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Smart Fortwo Mini-Cars, The Shape of Things to Come?
When the Mercedes Smart ForTwo micro car starts arriving in America in January 2008, it will create a new sub-subcompact segment.
This is a niche market specialty car for urban situations where parking is tight and expensive.
Those looking to make a green statement will find the 8-foot, 8-inch Smart ForTwo gets more attention than the increasingly common hybrids. This car is more than three feet shorter than the Mini-Cooper: those who call it a “golf cart” are not cut off by much.
Want to turn heads? Just back your Smart car straight into the curb like a motorcycle instead of parallel parking. Two can fit in an ordinary parking space.
With a surprisingly large interior (for 2), Smart cars are expected to appeal to urbanites in San Francisco, Manhattan, and other congested cities on both coasts.
The majority of the smaller cars sold in the US were cheap, mostly built in Korea.
The Mini Cooper and Toyota Scion have shown there is a growing market for quality small cars.
And ForTwo is diminutive. Weighing 1,800 pounds and powered by a 70 hp three-cylinder rear-mounted engine, the Smarts reach a maximum speed of 90 mph after considerable coaxing.
2008 EPA fuel economy ratings are 33 city/40 highway.
Performance is not impressive: 0-60 km/h in 12.8 seconds.
Penske Automotive Group, the second-largest dealer chain, contracted to distribute the Smart and engaged 73 dealers nationwide.
Europeans drove Smarts for more than ten years, during which time around 800,000 were sold in 36 nations.
The version set up for export to America will be made in France.
Mr. Penske intends to sell a minimum of 30,000 ForTwos in 2008.
Although this seems ambitious and well-established Mini makes only about 38K, thirty thousand potential buyers have already put a $ 99 refundable deposit.
Mercedes designed this roller skate to overcome the safety hurdles every mini-car faces.
Crash tests, and videos available online, show the 4-2 is safer than other small cars, especially those made in China.
In extensive crash tests the steel safety cage surrounding the passenger compartment resisted deformation.
The inexpensive car has standard safety features ordinarily found in luxury cars; four airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and collapsible steering column.
The US government will test the Smart car after it hits the market. Builders predicts it will receive four out of five stars in American crash tests.
The European model recently received four out of five stars in the Euro New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests.
The Smart is delivered in three affordable trim levels: the base Pure level, which at $11,590 does not have air conditioning and radio; Passion $13,590; and the $16,590 Passion Cabriolet convertible.
And hey, it’s hip. Smart already has environmental brand image competitors trying to buy and advertise.
Tired of the color? Just unscrew the plastic body panels and replace with the ones in full color.
Will the market keep Smart, which has never been profitable, after the new one ends?
Yes, it’s hip, fuel efficient, and cost effective. But the “Smart” may not be the automotive form of the future.
Designers made compromises in order to meet safety standards: occupants ride high, at eye level with other traffic.
The vertical stance distributes crash energy under the car. This creates a large boxy frontal area that hurts fuel efficiency.
Smart’s very high drag coefficient of 0.38 causes fuel economy to drop in proportion to speed faster than other designs.
While the ForTwo could be a start towards a spatially efficient America, the gas mileage is not significantly higher than Honda and Toyota 4 seater cars.
With the 2008 Chevy Corvette’s 505 horsepower, 40 mpg for a highway, 40 mpg for a microcar hardly qualifies as progress.
In 1966 I bought a 1958 Morris Minor 1000 to drive in high school. It was originally designed in 1948. The Morris was hip, cheap, and fuel efficient.
This 60-year-old design also went 40 miles on a gallon of gas.
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