CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Smart Car death wish

The Smart may have a stubby hood, but there isn’t much under it but air. It’s safety in a frontal crash is OK. From the rear, not so great, because the engine is right behind you. It sits pretty low so probably pushes under the passenger cell, but I like my legs and feet and want to keep them. And in side crashes, these are not going to be good. Not much structure or space bwtween you and what’s hitting you.

But my real problem is that the gas mileage is ho-hum and the performance terrible. You could probably get equivalent mileage and performance from an Acord if you gave it a smaller engine. The Smart should be getting 50mpg routinely. With acceptable performance.

I see a lot of them here in San Francisco, but they do make some sense for people who have to park on the street. Every block has a couple of spaces between driveways that are too small for normal cars, but a Smart fits just fine. That saves having to circle the block and lets you park near homem Sometimes an IQ or Fiat 500 will also fit in those spots, but sometimes just a Smart. I suppose if all your driving is short distances on city streets the performance limitations wouldn’t be too bothersome, but I wouldn’t want a freeway commute in one.

The electric smart is apparently available to order here in the US for $25,000+options before the $7,500 tax credit. Mainly CA and Oregon on the west coast and selected states in the Northeast. Supposed to be available nationwide early next year. A Leaf or a Prius makes more sense for my needs but then people were paying 25k+ for gray market regular smart cars a few years ago.

I agree about the Smart car’s relatively bad fuel economy

A Camry Hybrid and a Fusion Hybrid both get excellent fuel economy, and are more comfortable

If you need excellent fuel economy, but you don’t need a tiny car, don’t get the Smart

The Smart car reminds me of the Isetta of the late 1950s. A local drug store chain had a contest where the prize was an Isetta. An older couple won the car and immediately traded it for a new Chevrolet. The daughter of the Chevrolet dealer drove the Isetta to school for a while. I thought the Isetta wasn’t a very safe car, even for neighborhood use. I don’t think the Smart is much better in the safety department.

The Smart For Not That Many cars are good for nothing more than inner city travel. And then they are still dangerous.

Regarding death wishes, about a year before the Smarts went on sale in the U.S. I was south of Fort Worth, TX and saw a strange looking car approaching from the other direction on the Interstate.

As it went by I could see that it was a Smart that was either a promotional vehicle or some kind of test bed; painted in a bright Lemon yellow and bright blue. There was script on the door but I had no time to read it due to speed and distance.

This car was doing Interstate speeds and the death wish (to me anyway) was this gigantic wing on the back which would have put one on a Top Fuel dragster to shame. That wing was taller than the roof of the car and protruded out about a foot or better on each side.
I can’t imagine what crosswinds or a passing semi would do to a wing that dwarfed the car or why this was even attempted.

Alaska plates mean something on that car. Many “Alaskans” don’t live there in the winter. Those people are supposed to be kind of rich so it is puzzling that they drive one of those things unless it’s a towed one on the back of an RV.

I think from long ago HS physics and evolutionary biology, The SMART Car, sprouts wings when launched into the air and bleeds off energy by doing a series of acrobatic maneuvers.

@db4690

He was heading north towards Findlay, Ohio, perhaps onto Michigan and beyond, I dunno.

I was thinking that maybe he puts it in the back of his truck and runs around town with it up there. I wouldn’t want a car like that if I lived in Alaska, the ground clearance alone would make it worthless in winter time.

Agree with @MarkM. It is impossible to build a short car that gets as good gas mileage as a similar car of the same design that is longer. It’s their poor aerodynamics. SMART CARs are city cars only. Anyone who thinks they get better mileage then a bigger car and buys them with that expectation… is dumb; not smart. I think of them as 4 place motorcycles.

I think of them as 4 place motorcycles.
I thought they only seated two.

Hence the name, 4 place motorcycles…besides, what I think of them as has nothing to do with what they actually are. But, it does have to do with how I would treat them on the highway; unprotected modes of transportation that deserve special consideration in avoiding contact act with my SUV. And, considering their weight, aren’t that efficient.
http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?p=4+seat+motorcycle&back=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%3Fei%3DUTF-8%26p%3D4%2Bseat%2Bmotirvycle%26fr%3Dipad&w=640&h=478&imgurl=farm7.staticflickr.com%2F6222%2F6866239468_9b0e8b0409_z.jpg&size=229KB&name=6866239468_9b0e8b0409_z.jpg&rcurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flickr.com%2Fphotos%2Fhershman%2F6866239468%2F&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flickr.com%2Fphotos%2Fhershman%2F6866239468%2F&type=&no=1&tt=115&oid=63827b60fda09d3e6d01d874bc1fab12&tit=Four+seat+motorcycle+|+Flickr+-+Photo+Sharing!&sigr=11h4j06hq&sigi=11nmkau86&sigb=123dffg7t&fr=ipad

I believe Smart also sells a “+2” model. It weeds the gene pool twice as fast.

Then I’ll look at it like a six passenger motorcycle.

On the subject of aerodynamics,is there a way to employ a dynamic system that would help the drag on something as un aerodynamic as that? It seems that nature has already solved the problem of hydrodynamic drag with fish,have you ever noticed how fish can hold station in a strong current with the merest movement of thier fins?
On the subject of the SmartCars not spectacular economy,is there a certain mininum, mass,Cd,etc; thats a baseline or a bottom line,of vehicles that operate within the constraints or parameters of cars?As some Folks have already noted, several compact cars approach the economy of these little jewels . I guess in a roundabout way what I’m trying to say is,is there a particular formulae or algorithm for economy,using gasoline as the fuel?-Kevin

For fuel economy, Cd is usually the most important parameter, followed by weight. The lowest Cd ever achieved by a production car was .195 for GM’s EV1 electric car.

The Smart ForTwo Cd is listed as .29 on their website. Its main drag defect is a high roofline with a sharp dropoff in back, with no smooth transition such as a boattail that would reduce/eliminate turbulence in back. Compare its shape to the EV1 and you’ll see the difference.

@Jesmed,thanks-would you happen to know the Cd of the first Honda “Insight” autos?(they looked pretty aerodynamic)-Kevin

@kmccume
There is little that short cars can do to make up for the simple fact…they are short. Boats with displacement hulls, longer boats move though the water more efficiently then shorter ones with the same hull design. It has something to do with the distance between the bow and the stern wake that non planing boats cannot overcome.

This same factor in air I believe exists as well. Longer planes are more efficient, longer cars are as well. If you compare highway mileages of shorter vs longer cars, it becomes obvious. Short cars ( motor cycles as well) are less efficient for their weight. That does not mean they can’t go fast, it just means that cruising, they consume more energy. Obviously there are other factors then length. The motorcyle as the advantage of better overal shape with fairings while a short car must supply a minmal amount of interior room for seating. But this ( length) is a big one when two cars are aerodynamically similar, with the same drive train and gearing.

Camrys and Accords with more weight and bigger motors rival compact cars in mileage and compact cars with more weight and bigger motors decimate comparable subcompacts. As the speeds get greater, the longer vehicle benefits more. So, two cars that " look " identical with one having better aerodynamic numbers, often benefits from being longer.

@kevin, the Insight is listed here at a Cd of .25-.28. Surprisingly, not much different from a Mercedes E-Class.

http://ecomodder.com/wiki/index.php/Vehicle_Coefficient_of_Drag_List

Just remember, drag = Cd X cross-sectional area. So the smart can have a decent Cd, but it’s tall (large area) so it has fairly high drag.