3 or 4 years now and I still don’t see a whole lot of them on the road.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    When I reviewed the Smart 17 months ago http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/reviews/smart-fortwo-review/ I came to the same conclusions as Sajeev: great packaging, fine interior, lousy everything else. So it’s no surprise to me that Sajeev finds a mildly-tuned FourTwo insufferable.

    In the past months however, I have spoken with numerous women who really enjoy their Smarts. They don’t care about handling and are unexpectedly indifferent to ride comfort. And surprisingly, they enjoy the exuberant engine noise. A nice interior in a super-cozy package: for some people, that trumps all else.

    Can we blame them? Should we blame anybody for their choice? I think that among the long list of consumer’s aberrations, the Smart is a harmless one.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    Casual Observer:
    Talk about comparing apples to oranges.
    Can you take that Deere on the highway, does it have 4 airbags, crumple zones, AC, heated seats, premium sound?
    Is it even road legal?
    I could make crazy comparisons as well. But I take the car at face value. I value the amount of engineering that went into the car to make it as safe as physically possible and for me the car is priced accordingly.

  • avatar
    f8

    It’s a car made for Europe, not for United States. In smaller countries where people don’t commute as much and where cities are older (and roads more narrow by design) this car makes sense.

    But what good does it do to have one of these here in the States, where it isn’t uncommon to commute to another city by highway daily just to get to work? And the parking point seems to be moot as well – you can’t park your car sideways in a parking space like you can in Europe. Yes, parallel parking may be slightly easier at times, but there’s a ton of parking lots over most of America and in those lots there’s no difference between a smart and a Camry.

    And yeah, gas mileage is definitely atrocious at 33/41. Sure, these seem like good enough numbers, until you realize they are for a two-seater golf-cart lookalike with a tiny 1 liter engine. I mean, really? A Mini Cooper gets 28 city/37 highway. That’s with two more seats, more weight, more features, and a 1.6 liter engine with an extra cylinder, all in a car geared for sporty fun.

    Roundel

    “crumple zones,”

    smarts don’t have those either

  • avatar
    mpresley

    “With an 1800lb curb weight, the 75-ish horsepower (up from 71 hp stock)…”

    I don’t know…when I’m looking at a “tuner” car, I expect at least 5 more HP over stock, maybe even 6.

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    I don’t detest these, nor the people who drive them. If anything, I feel sorry for them . . . they’re a poseur and don’t even realize it.

    This car seems to excel at nothing aside from being a fashion statement. Most people buy Chihuahua’s because they are cute and fit in a purse. Fine. Just don’t tell me you really bought yours as a burglar deterrent.

  • avatar
    shaker

    If this were an EV with similar performance and 100-mile range at the same price, I’d consider it – otherwise… meh.

    At least the battery pack would lower the COG and make it a bit more tossable.

    Af far as crash safety goes, the lack of the crumple zone actually transfers more force to the occupants on impact. That “barely damaged” passanger cell likely contains broken bones aplenty.

    As to parking – there are few official “half-spaces”, so where is the advantage? Another caveat: You have to remember to park towards the rear of a parking garage space so that no one swoops into the space (especially if you parked between to Tahoes) thinking that it’s empty.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    I appreciate the photography. Those ‘quad pipes’ are hilarious.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Someone who works at Mercedes in Stuttgart told me that the original platform for the SMART was borrowed either from an old DAF or FAF design. I have not been able to independently verify this claim but it would certainly explain why it drives as badly as it does.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    I’m not into the Smart at all. It’s just not competitive for what it is in terms of fuel economy vs. price. I’ll be the 101st person to mention that the Fit is so much nicer. I’d personally take my money and buy a lightly used car with the money.

    Every time I see these things, I keep thinking that the driver is trying so hard to be that quirky unique guy that he just comes off as strange. It’s a fashion statement, nothing more. Like a BMW with an automatic trans.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    @lite.a.kite: The quad pipes would be a lot more hilarious if there were two on one side and just one on the other.

  • avatar

    I certainly don’t cringe when I see one. The style, to be sure, is probably D+, and if they were ubiquitous, I might get sick of them pretty quickly, but the city practicality–I’m referring mostly to parking–moves me. If I lived in Manhattan, this might well be what I’d own, especially with a manual clutch.

    I drove one around the Consumer Reports test track, which is incredibly windy, and hilly, and I rather enjoyed it, except for the transmission. Put a stick with a manual clutch in this thing, and it would be fun.

  • avatar

    Mikey: Agreed,its too much work to detest them.I personally don’t like tiny cars.I guess other folks don’t like big cars whatever floats your boat.

    Mikey, If I lived in Michigan, away from Detroit, I probably would have no use for tiny cars, either. In fact, I remember seeing these things in the Raleigh-Durham area of NC, wondering why people there bought them.

    But in the Boston area, makes some sense.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    In the past months however, I have spoken with numerous women who really enjoy their Smarts.

    If you live in urban areas, it’s a great pick-up car. I’ve actually noticed this.

    They don’t care about handling and are unexpectedly indifferent to ride comfort. And surprisingly, they enjoy the exuberant engine noise. A nice interior in a super-cozy package: for some people, that trumps all else.

    It’s a pretty good appliance car. Unlike a plug-in electric it doesn’t force any undue compromises the driver, especially for in-city work. I’ve had one as a rental in Europe, and spent a day in one in North America (the old, CDI version that was sold in Canada) and found that, for a DINK couple in Toronto it works very well.

    I’d be hard-pressed to pick it over a Yaris (if my concern were mileage) or a Fit, but the base model is not a bad deal, it renders parking effortless, and it’s fine for groceries, a night out or quick day-excursions. It’s also reasonably fun to drive and the convertible is a nice touch. If I still lived in Toronto and/or didn’t have kids (and if it wasn’t made by Mercedes) I’d own one now.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    @ afuller:

    Greetings from another afuller!

    @ others:

    The Smart seems to be a fine vehicle for urban or in-town situations where parking is in short supply, speeds are relatively low, and the buyer simply must have their own 4-wheeled transportation.

    I am not all surprised it was extremely harrowing to drive this vehicle on the highway. It simply don’t believe it was ever designed or intended for that purpose. I don’t really see the point of bashing it on that basis.

    I can think of any number of bikes (Honda Gold Wing) or full-size sedans (Crown Vic, Chrysler LX-platforms) that are far better choices for racking big miles on the highways and byways.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    It’s not harrowing to drive on the highway!

  • avatar
    Roundel

    The base price for the mini is at least $6000-7000 more. Sure its a fun car, but completly different than the smart
    My fault, they aren’t crumple zones in the real sense. They are called crash boxes.
    And the Tridion cell absorbs the energy, it doesn’t transmit it into the cabin. What an absurd notion.
    http://www.safeandsmart.com/

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    Throw a ‘busa engine in one and I’ll take it.

  • avatar
    don1967

    “Throw a ‘busa engine in one and I’ll take it.”

    Just watch out for the wheelies. You don’t want to be noticed in any position in this thing, least of all lying on your back facing the sky.

  • avatar
    dean

    crc: if you are going to insult Smart drivers, at least learn how to spell douche.

    I’ve been passed by several Smarts on the highway. You want harrowing, drive my beater at anything over 60mph!

    I’m with KixStart: the car may not be for you, but to actively loathe the vehicle takes work.

  • avatar
    EricTheOracle

    Basically to liven up the smart all one need do is purchase a liter sport bike engine and dump it into a smart, and *poof* the smart becomes “fun.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5S1NAMnYKM&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdJ84nho3_k&feature=related

  • avatar
    Srynerson

    I’m in the market to buy a new car this year and I really would love to buy the Smart. (I don’t care about “performance,” highway driving, or “fun”. I want a small, somewhat reasonably fuel efficient car.) However, the price just ends up being the dealbreaker. I can get a similarly-optioned Fit for about $2000 less and it would be so much more versatile in terms of hauling passengers/cargo. If the Smart was under $10K, I would take it. So, IMHO, great car lousy price.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    As a reader of this site who does not see a Crown Vic Police Interceptor as automotive apotheosis, I still think the Smart is stupid. While end on parking may be a selling point in Europe, a Honda Fit is just as fuel efficient, several thousand dollars cheaper, an order of magnitude more fun to drive and has a back seat for my kids, or a bike with the seat folded. Why should I buy a Smart when there are roomier, cheaper, better driving cars and I have to use a full sized parking space regardless?
    This is the automotive equivalent of Crocs.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    mmm a hot rod smart. Bring it on!

    Like some of my fellow commentaters, I really like the smart car. Its iconoclastic, a snub on virtually everything held sacred by alot of people. Especially large car owners. I love that.

    Here in Philadelphia, they always draw attention. Not mercedes, not astons, not mustangs, especially not huge glittering suv’s. Tiny little smarts. It’s hysterical. And even funnier, most of the folks who pilot them seem oblivious.

    And they are easy to park, which is very handy if you live in a crouded city like philadelphia. I have a Golf which i like, but every time i drive into town, i kick myself for not having a smart. Even the VW is difficult park here. As for the highway, I see them on I95 at the common speed, like 70 mph or so. They seem to have no problems.

    I await for more tiny little cars, like the Fiat 500. More the merrier!

  • avatar

    Actually, this car is practical. For people who want to get from point A to point B within an urban area without carrying much stuff. There are many of those. It’s much safer than riding a scooter, a moped, or a motorcycle, can carry more stuff than those in all kinds of weather. It’s silly to look at this car from the perspective of an SUV or even a larger car, such as Mazda3 or Civic. Within a city with busy streets, lots of stop signs and traffic lights, streetcars and buses, this Smart car makes lots of sense. Much more than any SUV or a full-size car. You can park almost 2 of these in place of one Fit. In parallel parking by a curb this can make the difference between not being able to park your car and fitting in. I think it’s quite stupid for someone to drive a big car if the only travel is solo to an office, a doctor appointment, or a church. We should be looking at things from within the perspective they were intended for.
    Some of the comments against this Smart car are like trying to haul sheets of plywood with a motorcycle. When somebody uses a tool for something else than it was designed for, then yes, that’s nuts. Smart car was designed mainly for the congested, narrow, twisty, crowded streets of Europe. Even for downtown Toronto this car makes lots of sense if you don’t need to haul much stuff. I sat in one of these at a dealership and it was fairly comfy, and my height is 6’2″. Personally I wouldn’t buy it, because it doesn’t fit my lifestyle.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    Hmm, I’m so curious about why people are so down on this car.

    Because it and the Prius are on the opposite end of the automotive spectrum from the Ford Crown Victoria Police Package, which many enthusiasts consider to be the pinnacle of automobilia.

    Good Lord, the Panther Hate even finds its way into a review on this shitbox.

    And God love you people who choose to drive this thing. Why should I care what you drive?

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    Shit. Box.

    That comment and that car are about as pedestrian as you can get.

  • avatar
    meefer

    I don’t detest it, it’s just too expensive.

    If you’re eco, buy a Prius or an Insight.
    If you just like small cars, buy a Yaris.
    if you like German cars, buy a Rabbit.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Black-out the lower grill mesh, paint the wheels black, paint the body Top Banana yellow, debadge it, connect those quad exhaust tips to straight pipes, and give the windows a 30% tint.

    Then we’ll be in business.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    The Smart could be interesting if i lived in a big city, but i don´t.
    The pricesetting on the Smart is ****ing awful.
    (20 000 €)
    Why buy this car when you can have a Fiat 500 for half the price???
    A Mini costs from ca 15 000 €
    I have a car that beats the Smart in every area, and it´s a retractable hardtop for less money.
    Guess what?

  • avatar
    f8


    The base price for the mini is at least $6000-7000 more. Sure its a fun car, but completly different than the smart

    Sure. That wasn’t my point though, my point is that Mini (while being larger, more powerful, faster etc) gets only slightly worse gas mileage.

    Want some better evidence that smart’s fuel efficiency sucks? Late 80′s CRXs got 50 mpg on the highway (41/50). That’s an 1800 pound car with almost no amenities, just like a base smart, powered by a 1.5 liter 62hp engine.

    My fault, they aren’t crumple zones in the real sense. They are called crash boxes.
    And the Tridion cell absorbs the energy, it doesn’t transmit it into the cabin. What an absurd notion.

    Energy isn’t magically dissipated into thin air by rigid steel cages, no matter what smart’s marketing team will tell you. No crumple zones means you will be tossed around inside the smart in a serious collision. Same reason as to why bulletproof vests are made out of malleable materials instead of steel – steel won’t crumple away to absorb and dissipate the bullet’s kinetic energy.

    I mean, really – if crumple zones actually were less useful than smart’s super crash-box-cell thing was far superior, why wouldn’t all other manufacturers adopt this awesome technology instead of making their cars bulkier and heavier with crumple zones?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The 1989 CRX was 29/37, per the current EPA standards.

    The Tridion cell is basically the automotive implementation of the Chobham principle: laminated layers to absorb and distribute impact forces. Why doesn’t everyone else do it that way? Because crumple zones are easier and more familiar to automotive engineers, who work in an industry that tries to be cautious and innovation-averse as often as possible.

    As for the ignorance and whining in various other comments, I imagine N600 drivers had to listen to the same sort of crap from bozos in Chevelles and Imperials back in the day.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Smart ForTwo. It’s the one-dimensional vehicle that denies its occupants the luxury of time, space and value

    Spend a month in an overcrowded European city with no park space (even being willing to pay for it) and you would see how wrong you are.

    Being a millionnare (or simply more affluent) I should own one of those things just as a second car.

    Sometimes in some European cities not even money can buy a park space. Only an ultrashort wheeled appliance can help.

    Uh, and these things are spacious and with an airy cabin for the occupants.

    In the USA… you are totally right.

  • avatar
    A is A

    The Tridion cell is basically the automotive implementation of the Chobham principle: laminated layers to absorb and distribute impact forces. Why doesn’t everyone else do it that way? Because crumple zones are easier and more familiar to automotive engineers

    The Tridion cell is totally rigid. It works activating the crumple zone of the other (unfortunate) vehicle. Ingenious, but very agressive for the other car (despite the low weight of the Smart).

    All vehicles being Tridions would simply mean no crumple zones to activate. A crash between two Smarts would be a nasty event for the occupants: Brutal decelerations.

    The same nastiness would apply for a crash of a Smart against a Concrete block, or against a 1960s Land Rover, or against a Hummer H1, or against a lorry, or… uh, this is bad.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    Huh.

    I thought the typical denizen of this site considered the 1994-96 Chevrolet Impala SS to be the ultimate expression of the automobile.

    Guess I was misinformed.

  • avatar
    V6

    i would much prefer a Toyota iQ or Aygo to a smart

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Good Lord, the Panther Hate even finds its way into a review on this shitbox.

    It’s not Panther hate. I respect the Panthers because they’re a perfect fit for their niche of buyer: fleet managers and a certain brand of enthusiast.

    The problem is that the same people who love and/or respect the Panther’s virtues (or worse, think that the Panthers are perfect for normal buyers) can’t see the virtue of a Smart as it applies to it’s niche: high-density, urban DINKs.

    The Smart makes sense as a highly individual transport product for metrosexualspeople who don’t give a shit about getting their hands dirty, much like many EVs or early hybrids. The Panther (and many trucks, and the Checker) make sense for fleets and greasemonkeys. They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, but equally valid within their niche.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    i would much prefer a Toyota iQ or Aygo to a smart

    Me too. The only thing that kept (and still keeps) me from buying one is the Mercedes Service Department Experience.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    I recently had the opportunity to ride in one of these (a standard Smart, not the Carlsson) on a trip to lunch from work.

    I get the concept of a small, easy to park two-seater – for a city. My ride was in a Silicon Valley town, with a short burst on the 101. Not good. The thing was rough, bumpy and darty. The freeway stretch was a little sphincter-tightening, although I guess it gets better once you get used to it. Granted, the problems have to do with the city vs. suburbia difference.

    However, it is overpriced in the US for what it is – for 10K, it could make sense. It is not _that_ efficient, and didn’t seem like much fun to drive. Fun to park, yes, and extremely fun to have people point (and laugh) at you, but for this price, there are other choices that give you comparable mileage, more room and are equally un-fun. And there was the CRX, which pretty much underlines the utter swing-and-miss that this car is.

    Put a hybrid or a plug-in charger in the thing and it would make more sense.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    Oh, and by the way, here is the automotive history of the colleague who gave me a ride in her Smart car:

    Y2K – new beetle
    2004 – traded beetle for MINI
    2008 – the Smart

    I think she may be susceptible to trendy marketing pitches. :-)

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    rehposolihp :

    Detesting it requires considerable effort.
    -
    Unattractive
    Pricy
    Poor performance
    Poor fuel efficiency (relative to class/cost)
    Poor utility
    Poor comfort

    How again does this make it hard to detest?

    You are probably right for most North Americans, and many Europeans for that matter, which is why it’s a niche vehicle. The average person will likely get a Fit or something similar, and good for them. For those of us out on the tail of the consumer curve though, priorities are different.

    For me, having a convertible is a must. If the top don’t drop, I’m not interested. That’s my choice. I also don’t need extra space, and appreciate something a bit funky. The Smart Cabrio is the cheapest and most fuel efficient convertible on the market, so it’s at least worth a look see. I am looking at one to replace my Miata in a year or two. It’s a very real contender, for the following reasons:

    Attractiveness is purely subjective. I think the proportions are quite attractive for what it is. It’s no Jag E-type, but it’s a hansome little car.

    I’ve had my fun with the current Miata, so hair raising, corner carving handling isn’t as big a deal as it used to be.

    As an aside, the corner it went off on was the Hammerhead, which is not the first corner on the Top Gear Track. While outright handling isn’t it’s strongest suit, Top Gear has been known to embellish for the sake of entertainment now and then, so I wouldn’t take that clip as gospel.

    I have found that, within it’s limits, handles well enough for the cornering I do nowadays.

    Straight line performace is reasonable. 0-60 in around 10ish seconds is enough for everyday driving.

    Fuel economy is twice that of the Miata, and price is about 2/3. Not a bad argument there.

    Storage space is equivalent, if not considerably better because the passender seat folds flat.

    Harsh ride? Nah. Compared to a Crown Vic maybe, but otherwise fine for my backside.

    The interior is attractive and well laid out ergonomically, the seats and tiller are very comfortable, and the safety is quite good for it’s size. Definitely better than my old Metro. In addition, being smaller it uses less material to build, and the factory they are produced in, as well as the produciton process, are among the greenest I know of. There’s more to energy efficiency than just fuel and the price at the pump people.

    The only major downside is the lack of MHD on this side of the pond, and that transmission… dear god. Not a deal breaker, but it’s no DSG for certain. If I can get used to the tranny, I may get one. Time will tell.

    So… for me looks, price, performance, fuel efficiency, utility, and comfort are all big thumbs up, or neutral at worst. But then again I’m not the average customer, but then again that’s the point.

    It’s all relative people. Stop the hate.

    Kris

  • avatar

    See Psarhjinian, 4 above this one. My sentiments exactly. Re Psarhj 3 above, I’d take the Fit rather than those other two.

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    Everyone is missing the point here – all this talk about transmissions, economy but the real point – the main point is the Smart is easy to park.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading.

    Micheal Blue : Actually, this car is practical. For people who want to get from point A to point B within an urban area without carrying much stuff. There are many of those. It’s much safer than riding a scooter, a moped, or a motorcycle, can carry more stuff than those in all kinds of weather.

    I can see your point, if the Smart retailed for 10k or less. It’s the Harley Davidson of compact cars, it doesn’t sell for performance (speed, fuel economy on premium gas, safety, etc), it sells on style and the lack of space. Which I understand the parking issue, and its the only high point in this vehicle.

    ——————————

    And to those who think Tridon is a good enough safety system, they are putting their lives at risk for no good reason. A structure that focuses on crash absorbing is far better than the absorb+deflect+spin combo of the Smart (a la recent IIHS tests). Who knows where the hell you will end up after you spin, especially given the US’s bazillion different geographic features. I’m okay with spinning into a Houston bayou, but sure as heck don’t want to spin/slide/roll down a hill.

    Come on people (in the USA) this cute little turd is the same price as a Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Honda Fit/Civic and other fun and efficient vehicles that don’t require $0.20 to $0.40 more per gallon of fuel and aren’t a death trap if a Toyota Camry (or bigger) hits you.

    Not to mention local dealers will often sell a loss leader Fusion/Camry for this price. And if you really want a little tin can to putter around in, the Aveo is far, far cheaper.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    This car is only for city driving

    Please even the people who made this car recommend not to drive it on the highways.

    It is a good car and please stop comparing it to BMW or Honda again.

    Their tons of rich people in Boston that drive this car with no complaint. Why do they it a city car and it looks great.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Sajeev:

    Which, again, is why it’s a niche vehicle. For the normal, average, north american, the Smart does not make much sense. For some though, whose priorities are outside the norm, the reverse is true. For some, getting the best bang for your buck, or the biggest car for your dollar, isn’t the top priority. In the land of free choice, isn’t having lots of options a good thing? If the market exists to produce the product at a volume that is profitable, is that not enough justification?

    I’m not disagreeing with you entirely, I just don’t understand the hate.

    On a more technical note, I would argue that your tin can comparison is a tad off base. From the IIHS:

    Aveo:

    Front: Acceptable
    Side: Mediocre
    Rear: Poor

    Smart:

    Front: Good
    Side: Good
    Rear: Acceptable

    Big difference. I realise that they aren’t exactly the same weight class, but they are close enough to compare with a reasonable grain of salt. The Fit and the Yaris score very well also, roughly equivalent to the Smart, and the Accent is downright dismal. The ratings take into account forces acting on the occupant, which is a much better indicator than a simplistic statement like “the aveo has a bigger crumple zone.” Trucks have huge crumple zones, and often rate extremely bad in collisions. Why? Because it’s complicated, and engineering a safe car is difficult and sometimes counterintuative.

    Collision safety is a very complex set of variables, with multiple possible routes to a viable solution, given a particular set of required comprimises. The chassis isn’t the only part of a car that is able to deform in order to dissipate energy either. Delamination is a legitimate method of energy dissipation, used extensively in F1 cars. Different materials react to collision forces differently, and can be used in combination to dissipate and direct energy in a particular way. The size of the crumple zone isn’t as important as it’s efficiency, which is dependant on materials as well as design. Controlled seat deformation and seatbelt force limiters are also legitimate methods. Airbags help as well. Besides, energy dissipation is only one part of the overall equation. The fact that the occupants sit higher reduces injury related to SUV bumper height, and the short wheelbase uses the wheels and suspension to reduce side impact intrusion. A rigid frame in certain areas is important to reduce intrusion and maintain a safety cell around the occupant, a la roll cage in a race car. The Smart uses some of these techniques, though not all, but the point is that it’s not a simple equation.

    I’m pretty sure Mercedes used E-Classes and S-Classes to crash test Smarts during development, so I’m pretty sure they took size differential into account as much as possible. When you set out to design a car this small, it’s obvious that just about everything else around it will be bigger. Design accordingly.

    The Tridon shell won’t repeal the laws of physics, but niether will a Fit or a Yaris. Take a hit in one of those from an SUV at speed and you’ll be just as big a puddle of mush. That’s no big news, it’s just physics. That’s a choice that all small car drivers make, and have always made, either explicitly or implicitly. What it does do is an impressive job, given the challenges of making a package that small any measure of safe in a collision.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    I’ve also seen people struggle with parallel parking their Smart – but that’s another rant.

    I guess 4 wheels is too much for the driver then. Mind u sometimes I have to struggle to park my bike and lock her up too, does the lock up considered a separate process?

  • avatar
    wsn

    # like.a.kite :
    April 29th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I appreciate the photography. Those ‘quad pipes’ are hilarious.

    Same here. A base Boxster has only one pipe, right?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I read the description and the first thought that popped into my mind was: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

  • avatar

    kgurnsey : Which, again, is why it’s a niche vehicle. For the normal, average, north american, the Smart does not make much sense. For some though, whose priorities are outside the norm, the reverse is true. For some, getting the best bang for your buck, or the biggest car for your dollar, isn’t the top priority. In the land of free choice, isn’t having lots of options a good thing? If the market exists to produce the product at a volume that is profitable, is that not enough justification?

    I’m not disagreeing with you entirely, I just don’t understand the hate.

    Those are all excellent points, which I do agree with.

    Regarding the hate: I have to state this vehicle’s amazing shortcomings without backpedaling with the standard “its a niche vehicle and that’s good enough for some people.” And, unlike my (mind numbingly apologetic) Grand Marquis review, I nailed the Smart because every bystander in this town–no matter race, age or socioeconomic status–assumes the Smart is cheap, unbelievably fuel efficient (too bad about premium fuel: its about $0.28 more right now) and has cutting edge technology that will set the market on fire.

    We may know better, but people think the Smart is a 50+MPG hybrid on looks alone. But when I tell them the Truth about the Smart, the faces turn sour.

    Hence why I say what I say, and do the job I’m so fortunate to do. :)

  • avatar
    commando1

    The ONLY good thing about this POS, is it’s getting the 15 mph golf carts with no lights off my damn streets down here in the land of “Waiting to Die”

    -Stan (Florida)

  • avatar
    LJD

    I can’t wait for hydrogen cars. Then we won’t have to see these things anymore. That said, I’d love to try one out, off public streets of course.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    So the hate is confined to the fact that this car simply doesn’t fit the general publics perception of what this car should be based on stereotypes.
    The funny thing is, that in the real world those expectations just don’t exist.

  • avatar

    Roundel : So the hate is confined to the fact that this car simply doesn’t fit the general publics perception of what this car should be based on stereotypes.

    No. The Smart’s asking price, octane penalty (for lack of a better phrase) and dubious safety systems for Americans (relative to any other car at that price, used or new) are facts, not a stereotype.

    And when we speak publicly of this car’s engineering or financial downsides, they are not part of the public’s misguided perception. That’s just how it’s made, and performs.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    According to the US DOE, the smart will cost the average person about $951 per year on premium. The Fit and Yaris would both cost an average of $993 per year. Granted that YMMV, but even if you drove the snot out of the smart, and grama drove the Yaris, the difference would remain negligible. How is that a huge disadvantage? Octane penalty is a grossly overrated issue when you are dealing with cars this small and frugal. MPG is also not a linear scale. If you are wondering what I mean by that, Google is your friend. It boils down to being penny wise and pound foolish.

    Stating that a person can buy a new car with more utility for the same money is reasonable. Stating that you can get a safer used car for the same money is reasonable, if you choose your used car wisely. It’s also reasonable to assume that a bigger car will also cost more in gas, to a more significant degree. Pick your poison. We agree that the smart is not for everybody; in fact I would go as far as to say that it’s likely not for most people.

    However, stating that the smart sucks because it’s less safe than other new cars in its price range, commonly using direct comparisons to the Fit and Yaris as examples, simply because it’s smaller, is asinine.

    According to the recent, and much debated, car on car IIHS test, all three small cars faired, near as makes no difference, equally poorly. Therefore, casting the used market aside for a moment, how can you state that the smart is less safe for your money than the competition?

    Also consider that the lightest car in the group was up against the heaviest mid size car in the group.

    smart: 1797 lbs.
    C Class: 3505 lbs.

    Fit: 2546 lbs.
    Accord: 3386 lbs.

    Yaris: 2377 lbs.
    Camry: 3303 lbs.

    That equates to a roughly 1700 lb. difference between the smart/C Class, and only a ~900 lb. difference between the other two pairs. The weight difference is roughly double. That’s a lot, and considering the smart didn’t fair that much worse, speaks very well to the engineering that has gone into creating its passive safety systems.

    Let’s not even bring up the type of collision simulated, and the statistics involved, which has been debated elsewhere.

    Stating that the Fit or Yaris is any safer for the money is simply untrue. The facts don’t support that assertion. Implying that an Accent or Aveo is any safer just because it’s bigger than a smart, when their crash results were considerably worse than the comparable Fit or Yaris, is not a defendable position, and amounts to more fear mongering than truth. I shudder to think what an Accent would look like after going toe to toe with a Sonata. I’ll take the smart, thank you very much.

    Offering both sides of an issue is not backpedaling, it’s just good reporting. Perspective makes the truth a bit more truthful, and less of a single sided rant.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, you say that the car should cost around 10 thousand bucks. That would be nice, but let’s not forget this is no simple tin on wheels. This is a high-tech car. All the R&D and all the techno stuff stuff they put into the car must be quite expensive. On another note, I wish you guys would review the new Toyota iQ. It looks good, but how is it in real life?

  • avatar

    Micheal Blue : Sajeev, you say that the car should cost around 10 thousand bucks. That would be nice, but let’s not forget this is no simple tin on wheels. This is a high-tech car.

    No doubt. Much like my MacBook to PCs, its a niche product with an unsettling position relative to cars like the Fit. Hell, even a strippo Civic is fair game, on price and highway fuel economy alone.

    Unlike my MacBook, users of the Smart don’t fare so well after it crashes. (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

    ——————————
    kgurnsey : According to the US DOE, the smart will cost the average person about $951 per year on premium. The Fit and Yaris would both cost an average of $993 per year. Granted that YMMV, but even if you drove the snot out of the smart, and grama drove the Yaris, the difference would remain negligible. How is that a huge disadvantage?

    Unless I missed one of my comments, I didn’t say it was a huge disadvantage…but I did say “dreadful performance” about the entire package.

    It’s not a huge disadvantage, it is a huge disappointment. Why pay this much for a Smart when you can get more car (and transaxle) from Toyota or Honda for (roughly) $40 more in gas a year?

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Because it’s a niche vehicle. I know that we agree on this point, my argument is that being a niche vehicle doesn’t make it a bad vehicle.

    Your arguments are price, which I would counter by saying most niche products are more expensive, octane penalty, which was proven to be negligible, and “dubious safety”, which somehow is only a determent to the smart, and not the Fit or Yaris.

    It doesn’t make sense to state that a person can get a much better value with a Fit, essentially recommending it, and then turn around and take a shot (let alone a full broadside) at the Smart for its safety without acknowledging that the Fit is just as unsafe. Both cars are relatively unsafe, as is the Yaris. All small cars are at a disadvantage due to mass. It’s not a disadvantage to the smart alone, relative to its more functional competition, but it’s being touted as such. As I’ve stated before, the smart out performed the Aveo and the Accent handily, which are roughly comparable, and equivalent in class to the Fit and Yaris. Yet that fact is nowhere to be seen. That would be bias, and the smart is not deserving of it. It is just as safe (or not, depending on your perspective) as a Fit or Yaris, and significantly better than an Aveo or an Accent, for similar money. That’s a fact.

    That leaves the functionality/dollar argument, which I get. I wholeheartedly agree that the smart is not as functional as a Fit or a Yaris, and for most people the smart is not a valid choice. But it’s not an inherently bad car because of that. It’s one thing to say “If you’re looking for a frugal car that will be as versatile as possible, maybe this isn’t for you”, it’s another to say “It sucks because it doesn’t haul much, and it takes premium.” One is a reasonable, truthful statement, the other is inflammatory. The smart is not for everyone, to be sure, but it has a niche, and it fills it well.

    I’m sorry you’re disappointed, but it is what it is. Just because it’s not the super cheap everyman fuel sipper that the masses wanted it to be doesn’t make it bad. It just means people need to adjust their expectations to reflect reality, and that’s not the car’s fault.

    I still don’t get the hate.

  • avatar
    vww12

    «Please even the people who made this car recommend not to drive it on the highways.»

    I was not aware of this recommendation.

    Do you have a source?

  • avatar

    kgurnsey : Because it’s a niche vehicle. I know that we agree on this point, my argument is that being a niche vehicle doesn’t make it a bad vehicle.

    So I counter that there are more reasons why it’s a “bad” vehicle: price/value was just one. I could write 800 words on what a raging POS that transaxle is under any driving condition. The review and its following comments should cover all concerns/complaints out pretty well.

    Regarding safety: I don’t think we crash test enough cars into each other in this society. Concrete barriers are dandy, but I see more car-on-car accidents on the road…maybe that’s why those are the incidents that scare me.

    I agree that IIHS’ crash testing the Smart v. C-class was unfair relative to the Yaris and Fit…all three small cars should be crashed against the same car, such as the best selling Toyota Camry. That is the fair way to test Tridon vs. Crumple Zone.

    But the world is full of tough shit moments, and any car/truck on the road can hit you…not just a C-class or Camry. Hell, they need to crash cars into last-gen Chevy Tahoes going 10-20mph over the speed limit to reassure me, because that’s the most common vehicle my neck of the woods. I’m just kidding…I think.

    I am not trying to convey “hate” for the Smart ForTwo. The review did admit that it looks cool with the Carlsson goodies and the attention it garnered adds to a wow factor you will not get in a Fit.

    I’m gonna go with “extreme disappointment” instead.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    Those are some points we agree on. The transmission is truly dreadful. That’s not even a point worth debating, and to me it’s the single most prevalent deficiency of the whole car.

    I agree as well that current frontal offset collision tests show very little in reality. I would like to see frontal offset crashes performed with a standardized rig, much like the side impact tests are done, with both the car in question and the rig pulled together at speed. That would give a much better, and comparable, evaluation of collision performance.

    What that standardized rig should represent is a matter of some debate, I would expect. Personally, I would opt for a mid size sedan, like the Camry you mentioned, perhaps set it at about 3300-3500 lbs. Though it would be interesting to see what kind of grusomeness you could produce by having a more SUV-like rig, it’s probably overkill to assume that everyone who hits you is going to be a Suburban. That could lead to skewed results of a different sort, and just feed fuel to the automotive arms race. Besides, there’s always a bigger fish out there. Should we test SUVs against fully laden tractor trailers? Do we even need to test a smart or a Fit against that, or is the resulting smear not obvious enough?

    As a side note, the person in the SUV getting creamed by a tractor trailer would also count as a pretty decent “tough shit” moment. Just when you think you’re “safe”…

  • avatar

    kgurnsey : I would like to see frontal offset crashes performed with a standardized rig, much like the side impact tests are done, with both the car in question and the rig pulled together at speed. That would give a much better, and comparable, evaluation of collision performance.

    Bingo. Maybe one day the IIHS will care more about flashy news bites and provide the same level playing field of the concrete barrier.

    Besides, there’s always a bigger fish out there. Should we test SUVs against fully laden tractor trailers? Do we even need to test a smart or a Fit against that, or is the resulting smear not obvious enough?

    As a side note, the person in the SUV getting creamed by a tractor trailer would also count as a pretty decent “tough shit” moment. Just when you think you’re “safe”…

    Tractor trailers are usually driven by professionals who are absolutely terrified of the insurance premiums’ effect on their business. SUVs, since they are still passenger cars, are pretty much the polar opposite.

    Not to mention the sheer numbers of SUVs on the road, and their increasing age leads to poorer performance from a lack of upkeep. The likelyhood of a 0-10 year old SUV crashing into “you” is way more likely than a Semi. I see them as the biggest threats on the road to small cars…but I admit that’s more of a Texas-centric problem.

  • avatar
    kgurnsey

    The problem is largely reversed on the 401 here in Ontario. I consider the tractor trailers a signifigantly more prolific threat to my commute, and I’m not a fan of SUVs either. However, the big trucks often outnumber the SUVs, and the driving is downright pathetic in many cases. They are often driving way too fast, weaving in and out of lanes, you name it. Ontario just passed a law requiring speed limiters on trucks, and they are still speeding like mad. It’s insane, and it’s dangerous.

    I am aware that being a truck driver is a hard job, not one I would want personally, but that’s not indicative of professionalism or skill. My Dad just recently finished the trucking course, and it wasn’t exactly tough. My uncle has driven just about everything there is to drive over many years, and “professional” isn’t a word I’ve ever heard him use about his colleagues. He’s a pretty intellegent, well informed person who should have been doing something much more intellectual, except that life threw him a few curves at the wrong time. Instead, he’s worked as a driver most of his life. He tells some pretty horrifying stories about the trucking/heavy machinery biz.

    Many drivers don’t own thier own trucks anymore, and all my Dad’s instructors spoke emphatically against it, which shifts the inurance and fuel costs to the business. I’m sure the business are freaking out, but the drivers are a different story.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone in the trucking biz, but I call ‘em as I see ‘em. And I see ‘em every single day too and from work. I’m sure there are many very good drivers out there, and maybe it used to be much better, but the current state of affairs around here is not good. I understand that many states in the US are far more strict, which my Dad, my Uncle, and I all agree is a good thing.

    Having said all that, I wouldn’t expect crash tests to include tractor trailers, and was mostly embellishing to convey a point. I would settle for mid size sedan, or perhaps a small SUV sized rig for the test.

  • avatar
    Roundel

    No. The Smart’s asking price, octane penalty (for lack of a better phrase) and dubious safety systems for Americans (relative to any other car at that price, used or new) are facts, not a stereotype.

    And when we speak publicly of this car’s engineering or financial downsides, they are not part of the public’s misguided perception. That’s just how it’s made, and performs.

    The argument has been perfectly debated by kgurnsey so I have not much else to add.
    The smart really is in a class by its own. The size of the car makes sure that it can’t be compared directly to even somthing such as the 3 door Yaris. That car is much larger even compared to the smart. I don’t see exactly what the issue is with the asking price. This isn’t a Nano and the amount of features in the car as well as the engineering to make it as safe as it is, has to be taken into effect. Sure some of it could be due that its also built in France, and we are trying to account for the strength of the Euro. But the fact is that Daimler has produced a tiny car that is just as safe as larger car, relativly speaking. I would have to agree that your comment on “dubious” safety is based more on opinion other than reality of the overall safety of all small cars. Anything older than 5 years old (or even newer) runs the risk of not having ample airbags, traction control, better designed crumple zones etc. Its quite absurd to think that an 8 year old civic would automatically be safer than the smart.
    I think its quite obvious that some people have unreasonable expectations for the car based purely on the size of it. People think it should be far more effiecent, but want it to be safe as well. The car may have a very unfavorable power to weight ratio, because of all weight that is added for safety requirement.
    People also think just because their 1982 Civic acheived 50 mpg, this should too. That argument is not even worth considering.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    The problem I have with this car is that it purports to be the “baseline car” i.e. that which the stereotyped environmentalist would want a damn good reason for having anything more than. The problem is that it does a poor job of the things that cars are ideally used for: hauling people and stuff over extended distances. The ride sucks, the engine sucks, the transmission sucks, and it has no storage room. It does carry two people spaciously, though. Now, if you live in New York or Boston or a poorly-designed smaller city and have a dire hatred of mass transit (or mass transit doesn’t serve you), then I’m sure it’s perfect.

    Considering what you’re getting, though, a Yaris or Accent makes a far better baseline car. Buying a Smart, and only a Smart, means you have to be certain you’ll never want to carry more than two people, carry any appreciable amount of stuff, or drive a long distance. For most people, that’s probably way too much of a sacrifice. Now, sure, the “what-if utility” argument is often used in support of SUVs, but most people have probably done something they couldn’t or wouldn’t do in a Smart in the last week, if not every day.

    I’m sure it also makes a decent commuter vehicle, if you don’t mind that it’s horrible to drive, but having a “commuter car,” as opposed to simply “a car” is presupposing a certain level of luxury in one’s lifestyle to begin with, which is pretty far away from aforementioned stereotyped environmentalist ideal.

    Now, if it wants to be a niche vehicle, and only a niche vehicle, that’s perfectly fine, but I’d appreciate it not being held up as an example of whatever outside of that very specific niche.

  • avatar

    The only way in hell you’d see me in one of these is if there were special roads in DISNEYLAND and they let you rent these for it.

    I’d rather have a Mini Cooper – or even better, a motor scooter.


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