Smart Car: How Smart Is It?

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The Smart Car is undoubtedly cute and novel, but is it a smart choice for drivers that are concerned about the environment as well as their wallet? We've given the Smart Car a lot of coverege here on TreeHugger (here, here, here, here, here and here, for instance), always evoking mixed reviews from our writers and readers alike. Eric Taub of the NY Times recently test drove the Smart Car ForTwo for two weeks on the streets of Los Angeles, and found the experience to be, well, mediocre. While he acknowledged that the car got him as much attention as the iPhone when it first came out, when it came time to take it on the roads the car underperformed in numerous ways.For one thing, although the Smart had no problem getting up to 80 MPH on the highway, "once at speed, the engine thrashed and the car was buffeted by the wake of passing tractor trailers, giving me pause when I thought about taking one hand off the wheel. The experience was akin to crossing the upper level of the George Washington Bridge in a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle on a windy day." Cornering wasn't much better, either: "the body roll was pronounced, causing a friend to reflexively grab the dash."

Perhaps the worst feature of the car was its acceleration, which Mr. Taub described as follows:

When accelerating, the dreadful 5-speed automated manual transmission shifts awkwardly and slowly. It may be enough to make you reach for the Dramamine: the engine temporarily slows as the car is about to upshift, jerking the driver forward and then back with each shift. Several times, my wife threatened to walk home.

The AC worked fairly well, but was extremely noisy. At least there was plenty of head room inside the car. However, In a city like Los Angeles, the car's diminutive size didn't provide much of an advantage, given the abundance of parking and the wide-open streets in the city.

Finally, the biggest disappointment came in the mileage department, where the writer averaged 32 miles per gallon for two tankfuls of gas, which is below the EPA's estimate of 36 m.p.g. for combined city/highway driving. Taub ends his article by asking "With its limited carrying capacity, seemingly mediocre fuel economy, erratic handling and fitful acceleration, one question that potential buyers in this part of the world should be asking is, what’s the point?"

Now, it should be kept in mind that the Smart was not really designed for going 80 MPH on the highway, nor is it meant to corner like a Porsche. What's more, the diesel version of the Smart gets far better fuel mileage--yet isn't available in the U.S. Still, it's hard to ignore the fact that for around the same price, a car such as the Toyota Yaris can beat the Smart on fuel economy, while offering better handling and more room for storage.

So we leave the question to you, readers: how smart is the Smart car?

Via: ::NY Times
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