What is a Smart Car and is it REALLY Smarter?
As the costs for owning and operating a vehicle fly higher and higher, the need for fuel-efficiency and compact -size in personal conveyance has become increasingly common.
It could be said that the Smart Car is the precision response to these needs. The Smart Car has already received and enthusiastic response from the European community and has already been introduced to American Markets, although Mercedes has already stated they plan to withdraw their gas-powered smart cars from the American market after 2017.
The Smart Car is a compact prowler with a penchant for economy. There is already an even more economical and compact version of the Smart Car dated for release in the near future.
With the sheer advantage of this intelligent mode of transportation, there is a good chance we will see more and more Smart Cars very soon.
History of the Smart Car
Nicolas Hayek is the brains behind the design and purpose of the Smart Car.
His experience in the invention of Swatch watches means this automobile is designed with precision function and performance.
The goal was to produce a car that will be small enough to find parking in urban traffic. He also wanted it to be environmentally friendly and fuel efficient as possible.
Development of the first Smart Car began in 1994, under the name MCC or Micro Compact Car.
The MCC was a joint venture between the Swatch company and Daimler-Benz.
The first of these minuscule wonders was unveiled at the 1997 Frankfurt Auto Show.
The following year the first of the MCCs were being sold to the public.
Much to the disappointment of the designer, the MCCs were fitted with a conventional gasoline engine. He had hoped the car would be fit with a pure electric motor, or a hybrid at the very least.
The cost per unit was also much higher than he had hoped to see. The initial sales of these MCCs was somewhat sluggish and the Swatch company soon pulled out of the partnership.
Today, Daimler-Benz is the sole owner of all Smart Cars.
What Makes the Smart Car so “Smart”?
The small size of the Smart Car is the most identifiable feature of the car. The city coupe variety, also called the “Fortwo” is particularly minuscule. With only 5 feet of height and width and only 8ft of length it is arguably the smallest commercial car on the markets today.
The length of the car is about the same width of many larger SUVs. This means that a smart car doesn’t have to worry about parallel parking, it can simply back up to the curb.
How much room does this leave the user?
The Fortwo has enough space for two full-grown Bavarians and all their groceries in a storage compartment in the back. The version is available as a hardtop and ragtop styles. There are then three different body types, the Pure, Pulse and Passion, each with their own progressive features for luxury and comfort.
The only 50HP variety is the lowest-end option the Pure. But all three of the models can be purchased with a 60 HP engine. The Pure and Pulse also feature the unique Softip transmission. This is a regular manual transmission but can operate without the clutch.
The gears are shifted with the tap of a shift lever. This is a fascinating mechanism, even if it means a slight lag between shifts.
The Passion, which is the high-end model, works with the Softouch transmission, which is an automatic.
The Smart Car features a three-cylinder motor and cooled turbochargers., this is the same in both the 50 and 60 HP versions. The 50 HP motor is noticeably slower in starting up, but has the same mileage and top speeds as the 60 HP.
According to manufacturers, the Smart Car can achieve 0 to 60 in 15 seconds with a top speed of 85 MPH. While the capacity is probably higher, these small cars can be hazardous at higher speeds than this. Finally, the gas consumption is arguably the finest feature.
In the city, the smart Car can get as much as 46.3 MPG. On the highway, this figure is sweetened to a hair under 69 MPG.
The Smart Car is small and this raises some concerns about the safety of the unit. The car seems to lack aerodynamics and has the same boxy appearance we see in other cars. Yet, this shape adds important stability to the car when maneuvering around tight streets and corners.
This is also one of the lightest cars in circulation. Because it only weighs 1,500 lbs., the designers chose to give the Smart Car the three-cylinder motor that provides an appropriate power.
Nevertheless, the small size of the Smart Car will make some people concerned about safety in a collision. The Smart Car has a specially designed safety shell made of hardened Tridion Steel.
This shell casing forms the larger part of the chassis and completely encases the car-s interior protecting the occupants on all sides.
Front end collisions are softened by the specially designed energy-absorbing design at the front of the car. The sturdy Tridion Steel case has performed well in a wide variety of crash tests. Nevertheless, you can’t expect the small 1500 lb Smart to protect its occupants as well as larger cars can.
But, deceleration from high speeds is bad news for the occupants of any vehicle.
The well-designed Tridion frame is more than simply protective. The design is visible from the outside of the car and incorporated into a design made largely of recyclable materials. The rest of the panels can be swapped out so easily that if the owner ever wishes to change the color of the car, it can be done without the need of paint.
This also reduces the complications of changing body parts when damaged by minor bumps scratches etc.
Varieties and Future Plans
In addition to the Fortwo, Smart Car has sold other varieties and more are in the works. The Smart Car Roadster has been very popular in Europe. Furthermore, there is a Forfour, and you guessed it, it has room for four passengers. The Forfour has not been as popular as the other varieties and in 2005 it was discontinued.
Nevertheless, there are plans to introduce the Forfour to the USA. Then there is plans for the ForMore, a Smart SUV.
These plans also revealed that the Forfour and Formore could be manufactured in Brazil and the primary customer being the USA.
Smart has also looked to join with BRABUS the Mercedes tuning company. The idea is to produce a few BRABUS-edition cars that will feature a higher HP engine. The BRABUS Fortwo will have 72 HP but also the considerable extra weight that the BRABUS body style adds to the design.
This means that the BRABUS Fortwo will actually accelerate more slowly than either the Passion or Pulse Fortwos.
The BRABUS model also feature push-button style gear shifters located on the steering wheel.
Then there are plans for the BRABUS Black Star that will have increased HP as much as 101. Plans for a few exclusives Formores and Forfours are also being drawn up.
The Biggest Smart Car Competitors
The Fortwo is not the only super small and fuel efficient car making its way through the streets today. Here are some of the biggest competitors to the Smart Car and how they stack up against each other
In 2006, the Toyota Prius arrived in the scene and redefined environmental friendliness and fuel efficiency. Both the electric and gas motor have more HP than the Fortwo, with 76 and 67 respectively.
The Prius also takes a mileage advantage in the city with 60 MPG. Then there is also the massive amount of torque delivered by the electric engines.
The Yaris is heavier, faster and larger than the Fortwo and even costs less. But it loses its points in fuel efficiency, where it can manage 34 MPG in the city and 39 MPG on the highway.
The same year as the Yaris was released, Honda introduced the Fit to the market. Like the Yaris, the Fit is also larger and faster than the Fortwo. But the mileage ratings again suffer and the Fit does not even hit the same numbers as the Yaris.
Once the very smallest car that could be purchased in the US, the Mini Cooper weighs a full 1,000 lbs. More than the Fortwo. The Mini Cooper doesn’t have nearly the same mileage as the Smart Car either. It gets a full 23 MPG in the city and barely 32 MPG on the highway. Furthermore, the Cooper will cost significantly more than a Smart.
Meaning these consumers are spending a lot on style.
All things considered, the Fortwo is the most fuel-efficient vehicle that can be found on the market today. While it can’t match the fuel economy of the hybrid, it can sure beat out all the other gasoline powered options out there.
It may be more expensive than most compact cars you will find today, but it also has a unique design and size that can be parked anywhere.