Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

Test Driving the Smart Car

November 8, 2007

So, we’re out in California driving and evaluating the new smart car. Our test drive routes took us around San Jose, Silicone Valley and the Stanford University campus.If I were to look into my crystal ball I would see smart becoming an immediate success in trendy urban markets. Young trendsetters will be clamoring to get their hands on one. Whether this cute little city car will have staying power in US markets is another matter. Only time will tell.I found its overall personality quirky and endearing and its aesthetics quite charming. Where ever we went it garnered a great deal of positive comment and attention. Enter upon the scene Roger Penske, who has dealerships in Brittan selling the smart as well as long established connections with Daimler-Benz, envisions a substantial market for smart here and is the US distributor.My co-driver and I are both rather portly fellows and together we’re about fifty pounds more than the rated capacity (463 lbs for the cabriolet, 507 for the coupe) of the smart fortwo cabrio. Nevertheless we squeeze into the red cabriolet with the power convertible top. In spite of our girth we have enough room to ride and drive comfortably. Regular sized people will find it downright roomy in there.Out on the road headed south the first thing we both notice, and the brunt of most criticism from the other journalists here, is the slowness and crudeness of the transmission - a tightly-packaged five-speed manual with electric shift. That means we have no clutch at our disposal. Powered by a little one-liter, 3-cylinder, 70-hp, normally-aspirated, gasoline engine, smart will do zero-to-60 in just less than 13-seconds with a top speed of 90-mph. The engine is mounted transversely, slanted at a 45-degree angle just ahead of the rear axle and drives the rear wheels.This is an economy car, after all. Fuel economy in 2008 methodology is rated at 33/40 which equates to 40/45 by 2007 standards. With an 8.7-gallon fuel tank we expect only about a 300-mile-plus range if we allow for the listed 1.3-gallon reserve.Smart fortwo is produced in an eco-friendly plant in Hambach, France. Water-soluble paints are used for smart’s three basic colors - black, white and yellow. And, smart is close to 100% recyclable, they contend.Prices begin for the smart fortwo ‘pure’ at $11,950. The ‘passion coupe’ starts at $13,950. And the ‘passion cabriolet’ starts at $16,590. They’ll begin being delivered to customers from dealers in fifty major cities in the US in January 2008. Reservations have been flowing in since June when the car was being paraded around the country for test drives. You may have seen them in your area. If you want to get on the list go to smartusa.com.
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