I reported earlier on this blog that I was trying out a couple micro-cars — the Smart Fortwo and the Scion iQ — to see whether I could recommend them for road trips. The answer: Yes, as long as they are short trips. Read the full story here. But first, here are a couple anecdotes:
The Smart Fortwo is slow with a clunky automatic transmission. I wanted to know just what it would do. I was at Sebring International Raceway on a weekday when the track had no events scheduled. A gate blocked access to the track, but a long, wide stretch of tarmac runs behind the grandstands — the racetrack started life as an air field — and I couldn't resist. I stomped on the accelerator and hoped no one in the track offices would notice.
The car slowly chugged along, hesitating each time it changed gears. It accelerated so slowly that I'm not even sure accelerating is the correct verb. By the time the car hit 45 mph, I was halfway to the exit and knew that no one was going to flag me down and tell me I couldn't race there because I still wasn't going fast enough for anyone to notice.
The Scion iQ, by contrast, is zippy. Not that I could roar away from a stop and pass a car that was accelerating. But it's also noisy -- so much so that Siri, the assistant in my iPhone, couldn't understand me over the constant buzz of the engine. It took three attempts before she understood I wanted her to send me a reminder that evening. Finally she got it and asked, "What should the reminder say?"
"I need to take my camera to work tomorrow."
" 'I hate to go to work tomorrow.' OK, I'll remind you."
Hmmm. Better not ask Siri to send a message to the boss when I'm in the iQ.