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Soooo cute, but is it Smart for Florida?

        The first time I saw this tiniest of tiny cars, the Smart Fortwo, I wondered whether I could shove it over on its side all by myself. A female colleague at the Herald, at first sight, excitedly just wanted "to hug it."  And a male colleague, having taken it for a spin, came back to report: "It's a babe magnet!''

       Such are a sampling of the varied reactions the 2008 SmartForTwo will trigger. Some folks still aren't certain exactly what it is: "Is that one of those half-electric cars?" a bewildered Civic owner asked at a gas station. "Does it get, like, 60 miles a gallon?

Smartfortwo       The answer to both questions is no. It is gas-powered, all three cylinders and 70 horses of it. And mileage is likely to be between 33 and 43 mpg, not quite as impressive as one might expect from a toy-like machine. And nowhere have I seen an explanation as to why this little 1.0-liter engine-that-could (barely) can't come up with better mileage figures. No kidding, a 10-year-old Honda Civic can match it.

       There are some niceties about the Smart, which is Daimler's attempt to sell Europe's version of cute and economical to Americans tired of big, gas-sucking SUVs. But let's cut to the chase: You can park the Smart in a closet.

       One recent evening my neighborhood's roads were being repaved and everyone had to clear the driveways and squeeze somewhere on a street or swale. Piece of cake; you could park this jitterbug in a mailbox.

       The Smart is so small I missed it, peering from my upstairs window, when it first was delivered to the driveway.

       That brings me to nicety No. 2: a surprising interior. From the inside, it feels like a totally different, much larger car. You can't imagine this is the same golf cart you were just looking at in the driveway. Even six-foot-plus types will have no complaints with the legroom, headroom and shoulder room.

       Visibility out the huge windows is excellent. Open the gigantic sunroof, which makes up most of the dinky top, and you can see the world.

        It's also good-looking inside, with two-tone color combinations and quality materials.

        Cargo space, though, is about the size of a big suitcase. I read where one new owner said it was fine for he and his dog. Well, better avoid the big economy bags of Alpo for old Fido. There are a mere 12 cubic feet of space behind the two seats, and that's if you stack to the ceiling. 

        Access to the rear is gained through a window that flips up and tailgate that pulls down, much like the old station wagons. The rear window on the test car rattled a bit on bumpy roads.

        There also are some not-so-niceties about the Smart. With its limited herd of horses and torque that tops out at just 68 foot-pounds, it is slow from the get-go, even shudders a bit at the initial acceleration. Shifting of the five-speed automatic is sluggish and tedious, actually lurching the car forward each time it grabs.

        Once it labors through the gears, however, it is able to keep up with the traffic and is quite tolerable even at 70-75 mph. The speed is electronically controlled at 90 mph and can't imagine it has much more in it anyway.

        The wind has its way with the Smart, not much of a surprise considering its lack of aerodynamics. At 164 inches long and 61 inches high and wide, it is shaped like a big snowball. The two doors occupy most of its length.

        One reasonable question Smart Fortwo owners are sure to hear: "Is that thing safe?"

        Surprisingly, it is safer than you might think. It's packed with safety technology like front and side air bags and stability and traction control systems. And, its unit-body "steel cage'' of a cabin reportedly has performed well in crash tests.

        The Fortwo base is called the Pure, which comes in around $12,000. Next comes the better-equipped Passion. There also is a convertible for another $3,000 or so.

        Does the pint-size Smart have a future in the land of big cars, big buffets and big egos? Well, it seems to be off to a good start as many have plopped down the $99 deposits.

        But it faces a challenge, I believe, in the U.S. and South Florida. It can serve a niche for short-trips in small towns where in-town parking is a hair-tugging event. But in this land of highways, shopping malls and sprawling parking lots, it makes less sense.

        Cute? Sure. I'll get back to you on the "babe-magnet'' thing.    
   

Base Price: $12,235

As Tested (Smart Fortwo Passion): $14,235

   

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Eddy

The car would be perfect in Key West and maybe the beach but dont put it on I-95 or the Turnpike it would get crushed!

ed ochoa

Your kidding right, $12,000 for that garbage? way over priced, and way to little gas ,ileage to risk your life in that little thing, your better off buying a $900 scooter

ed ochoa

Your kidding right, $12,000 for that garbage? way over priced, and way to little gas ,ileage to risk your life in that little thing, your better off buying a $900 scooter

ed ochoa

Your kidding right, $12,000 for that garbage? way over priced, and way to little gas ,ileage to risk your life in that little thing, your better off buying a $900 scooter

Frances

I own a 2008 Smart and drive it I-95 everyday from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. This little car handles very well on the expressway. Also, my Smart is averaging 45-47 mpg. We have driven it up to Orlando for under $60.00 of gasoline.
I love my Smart.

ForrestGump

Get a good pair of sneeks. They'll take you as far as you want to go w/ no gasoline required!

George

One important fact is missing: The car REQUIRES PREMIUM GAS........

Benjamin

There's a diesel version in Europe that gets close to 80 mpg. I have no idea why they don't bring that out over here, even if diesel is a bit more expensive. You're getting 100% better gas mileage while paying only 20% more for diesel fuel...

The other thing I don't understand is how a tiny car like this with a tiny engine barely beats a stock civic or corolla when it comes to mileage. You get half the car (two seats only, half the power, etc) for almost the same money, and you don't even get 50 mpg!

I like the concept and idea of the Smart, but not the execution of it - at least not here in the States.

ROBERT

I read the car report in motor trend mag, a few months back....it was pretty much the same as you say on your report,they complained alot on the transmission ,lack of power was another issue they had a gripe with..it's a shame because I personally think it's a cool car..if not for those 2 main issues , I would really consider one....

KeithM

The Smart gets better mileage than any non-hybrid in the USA.

The smart gets 25 percent better fuel economy than the gas Civic and mileage comparable to the Civic hybrid (40/45) at nearly half the price.

Trunk Space:
2008 Civic = 12 Ft
2008 Smart = 12 Ft

Fuel Economy:
2008 Civic = 26 / 34
1998 Civic = 25 / 33

2008 Smart = 33 / 41

source: www.fueleconomy.gov

ron

We 1st drove the Smart Car while on holiday in Vienna about 8 yrs ago, loved it then. Ordered the "Passion" (upgraded model with a/c, power windows, etc.) 5/27/07 and rec'd delivery up in Jax on 6/27/08. Love it, and drive it on I95 all the time. Have had it up to 85 mph just for a cpl of minutes & held the road quite well. We live on Anastasia Island (a.k.a. St. Augustine Beach). Maybe the writer didn't like it but you know have to wait about 18 months for one or buy it on Ebay for a huge premium. Small cars like the Smart Car are here to stay. We have a Toyota Avalon for any trips with baggage or taking grand kids out.

elpirata1

I wonder what the occupants will look like when involved with a semi, bus, or SUV. I seen these cars while living in Europe,they are great for European roads and highways, but forget USA,especialy in Miami where people here have no common sense while driving.

Mr. Right

yuck

karen

There is a Company called Wise Gas Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida(www. wisegasinc. com) and we are in the business of developing the Natural Gas market in Florida. Whether you are looking at purchasing (Honda Civic GX) or converting your own vehicle, a fleet of vehicles, have an interest in owning a public fueling station or a home unit to pump fuel from home, Wise Gas Inc. will be able to assist you.


I am here to tell all Floridians that since we have Natural Gas already running to most of our businesses and homes why not take advantage of what nature had intended. Get wise in saving time and money at the pumps.


In most states Natural gas prices are less than a $1 and the tax incentives are great on converting a vehicle, purchasing a Natural Gas car like the Honda Civic GX, pumping your own at home and owning a public station.


We will be listing soon the gas stations from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando.

Example: To fill up your tank is about $16 plus you can travel from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando on that tank which gives you 220 miles.


So why are you continuing to pay outrageous oil prices when we have Natural Gas available in Florida.


Thank You and Get Wise!

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