Smart Car? Yes or No?


The first model of the Smart car will be available to buy here in the US the first part of the year. Right now, a Smart Car is on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. They are relatively inexpensive (the smart fortwo will start at $11,590), gas efficient (40 city/45 highway), enjoys a top speed of 90 mph,and is just plain CUTE!

Everyone I talk to about this new car company, which is a joint venture between Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, tell me they plan to buy one. The main reason they give is that the car is “green,” easy to park, and so very cool. Add in the low price tag, the press hype, and it is easy to predict that you will soon see Smart Cars zooming around town everywhere.

But what about safety?? According to the Smart car website, the vehicles are “designed to achieve a 4-Star crash rating in the U.S.” They will also come equipped with 4 airbags, and are engineered with a “tridion safety cell” to keep the occupants safe.

Many people are not yet sold on the car’s safety. An article on the NPR website states that “Many drivers will also wonder about safety. The car has four air bags and has done reasonably well in European crash tests. But at 1,600 pounds, the Smart will be the lightest car on American roadways, where there are far more sport utility vehicles. ”

This viewpoint is bound to be unpopular with all the Smart car fans, so feel free to share how you feel about the ” safety factor.” All reasonable viewpoints are welcome, flamers will be deleted.


20 thoughts on “Smart Car? Yes or No?

  1. I agree with you. I’d consider buying one possibly for in-town driving and just to save fuel (and I’ll add that I am NOT on the global warming bandwagon although I do believe we should better conserve resources). But there’s no way that this car is as safe as the Acura TL that I currently drive. In the long run I just don’t believe Americans in general will accept the safety trade-off. Young people may like it for it’s cool and cost but once they get married and have kids their priorities will change.

  2. I have a 2006 Kia Spectra and love it. Looking at these little things I have to wonder how they would come up against say……..a Full sized pick up or an SUV in a crash test!

  3. I agree. I had a very small compact car with fantastic mileage when I lived in Philadelphia. It was easy to manuever etc. I moved to the midwest land of SUV’s, Hummers and mega trucks and it just wasn’t safe. Not only from a crash factor but from a I just can’t make it through the snow because it sat too low to the ground.

  4. The safety rating applies to whatever size of car. It’s to do with strength not size.
    MY DD has a tiny town car, she gets over 65 mpg on a long trip and about 45mpg on short ones.
    And in answer to Jan, just don’t use your smart car when the snow is around.
    No excuses.
    It can ony be a matter of time until the US pays the same for fuel as the rest of the world. Perhaps attitudes will change when fuel prices become a major factor in peoples lives.
    Yes, it will affect the economy, but what good is a short term healthy economy if we kill the planet.
    Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but when I studied the environment at college, it was thought we had a couple of hundred years before we were in the state we are in now with the ice caps melting. Time has run out.

  5. I love the idea of these cars but also have some concerns regarding their safety. I read somewhere that the somewhat egg shaped cage built around the passengers as well as the airbag features are what really provide it with any safety.

    The egg shape is supposed to be quite strong and the cage works on the same concept as the cage that protects race car drivers. How many of these guys now survive crashes at top speeds that they couldn’t have in the cars of old?

    HOWEVER, they don’t typically have a semi or SUV coming at them in a move that would no doubt decapitate them due to the height differences. 😦

    Still, as a short distance in-town commuter car, it might be just the ticket. 😉

    Sure wish the other auto manufacturers would present us with more AFFORDABLE alternatives NOW and not wait until they have to because $5/gal gas forces their hand.

  6. Here in CA, we pay the highest gas prices in the US. Of course, those reading this who live in AU, Britain, and abroad would laugh at the prices we pay per gallon, I’m sure. Sally, you are in the UK, right?

    I would LOVE for there to be more research into non-oil based auto alternatives. I would really enjoy to have a 40, 50, or higher mpg.

    The Smart car fits in in Europe, where smaller cars seem to be the norm. Here in the US, land of semis, pickup trucks, and SUV’s, I’d hate to take a chance in a car:car collision.

    Next viewpoint?

  7. Define “safety”. There are two types; active and passive. In a small, light car, the laws of physics mean there is less inertia at work each time you brake, accelerate, or go through a corner. Therefore, a smart fortwo is, from an active safety standpoint, safer than a 5,000 pound SUV, as you are more likely to be able to AVOID an accident in the first place. The SUV has more passive safety — if you are blind-sided by a truck you are more likely to survive.

    IMHO, people who look to maximize passive safety are making a mistake. The single biggest thing you can do to protect you and your passengers is to take an advanced highway driving course at one of the many racing schools (Bondurant, Barber, Russell). Avoiding an accident is, by far, the best way to keep safe…

  8. Me again.
    Yes I’m in the UK and we pay about £1 per litre.
    That’s just about $8 per US gallon. And even that really doesn’t pay for the damage to the environment.
    Back to the strength issue. A small ‘cage’ round the passenger can provide better protection than a big cage spanning greater distances. I won’t go into the physics but it really can be safer in some little cars than some of the bigger ones. If you have two exceptionally heavy vehicles in a head on, it’s far worse for both than an accident where one is smaller. The energy in the impact is far less.
    We’ve had Smart cars and little town cars around for a few years now, if there were a safety problem, believe me European safety laws would have picked it up way before now. Most families who own them are at least two car families. The little car gets used as a run around for short trips and the bigger one for longer journeys, say anything over 40 minutes. This is mainly from a comfort point of view.
    And now I’ll be quiet……

  9. I welcome all points of view. Brt, you wouldn’t have an engineering background?

    I appreciate your discussion about passive vs active safety, I guess it all depends on which side of the steering wheel you are on.

    Would you happen to have stats on how many auto accidents are active versus passive in the US?

    Sally and Brt, thanks for your input into this topic.

  10. Let me add that I welcome all REASONABLE points of view. Flaming points of view will be deleted.

    So far, I thought that Brt and Sally had some valid points. Reasoned individuals may even make me change my mind.

    This is a very attractive car, no doubt. I also like the price tag and the gas mileage.

  11. You could probably look up some statistics from European countries and see how these cars have fared. They were all over Italy when I was there in 2001, and the Italians drive at break-neck speed everywhere! I haven’t heard of horrible accidents and an amazing death toll from these cars there, and they’ve been driving them for a long time.


  12. I LOVE these little cars. There was an article in the newspaper about these last week —- I WANT one, I thought it was so cute I cut the picture out of the newspaper and have it hanging on my bulletin board. My son commutes to community college 100 a day, and on average, he and I put about 600 miles on my poor Honda a week. I think this would be perfect for people who do alot of driving. Although I don’t think DS would be thrilled with having to drive it, he hates even driving my car (in his opinion the only real cars are the big old ones, he drives a big old 76′ Chevelle) .


  13. I have heard that the actual mileage is not really that great, for such a tiny car. For example, a friend of mine was recently car shopping and claimed that her 10-year-old Saturn got almost 40mpg. I think she ended up with a new Honda that is also pretty small, but at least she can fit her groceries into it. I don’t know what the mileage on the Honda is supposed to be, but I think it is comparable to the Smart Car.

    Also, after I saw “Who Killed the Electric Car” over a year ago, I swear I was looking at websites that included one for the Smart Car, and I thought it was already being sold here in the US then. Was I hallucinating?

    Personally, I’m waiting for the plug-in car or the ones that run on biofuel made from garbage

  14. Oops, I just realized I must have messed up the numbers on that post. Okay, her old Saturn got something like 30-35mpg (does that sound feasible?) and the true MPG on the Smart Car is not as high as they claim. Plus, her main comparison was to new cars, and the Smart Car just didn’t have that much to offer — a lot of new cars get pretty good mileage.

    But the mileage numbers are probably inflated for all new cars, anyway, that’s what I read somewhere (Consumer Reports?)

  15. Hi Mary, I did see on one website where a company in the midwest was importing the European smartcar, so I’m sure there must be others. Of course, they were charging more $$ than the US Smart Car is said to be.

    The MPG on the Smart Car seem to be less that of the Toyota Prius. The price tag on the Prius is higher, of course.

  16. Hey Carla. There are many of these turning in up in our parts on the central coast. I for one have been eyeing them just for jaunts round town. We decided against the Commuter Hybrids due to cost ratios, gas savings VS maintenance and inflated price tags. But this little car would be a get Pismobile! ( in the running is also the Vespa Scooter:), Walt says…………. you’ll shoot your eye out! LOLOL

  17. This is the first time that Daimler is selling the smart fortwo in the U.S (under the distributor smart USA). The cars that were here before this launch have been imported and cost roughly double what they cost here.

    The fuel economy was 40/45 under 2007 EPA standards, but because 2008 is tested more strictly, the fuel economy now is 33/41. That is the best gas mileage for a gasoline-powered car. Of course the Prius get a little more (not as much as last year because of new standards), but let’s remember that that is a hybrid! And of course much more expensive!!!

  18. We’ve had Smart Cars here for awhile and I have to say they look so small and to me vulnerable esp when I see them on the highway next to the many many transport trucks on the road (tractor trailers I think they are called in the States). Maybe they’d be a good idea for tooting around town but I sure prefer my mini van when all my girls are with me 🙂

  19. The U.S. government will test the smart car after it arrives on the market. Builders predict it will receive four out of five stars in American crash tests. European models recently received four out of five stars in Euro New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests.

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