Thursday, April 2, 2009

That's Smart

Nice smile.

I dropped my car off at the dealer this morning for the 80,000 mile service. One of the perks when you spend big money is they provide you with a rental car. So after a few minutes, Penny from Enterprise arrived to set me up with a temporary ride.

The Enterprise office is at our local Mercedes dealer. While Penny got my paperwork going, I strolled around the showroom ogling the German iron. There was an SL65 AMG Black ($304,000!), a McLaren SLR convertible (used, low mileage creampuff), and a classic 300SL roadster set up for rallying. Dreams in metal.

Anyway, Penny tells me they have a Smart available or I can take a Chevy Impala. I had to think about it for a second before I chose the Smart. For those of you not up on your cars, the Smart is a two seat city car manufactured by Mercedes. It is powered by a rear mounted 3 cylinder motor and is short enough to park nose first against the curb. I've been wanting to drive one of these things for a long time.

The ignition key is between the seats next to the shift lever (like a Saab). I got it started and discovered the Smart is tough to drive smoothly around town. The transmission shifts very slowly which saps forward momentum. It's worse when you are going slow so you just have to put the boot to it. The brakes are a little grabby but you'd probably get used to them with more time in the car.

On the freeway, the things goes surprisingly well. Eighty miles an hour is no problem but seventy seems to be the sweet spot. The ride is pretty stiff and it wanders a little bit, but that is due to the short wheelbase. It's so little you can zip in and out of traffic with no problem. You can pass cars and drive up hills without losing too much speed. You're not stuck in the slow lane watching the world pass you by. The motor is a bit loud and sounds like a tractor but it has decent power.


The Smart is strictly a two-seater. The front seats remind me of Tab's old VW bug. You're going to rub shoulders with your passenger but there is plenty of head and leg room. You sit kind of high in the car and there is no height adjustment (that I could find). It feels a little weird.

There's an engine down there.

The rear luggage compartment is large enough for two people to go on a week long road trip if they don't bring bicycles and surfboards. Forget about packing a stroller.

No tachometer.

The interior looks good and is put together nicely. It's very distinctive and stylish.

The best part is how little space this car takes up. You can touch the back window while sitting in the driver's seat. This would be a perfect commuter car for someone who has a relatively short drive.

Would I buy one? Probably not. I've got two little kids to ferry around and a 65 mile (one-way) commute. I see this car as being a great choice for empty nesters and people without children. If they could squeeze in two more seats and make it only slightly larger, then I might think about it.


Is it safe? It's probably as safe as can be for a car so small. It's got airbags tucked in everywhere and a high strength steel safety cage. Top Gear in England crashed one into a concrete barrier at 70 miles an hour and it held up very well. Just remember there is always a larger vehicle waiting to crash into you. It's better to avoid the accident in the first place.


brian said...

Blogger said...

With RentalCars you can get the cheapest rental cars from over 49,000 locations globally.