June 28, 2006 2:52 PM PDT

A 'Smart' alternative to the SUV?

Automaker DaimlerChrysler's fuel-stingy, supercompact Smart ForTwo, sold in Europe since 1998, will be available to U.S. car buyers within two years, the company said Wednesday.

Americans' affection for monstrous SUVs might be withering in the face of rising gas prices, but no one's really sure whether they'll readily accept the little Smart ForTwo as a remedy for fuel-pump woes. More than 750,000 ForTwo units have been sold throughout Europe over the past eight years, DaimlerChrysler says. The car is also available in Canada.

Smart ForTwo

The ForTwo isn't a hybrid, nor is it actually "smart" in the high-tech sense--i.e., it doesn't contain any fancy chips that let it talk or fly or automatically know where its driver wants to go--but the pod-shaped car certainly gets impressive gas mileage, averaging 46.3 miles per gallon in cities and 70.6 on the highway, according to DaimlerChrysler.

And the Smart ForTwo is tiny; the two-seater (hence the name--there's also a Smart ForFour in Europe) is less than nine feet long, slightly less than five feet wide, and a smidgen over five feet tall. Compare that with the Mini Cooper, the vehicle most Americans think of when "subcompact car" is mentioned. The Mini is about three feet longer and six inches wider, not to mention more than 900 pounds heavier.

But like any car, the ForTwo has its drawbacks. With a top speed of 84 miles per hour, the vehicle will leave speed enthusiasts unimpressed. And it may prove impossible for the ForTwo to convince American consumers that anything that small doesn't automatically equal foreign. After all, even Hollywood has contributed to a thoroughly Euro image for the car: Tom Hanks rode in one through the streets of Paris in the film adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code," as did Steve Martin in this year's remake of "The Pink Panther."

Plus, with plenty of other fuel-efficient options arriving on American roads, DaimlerChrysler's addition won't be nearly as notable. Regardless, the Smart ForTwo may well have its best luck in urban areas, where its maximum speed seems acceptable and where a nine-foot-long car could be a tremendous advantage in the cutthroat culture of city parking.

DaimlerChrysler made environmental headlines recently when it sold several dozen hybrid buses to the city of San Francisco, which, in the face of fears about global warming, hopes to be 100 percent emission-free in municipal transportation by 2020.

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9 comments

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Smart ... but this is the US
Here, most people are tupically spoiled rotten brats. (Note thats "typical", not everyone).

There are those who drive the "MommyVans" (not Minivans, MommyVans are the SUVs) to the grocery store 20 miles away just to save 30 cents on a gallon of milk.

Then there are those like me who weigh the cost vs. savings, not just by having an electric vehicle, but savings on mileage, wear and tear, resaleability of my other cars too.

Personally, I have been waiting for these in the US. This would be great for a "daily driver" to/from work, to/from the grocery store, to/from the parents' house now and then. Nothing thats a long drive, nor too expensive for the mundane.

Just give me a car big enough for me and my laptop bag, some decent driving tunes, and cheap fuel (hey, can I use a solar panel roof to charge it?), and I'd be set for the everyday stuff.

Now weekends, thats when you bring out the hotrods, sportscars, racing machines, showcars...

save the wear and tear on the good stuff by having a 'beater' like this? I'm up for it.
Posted by FusedAndCondazed (26 comments )
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Solar Panels
Ford showed off a concept car at the Detroit Auto Show that had solar panels integrated into the roof. Was pretty slick.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
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this is a great parking solution.
Not going into a long rant you can find my views at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://cars.iconicpoint.com" target="_newWindow">http://cars.iconicpoint.com</a>. but I digress this is good parking solution with those stats I can pull up to a bike rack chain it up and leave.
Posted by iconicpoint (3 comments )
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good info (subject matter)!
interested in future articles; just signed up.

will view with high expectations!

thanks bye.
Posted by John Larson (3 comments )
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good info (subject matter)!
interested in future articles; just signed up.

will view with high expectations!

thanks bye.
Posted by John Larson (3 comments )
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What is not mentioned is the price
According to the news on TV that I watched this morning, this car will cost about $15,000. For this ammount of money, I can buy a FAR more comfortable vehicle, like a Cavalier, or a Corolla, or a Yaris without any "options" on them and still be economical. The whole idea of those cars was that they would be small and economical in both, size and wallet. No way I'd buy one for THAT much.
Posted by (5 comments )
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Could it be so?
I am honestly optimistic about seeing a country where people choosing between buying a car or having a home opt for the car truly adopt feul efficiency rather than just talk about it.

In the interum until emission free transportation becomes widely available, super-efficient cars will fill the space well. Heck, you can back inbetween two parked cars to put bumper on curb and park within the width of the space.

My point of concern remains with the corporate interests of the energy industry. For example; the Prius (spelling?) is available in both europe and the states. In europe there is an installed switch for the driver to set either the combustion or electric motor as primary with the secondary only kicking when needed. The result is that you drive around Prog or your local town on electricity alone with the combustion only kicking in for highway driving or recharging of the batteries. State-side, this switch is not available. The blank spot on the dash is there but no switch, no removable hole cover. By default, you are required to use the combustion engine as the primary drive with electric kicking for the added push.

This is explained as a "legal" requirnment that the vehicle must be sold as a gas primary. I admittedly don't fully undestand the basis of the law.

Yes, you can purchase the aftermarket mod to install the switch yourself. Creator bless the new generation of gear-heads that prize fuel efficiency over muscle who've spawned the Prius modder market.

The point is that the whole mentality should be "How can I minimize the use of combustion?" not "How can I epear to be more environmentally responsible?"
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
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Already in Canada
If you poke around www.smart.com, you can see that the car is being sold in Canada. For $20,000 Canadian you can buy a fully loaded diesel model. Skimming through the info on the site I found the car is rated at around 98mpg, computer governed to 84mph, and has a 0-60 time of 19.5 seconds. Not bad for a 3 cylinder diesel (40hp/74fp of torque).

Assuming that your current car gets 30mpg and gas is $3us a gallon, every time you fill up you would save 2x that. So a 10gal tank would save you $60 per fill-up. If you fill up once a week, you would save about $3200 a year in fuel. In 5 years, the car will definitely have paid for itself.
Posted by whirabomber (6 comments )
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I drive a Smart ForTwo in Germany now ...
I am a Texan, currently stationed with the US military in Germany, and I own a European-spec secondhand 2001 Smart ForTwo Passion.
I adore my little car! I use it to drive between home and work, plus shopping along the way, and it gets 43 to 50 miles per gallon. Even though it only has a 5 gallon tank, I only fill it up a minimum of every two weeks. My driving is mostly on state highways, but with a few miles on the famed Autobahns, where I have no trouble getting up to speed and even passing!
The Smart may look small from the outside, but is actually much larger once you climb inside (the glass roof makes it feel even roomier)! My twenty-year-old son is a big and tall guy, and we have no problem traveling around together.
Want to know more about space? There are storage drawers under the seats, door pockets, room behind the seats, pop-open storage areas on either side of the luggage compartment, and mesh "stuff" holders across the car between the seating and the luggage compartments ... and then there is the luggage compartment itself. I have stuffed luggage and boxes back there with no problem!
Of course, on the weekends when my entire family jumps in the car to sightsee Europe, it is in our Toyota Camry.
I have long hoped for a US-spec Smart for when we return to the States, and it is finally happening! I plan to use it, again, during my daily commute from one end of Austin to the other, which will save me lots of gas money in those traffic jams, and make it a lot easier to find a parking spot in those wasted spaces between SUVs that nobody else can use!
Oh, and did I mention that those little Smarts are so cute, and garner me with lots of "I wish I had one of those" looks from coworkers and the general public???
Smarts in the US? Bring 'em on!
Posted by Dr.Ruth (3 comments )
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