Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: New Brunswick, NJ, USA
The Smart Car: better mileage and amazingly good crash protection
For people who have been intrigued by the Smarcar when it was first announced in 2007, it is made by Mercedes, has a turbocharged cdi 45 hp diesel version that can get up to 80 mpg and emit less carbon dioxide than any other current production car (Source
Do you need a hybrid to get mega-mileage? Well, maybe not. Mercedes-Benz says that its new smart fortwo cdi – an 1800 pound, 106 inch long car with a top speed of 85 mph – gets nearly 80 mpg. For perspective, consider that driving this two-passenger car 10,000 miles annually requires only 16 fill-ups during the course of the year. Amazing. Plus, along the way the smart fortwo’s 45-horsepower, three-cylinder diesel engine emits less carbon dioxide per mile than any current production car.
Located in the rear, the 799 cc turbocharged engine is the world's smallest direct-injection diesel engine. This new light alloy engine represents a 10 percent increase in power and torque as well as a 13 percent decrease in fuel consumption. Two-phase fuel injection, like that used in Mercedes-Benz C engines, injects a small amount of fuel a few milliseconds before the main injection to ignite and preheat the combustion camber. This results in a noticeably quieter combustion noise level.
Emissions are handled in two stages. Common-rail injection and extremely efficient combustion result in a low level of untreated emissions. Up to 60 percent of the previously-cooled exhaust gas is returned to the combustion chambers where it is combusted once again, greatly reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. An oxidation catalytic converter and an open diesel particle filter are responsible for exhaust gas aftertreatment.
A micro-computer controls the whole engine-transmission system, calculating how much fuel is needed along with pilot and main injection intervals. An automated manual five-speed transmission is standard and is operated by briefly tapping the shift lever on the center console. Steering wheel shift paddles are optional, as is an automatic transmission mode.
Anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability program, brake assist, full-size airbags for driver and passenger, safety seats with integral seat belts, and a sturdy tridion safety cell make the fortwo the safest car in its class. All this is wrapped in available coupe and cabrio versions to fit different tastes, providing all the more reason for buyers to consider this stylish, pint-size wonder.
All this is good news and bad. The 2008 smart fortwo models coming to America early next year are powered by gasoline engines only. They will still get an impressive 40 mpg, but since that?s only half as much as the cdi version available in Europe, there clearly will be clamoring to bring the diesel model to American highways.
However, the Smartcar that is available in the U.S. has a gasoline engine and only 33 mpg in town and 40 mpg on the highway.
Those who have followed the development of Daimler AG's tiny and trendy microcar, the smart (lower case intentional), have surely wondered about this vehicle's safety. Now they need wonder no more. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently crash tested the 2008 smart fortwo and found it performed so well it earned the Institute's best ratings for front and side crash protection. Plus, its rear crash worthiness was rated as "acceptable," the Institute's second-highest rating.
The good news is that, other than the odd transmission feel, the smart fortwo drives remarkably well. The 12.8 second 0-60 mph time won't set any pulses racing, but we didn't have any trouble getting the smart up to speed when merging onto the highway. Once there, the cabin remains notably quiet, and even with the 1.0-liter engine working hard, very little engine buzzing gets through. The car feels a bit twitchy and exhibits a slight yawing motion at certain speeds - both products of the short 73.5 inch wheelbase and a good argument for keeping both hands on the wheel. While the smart seemed happy enough to cruise along relatively peaceful Highway 280 and flirt with its 90 mph top speed, a drive through Los Angeles in rush hour traffic would be a better test of the smart's highway credentials.
Of course, in the city, the smart fortwo is in its element. The car is unbelievably maneuverable, able to slip past obstacles, and make turns that simply are impossible in larger cars. Driving the smart requires readjusting one's spatial expectations. We almost invariably found ourselves with a foot to spare, even in what we thought were the tightest situations. Needless to say, parking is a cinch. Currently, smart is working with municipalities around the country to ensure drivers won't be ticketed for pulling off a park job perpendicular to the curb; so far, they say, the response has been positive. For those who do most of their driving in the city, the smart will have immediate appeal.
Efficiency is another area where small has a distinct advantage. Relying only on the principle of small displacement and low mass, the smart fortwo delivers 33 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, according to 2008 EPA standards. For the benefit of those not used to the EPA's revised standards for 2008, smart representatives are quick to point out that the smart would have achieved 40/45 mpg under the 2007 provisions. In any case, those are good numbers, if perhaps not as high as some might expect for such a phenomenally small car. The 10 gallon (8.7 gallon plus 1.3 gallon reserve) fuel tank offers a respectable range. One bummer: smart recommends premium 91 octane fuel to maximize power and efficiency, though it will get by on regular. On the plus-side, low exhaust emissions earn the fortwo an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) classification.
In practice, users report 42-43 mpg and a zippy feel although sluggish on hills (Source
). It has the lowest CO2 emission of 88 g/km. The other amazing thing is that the smart car is very roomy and can hold very large people (Source
). The 2009 price is almost as small as the car. The 2009 Smart fortwo coupe Pure is $11999. The 2009 Smart Fortwo Passion is $13999. The 2009 Smart Fortwo cabriolet is $16999. (Source
). Finally, there are rumors of an electric smart car coming out in 2010 (Source
Despite all these attractive features, the Minicooper continues to hold the crown for the slow-depreciating car in Great Britain (Source