You see them more and more on the roads today. Smart cars, the snappy little vehicles that are very cute yet impossibly tiny. With room for two passengers and the ability to park almost anywhere, these vehicles are becoming more and more popular as time passes, especially considering the fact that they use a fraction of the amount of fuel that a regular car does.The smart was designed by Mercedes-Benz, and started out as an idea by the Swiss watch designer, Swatch. Originally, it was called the “Swatchmobile.”
The smart car features an innovative design similar to the European car Citroen, and is at this time on display at the Museum of Modern Art. The smart was designed by Mercedes-Benz, and started out as an idea by the Swiss watch designer, Swatch. Originally, it was called the “Swatchmobile.” Designed to be able to park almost anywhere, for what is called “nose-in” parking, the CEO of Swatch, Nicholas Hayek, decided to find an already established automaker to help him with his design. When he partnered with Daimler-Benz (now Mercedes-Benz), the smart car became a joint venture. Indeed, the name itself, SMART is an acronym for “Swatch Mercedes Art.” Smart cars were first manufactured at a specially built factory called “Smartville” in Hambach, France.
Smart was available first in many countries around the world, including Canada, some Asian countries, Europe and Mexico. Before 2008, smart cars were only available as “grey market” imports in the United States. Federal regulations allow some grey market importing as long as the vehicles meet certain safety and emissions standards. Prior to the year 2008, smart cars did not meet the full emissions standards, hence their previous status on the gray market.
Now several models are available through Mercedes-Benz. Now on the used market you can but the most popular model: the smart fortwo (basic model, which obviously only can hold two people), and the cabriolet, a convertible model. Both hard top and convertible models are available in the U.S. for anywhere from $12,000-$18,000, however the smart cars many available features can drive up the cost. For example, the panels are made of recyclable material and can easily be changed once the customer gets tired of the color of the car. The car is fully customizable and can be seen in many different shapes and colors depending on the customers’ wishes and the market itself. The smart will also soon be readily available in a fully-electric model capable of going up to 80 mph on the freeway. The electric model has a range of 120 miles and can be charged in less than five hours.
Critics of the smart say that it is first and foremost too small. The smart is the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the U.S. due to its small size according to Mercedes-Benz, however the Environmental Protection Agency has made announcements that in its research, it found that the smart car got around the same gas mileage as some of the hybrids available today, including the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius. It makes up for it in initial purchase price however, because it is roughly half the cost of these vehicles.
The smart car’s critics also point out the fact that because of its tiny size, this vehicle is relatively unsafe. This notion is somewhat of a misconception. The smart car features a design called the “Tridion Safety Cell” which creates a strong and solid structure around the passengers. It is designed to activate the “crumple zones” of the oncoming vehicle, so that when it crashes into the smart car, it will crush the opposing vehicle instead of the tiny car. Because of these and other safety features including rollover protection, the smart car received a four-star front impact safety rating and a “Good” rating for front and side crash protection in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Tests.
In this age of much-needed fuel economy, a used smart car very well may be a wise choice. Even if at first it seems that you are putting yourself at risk by driving such a small vehicle, the smart’s popularity is on the rise. This in itself speaks volumes.