When people are thinking about making an expensive buying decision, especially with something as new and unusual as the smart car, they often want to know the pros and cons of the various options they are considering. This article will examine the pros and cons of a smart car.
There is no doubt that the smart fortwo car has its passionate supporters. Before it arrived in the United States in 2007, it had already enjoyed wild success in Europe over several years. But with its small size, there are also a number of concerns.
Pros of a Smart Car
There are many benefits to be considered; don’t let its small size fool you!
- Environmentally-friendly. Not only is this small car fuel-efficient, averaging around 40 mpg, but it has several other environmentally-friendly features as well. The smart fortwo car uses innovative energy-efficient and recyclable materials in its construction. In fact, 95% of the vehicle is recyclable and the dash material is made from recycled synthetics.
- Easy to park and drive. The smart car has a very small footprint. At less than 9 feet long, it’s nearly 3 feet shorter than the already diminutive Mini Cooper. Of course, a big reason for that is that it’s only a 2-seater. But the short size means this car is super easy to park, especially in tight spots or short spots where other cars wouldn’t fit. It’s also got a great turning radius that makes it very maneuverable.
- Appearance. No one can argue that the smart fortwo car is not unique in its design and appearance. See one, and you will never forget it, whether you like it or not! Many people’s first impression is that it is just so darn cute. When Mercedes Benz brought the smart fortwo car to the United States, they updated its image to be more cutting edge, with more chrome, a bit longer hood section and updated headlights and dashboard area. You can also change out the plastic body panels to give it a whole new color, or purchase a car wrap with some kind of unique print or design on it.
- Safety design. Most people’s first reaction when they see this tiny car is something along the lines of, “How could such a small car be safe on the road” However, what make the smart car so unique is Mercedes Benz attention to safety. From the innovative tridion safety cell, a sort of safety cage, to its 4 airbags and advanced braking system, the smart car is built for safety. Crash tests have consistently proved Mercedes’ safety claims. Anecdotal evidence, as published on the safeandsmart.com website, also supports those claims.
- Surprisingly roomy inside. Another surprising benefit of the smart car is its interior roominess. There is plenty of leg room for both driver and passenger. Head room is great too, with men as tall as 6’6″ fitting in the driver’s seat comfortably. The cargo area is also quite roomy for a small car. We fit a 50-pound black lab and 2 other dogs in our hatch when we go hiking. And we’ve toted home as many as 8 grocery bags and a case of soda when we go food shopping.
- Perfect commuter car. The smart fortwo car was originally designed as a “city car” for crowded European city-dwellers, and that is its greatest value in the United States, as well. It makes a great commuter car, with its roominess, solid gas mileage and zippy performance on the roads, not to mention ease of parking.
Cons of a Smart Car
Of course, no car is perfect for everyone, and this one is no exception. It does have a few features that could be improved, as well as some aspects that just make it the wrong choice for certain people.
- Size vs. other cars on the highway. Despite its considerable safety features, there is no question that the smart car is much smaller than just about every other vehicle on the highway. So, there is a good chance that if you are involved in an accident with a big SUV or truck, you might come out the loser. However, there are accounts of smart cars faring better than other larger vehicles in an accident. One advantage of its small footprint is that it might be able to avoid collisions that a larger vehicle could not.
- No cruise control. As mentioned above, the smart car was designed as a commuter, in-town type of car. Perhaps that’s why, despite a number of other high-end features, it lacks a cruise control option. If you do plan to travel in it or your commute involves highway driving, chances are you are going to miss having cruise control.
- Unusual transmission. Smart cars have what is termed an “automated manual transmission.” What that means is that you have an option between going completely automatic or using a modified manual transmission. Most people find that keeping it in automatic means slightly sluggish gear shifting. That is easily remedied, however, by switching to the automated manual mode. This is a clutch-less manual transmission, meaning you are in charge of using the stick shift or paddle shifters on the steering wheel to switch gears, but you don’t have to coordinate with a clutch. The manual mode is super easy to use, even if you’ve never driven a stick shift before, and provides for a much zippier gear-shifting experience.
- Limited passenger seating and cargo space. Smart cars only have 2 seats – the driver’s seat and one passenger seat. So they’re not meant to be family cars. And while the cargo hatch area is surprisingly roomy, it is still less than 8 cubic feet. So you won’t be hauling any lumber or large pieces of furniture in it.
- Gas mileage could be higher. For such a small car, you might expect the gas mileage to be much higher. However, the smart car was rated the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car in the United States by the EPA in 2010. And even at 40 MPG, it is considerably more fuel-efficient than most light trucks and SUVs on the road today.
- Requires premium fuel. The smart car requires premium fuel, which can be pricey, because of its small engine size. Smaller engines tend to perform better with a higher grade of fuel. You might consider its gas mileage to be the trade-off for the pricier gas.
In weighing the pros of a smart car against the cons, I find the pros win. For what it’s designed to be — a commuter vehicle for 1 or 2 people — the smart car is a great value with many added benefits. Could it be better? Sure, as with most products, there is definitely room for improvement. But, if you want a forward-thinking, unique and fuel-efficient small car, then I would definitely encourage you to consider the smart fortwo car.