Clown car or contender?
By Phillip Reed
Date posted: 08-24-2006
The Smart Fortwo is like driving a smiley face down the road. When you're in it, everyone is your best friend and you're always the center of attention — whether you like it or not.
More to the point, the Smart car, built by Mercedes-Benz and imported to the U.S. by ZAP, is a barometer of the public's interest in alternative solutions to the trio of problems facing our country: oil addiction, air pollution and clogged inner-city arteries. This becomes obvious from the host of questions machine-gunned at anyone driving this car. "Is it electric?" people ask. "A hybrid?" they inquire. "Fuel cell?" They have to believe a car this different in looks is also different under the skin.
A thrifty combination
No, we explain to onlookers, the Smart's thriftiness is not due to Star Wars technology. The designers at Smart (owned by Mercedes) just reworked the power-to-weight ratio for economy. The car is little more than a passenger compartment 8 feet long and weighing 1,588 pounds. Then they powered it with a turbocharged 61-horsepower rear-mounted three-cylinder gas engine that makes 70 pound-feet of torque and delivers more than 40 miles per [US] gallon. The result is a "city car" that is perfect for tucking into small parking spaces and threading through clogged urban roadways.
Read full article - which includes a full assessment of the smart including safety, fuel economy and comfort - here.