I was happy to read an article in Salon announcing the full scale launch of Mercedes’ Smart Car. I saw my first Smart Car a little over a year ago in Lisbon. When I got home I priced what was available then and found that by the time required safety features like air bags were added the price had popped up to around 15 K.
I suspect this was due to the after-production cost of adding the government-required features. With those features added by Mercedes in the factory the reported base price will be $11,600.(Lots of luck to you buying one at that price.)
Small cars have always appealed to me and I have never felt unsafe diving one, or been bothered by fairly pedestrian performance. I’m just not a car nut. When I dream high performance I dream of sophisticated motorcycles, however impossible the dream. (A street legal high-performance sidecar would be nice the next time I have a spare 35 grand.)
My first car was a 1948 Crosley, in which two friends and I took a post high school road trip. The Crosley story is quite remarkable as are the engineering details of this nice little car. The picture comes from a great Crosley web site.
Like nearly half the world I owned a VW Beetle in the 60’s, but what was probably a more interesting vehicle was the slab-sided Citroen 2cv, affectionately known as the Deux Chevaux. It was very popular with adventure drivers who really loved the little car in back country conditions. (Front wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension.)
And now, the Smart Car. There are a number of critical comments posted on the Salon article, but my own observation is that the shorter length (8.8 feet long -- a whopping total of 106 inches. It's 5.1 feet tall and just as wide) won’t do you much good in locations where the parking is marked off and metered for bigger cars. I doubt that Rita, the lovely meter maid, is going to let you get away with nosing two Smarts into one space.
40 MPG doesn’t seem too hot a ticket, either. My full sized 2003 Corolla gets about 32 in the city and has been known to sip gas at the rate of 39 to 40 mpg on the interstates.
I think I’d rather own a Mini.