"Smart" cars

I’ve seen quite a few of these bite-size cars in the southern part of Los Angeles County, where I live. Every time I see one I laugh. Does any of the Teeming Millions drive one or ride in one? How do you like it? :smiley:

I’ve ridden in, and driven one. It’s okay; certainly feels more substantial when you’re in it than it looks from the outside. Did freeway speeds (in the city and the 'burbs, at least) without any trouble. The transmission has a manual mode that would take some getting used to.

The biggest complaint I’ve read is that really aren’t as big a leap in efficiency as you’d expect, considering the size and the price.

My wife’s coworker let me drive his once. It felt very similar to the 3-cylinder automatic Chevy Sprint a friend had in high school, although that at least had a back seat and got 10 more MPG’s. I love funny little cars (that old Sprint had its charms), so I really wanted to like it, but alas, it’s pretty much just a boring driving appliance. I could see the appeal if they came with the 70 MPG diesel engine you can get in Europe, although that’s not even all that great by European standards. I could also maybe see the appeal of the convertible, although that has more to do with the dearth of small convertibles in the US than any particular quality of the smart.

They’re bigger in Europe, especially in cities where parking is usually a real bitch. If you sit in it, it feels like a real car, you have a lot more room than you’d think looking at it, but of course it’s missing a rear bench. (There is an abomination called the Smart forfour, but we do not speak of it.)

It’s true, though, it’s not the most fuel-efficient car, nor is it the cheapest. Remember, cars are different over here, on our streets it doesn’t look so ridiculously out place without all the Ford F250s around. (And also, Americans, what’s up with all those Scions? Yuck!)

:smiley: Hey, hey, hey… I drive an F250. Today I was mowing my lawn with a lawn tractor that looks bigger than these cars. NOW, if there were a 70mpg diesel engine version, then I might consider one. But for the price/mileage… they’re an expensive towner toy at best.

Scions are Japanese. I’d suggest asking them.

I found a really interesting article about why subcompact cars aren’t necessarily the most fuel-efficient. Aerodynamics are a big factor in fuel efficiency, and there is a limit on how short a car can be. Apparently the really tiny subcompacts aren’t as aerodynamic as a slightly-larger teardrop- or wing-shaped compact:

My wife has one and loves it, so I get to ride in one quite a bit.

It’s bigger in the inside than you would think, but not huge. There’s no back seat; it’s kind of a tiny hatchback. There’s plenty of room back there for all our luggage or a load of groceries.

It’s kind of loud on the highway. Lots of wind and road noise. It also makes this horrible screeching sound when it’s warming up that I’m told is completely normal but sets my teeth on edge.

I like to tease her about it and make tiny jokes. My favorite is that I’m afraid that if the airbag ever goes off, we’ll look like a giant kernel of popcorn bouncing down the road. :smiley:

Oh, and she gets about 46 mpg.

Speaking of Scions, the Scion IQ (sold elsewhere in the world as a Toyota) was just released in US, and most of the reviews of it basically say it is like the Smart car, but better in almost every way. BTW, Scion is the brand Toyota uses to market their “quirky” cars in the US with.

Of course, in the vast majority of the US their is little reason to purchase either car, as the better B segment vehicles (Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, the Hyundai/Kia Accent/Rio twins, ect) get close enough fuel economy, can carry a lot more stuff, cost about the same, and since parking spots are designed for all those F250s we have, are just as easy to park. Still, the IQ & Smart car do have a niche for people who live in say, New York or San Fransisco, or a few other urbane locals where the parking really sucks.

A European co-worker came to the States for a two year assignment and was given a choice of cars. He chose the Smartfortwo. The first day he is driving in town and a city bus pulls up next to him. He looks out and he is looking at the top of the bus tires. He freaked out and returned the car and got a Civic.

I have driven both the Honda Fit (as a rental) and Scion IQ (24 hour test drive). The Fit is 10X better. I got on the freeway in the IQ and merging into traffic was such a nightmare, I got off at the next exit. I drove home all the way on local roads, and drove on local roads all the way back to the dealer the next morning. You feel like your are in a beer can. You can feel the car being blown sideways by a large SUV passing it. Can’t imagine what an 18-wheeler would do.

Fair enough, but then why is everyone in SoCal and their mother driving one? They look so bizarre! Granted, I haven’t been to Japan in a while, so I don’t know how popular they are over there.

This was my experience with a Prius. I’m used to driving a relatively heavy full-size sedan, and it was unnerving to have to struggle a bit with the steering wheel when an SUV drove past.

What are you used to driving? I ask because the Prius, at about 3000 is a pretty heavy car. Accords, Impalas, and such are heavier, but only by about 400 or 500 lbs.

Assuming you mean the xB (the cube car that seems to be what most people think of when you say “Scion”), it’s actually a North America only car. What’s odd is that Nissan’s little cube car is wildly popular in Japan, but never really caught on here, wheras the xB has done quite nicely but Toyota hasn’t even bothered trying to sell it at home.

I drive a Prius, and it does get buffeted by strong crosswinds. But so does my Jeep Cherokee. There’s no ‘struggling with the steering wheel’ when merely being passed by a large vehicle.

The xB is sold in Japan as the Corolla Rumion.


I drove one a while back. Hated it. The build quality seemed poor, it had rattles and road noise you’d expect from a much older car.

The transmission is a joke, it is essentially a manual transmission that a computer controls(poorly). It never shifts when you expect it to, and will slam into gear sometimes. Manual mode is even worse, since you can’t control the clutch, it slips if you don’t let off the gas after every shift.

A Toyota Corolla is around the same price, and gets almost as many mpg(27/34 vs 33/39). A Corolla is faster, more reliable, (arguably) better looking, and safer in a crash. It also has rear seats and a trunk.

It’s easy to find parking spots when your car is tiny. Who cares what the fuel economy is - you have to be able to park the car when you get to your destination.

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that the Forfour was discontinued in 2006.