Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All things to all people...

Sales of the teeny Smart Fortwo microcar tanked after the first year of being sold in the US, causing dealerships to fold and auto and business writers to speculate at length on the reason why.

Personally, I think it's simply that in suburbia-dominated America, there's only so much of a market for a tiny, two-seat urban runabout, and it didn't take long for everybody who had a use for one to buy theirs. If your daily commute is a 50+ mile round trip dodging Kenworths on the interstate, a Smart is about as useful to you as an F350 crew-cab dually would be for me.

Some companies seem slow to pick up on this lesson, however:
These are problems we don’t encounter with hybrids and regular fuel-burning vehicles, and everyone’s learning something from the experience—some more than they’d like. After his first (and last) trip home with the electric Nissan, deputy editor Daniel Pund observed: “I had to drive like, well, like an electric-car driver, all right-lane and timid.” After driving 48 miles home, charging all night, and then returning to Ann Arbor, he got the low-charge indicator when the car reached our lot.
In a land where 40-mile commutes are a lot more common than 4-mile ones, the Nissan Leaf has a tough row to hoe.

60 comments:

Bubblehead Les. said...

But aren't we all supposed to live in Big Cities under the Wise and Loving Leadership of people like Comrade Mike Bloomberg? So who needs a Big Car under those circumstances, since most of us just have to take Public Transportation anyway?

McVee said...

Golf carts make sense as a means of transportation when you live...on a golf course.

Jay G said...

For me, there were two non-starters for the Smart ForTwo:

1. Two seats. SRSLY? If I'm buying a two-seater, it's going to have a V8 under the hood and a ragtop. I want something I can drop the kids off at school in at a minimum.

2. 41 mpg highway, 33 around town. Are you kidding me? The 1995 Saturn SL sedan got that, and it didn't require premium gasoline. The Toyota Yaris gets 35/29, and it seats 5 (theoretically).

For the size tradeoff, the SMART should get 45 city, upper 50s highway.

Anonymous said...

Coal cars are not for driving; coal cars are for cleansing the guilt of white people. Only the comfortably spoiled will buy them.

I still remember watching the national news on one of the big three channels when the EV-1 came out and they were interviewing a owner from San Fransico. The owner, a white male, claimed that he was a better person because exhaust was not coming out of his tail pipe. He had no idea about the exhaust the coal plant was generating.

Shootin' Buddy

Borepatch said...

Yah know, if we had a Constitutional Amendment saying that nobody could propose a transport law that had never taken an engineering class, we'd get a lot less of this sort of "unexpected" outcome.

Tam said...

"Coal cars are not for driving; coal cars are for cleansing the guilt of white people. Only the comfortably spoiled will buy them."

If I had a second car, I'd love something like an all-electric version of the Smart. As it is, the Z3 gets ~17mpg in the kind of stop-and-go driving I do, and a tank of gas still lasts most of a month. I'd rather just be able to plug it in at night.

I mean, there aren't many places for me to explore the .90 g handling limits of the Bimmer between here and the grocery store 2 miles away, and I'm sometimes afraid that 5th gear will rust from disuse...

Comrade Misfit said...

The only plus that I could see about Smart cars is that, after the crash, you could just weld four handles to the wreck and save on the expense of buying a coffin.

There is, no doubt, a legitimate market for such cars. But it is a niche market. Frankly, a Peraves Super-Eco makes as much sense as a Smart car,

Bubblehead Les. said...

Tam: Tesla? So they run up into the price range of small house, so what? I'm sure there's a Federale Grant Program buried in the Budget somewhere that will allow you to get one cheap. ; )

Midwest Chick said...

I'm with JayG. You can get a car that can actually hold more than one bag of groceries and that has the same mileage rating (or better) for less money. Practicality caused it to tank.

North said...

The 'surprising outcome' is from the same people that think light rail will work...

McVee said...

I agree with Tam, for short local trips it's appealing. (Got that popular mechanics car of the future cover feeling!)But let's assume for a minute that we all went electric (plug) vehicle whole hog (!)... or even 5-10%. What would that do to our aging grid? You think it's bad now when everyone turns down the A/C in the summer...
Had we invested in our electric grid and gone nuclear nationwide then I think going electric would be viable. Now... a day late and a dollar short.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, if I was getting 41-44mpg out of an ordinary 1989 ford escort (one with 230000+ miles on it, and laden down with maybe 400 pounds of cargo!), then from the Fort Woe I should ... (does approximate size/weight calculations) - about 87mpg.

I did get 62 out of a Prius, though. So I'll give 'em that - and even wonder why their billboards all say "50mpg" when they could get away with advertising 60 or 65.

The Fort Woe, though, there is something badly wrong with its design when its performance is so bad as to call the laws of physics into question.

Wv: conall. Yeap, sounds like what car manufacturers are doing.

DaveFla said...

Every once in a while, I get the itch to homebuild a micro along the lines of Jory Squibb's 'Moonbeam'. But unlike his project, the donor scoot in my garage/dream is a totaled Honda VTR250, not a scooter/moped. Since it was also the focus of "track bike" and "serial hybrid" projects that didn't pass the concept/hoard stages, the VTR has mainly served as an object to bark my shins upon. Someday...

Tam said...

Midwest Chick,

"I'm with JayG."

Jay is missing the point.

The selling point of the Smart isn't its economy, it's all about the small size.

Who cares that a Yaris has a back seat? You can't park a Yaris nose-in on a city street (there's no need to ever parallel-park a Smart) and a Yaris doesn't have a turning circle about the size of a revolving door.

On the other hand, if you don't live someplace where the streets have square intersections and numbers instead of names, these aren't great selling points.

1911Man said...

And thank you most graciously for being 1 of approximately 25.2 people on the planet who knows that the phrase is "ROW to hoe", not "ROAD to hoe". The other 7B people crack me up. Hoeing a road? With, you know, an actual hoe? Or maybe with a ho?

There should be a Constitutional Amendment that nobody is allowed to attempt to say "___ to hoe" until he or she has thinned at least 155 miles of sugar beets.

Firehand said...

I just don't like the idea of a car that, after I buy it, I have to have a special charging line & outlet installed to be sure I can get wherever next time I need to go.

And yeah, people always get upset when I ask them where they think the electricity to charge their 'pollution-free' car is coming from?

McVee, there was an article out about a year ago from Californicated talking about how much upgrading was going to be needed(new neighborhood transformers, etc.) for the mandated increase in electric cars not to destroy the grid in large areas. Lots of EXPENSIVE upgrades. Add that to the cost per mile.

Rob said...

"I did get 62 out of a Prius, though. So I'll give 'em that - and even wonder why their billboards all say "50mpg" when they could get away with advertising 60 or 65."

It's because the EPA assumes bad driving habits (in terms of fuel efficiency), and as a result they end up with a fairly pessimistic mpg rating.

Hell, you can wring 32mpg out of a 2011 F150 if you drive it just right; however, most people aren't going to get any better than the advertised 20mpg.

Bram said...

The Smart Car failed for one reason - the gas milage sucks. It looks like it should get 70 mpg. Instead it was rated at 33 / 41. Lots of normal cars including my brother's diesel VW do better.

I know 2 people who canceled their Smart Car orders when they read that spec.

Tam said...

Bram,

If they were buying it for the fuel mileage then they were missing the point. They could have looked at Wikipedia and found out what kind of mileage it was getting before they ordered it, but in America, the standard conditioning is "small = efficient = cheap". The idea that someone might buy a small car for convenience because they spend all their driving time on crowded city streets is beyond them.

It's the same failure to communicate that causes suburbanite bike riders to make fun of the basket on my bike: Hey, Lance Armstrong, it's a vehicle, not a mobile Nautilus machine.

DirtCrashr said...

We see a lot of Smart cars around this Lefty suburban nexus where the streets are named and square-cornered (and the owners have winter homes in Tahoe for sustainable skiing, an eco-sport). Mercedes-Benz R&D Norte Americano (the distributor) is located around the corner from The Fish Market - parking in downtown for the Professional-Left apparatchiks of Palo Alto is tight. This is where the one of the first Earth Day Celebrations was held - and Tesla HQ is another mile away with the sales office (and cars) up the El Camino in Menlo Park.
My Stanford-grad neighbor Prius owner wants to get a Nissan Leaf, and the Energy Monopoly (PG&E) has a "Green" subsidiary of the Gov. that will give you credit$ to do the cabling and installation - and plug-in/charging costs will be minimal...at first. They're trying to build infrastructure and presence at no or low cost to the buyer - the first one is free, as they say...
There is NO irony the Left is incapable of. From Grade School onward here they are taught and trained to easily mouth such job-hunting words as, "chosen for her outstanding leadership and unwavering advocacy for campus sustainability" - this is where John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, helped inaugurate Earth Day.
Swimming and breathing in-and-out irony like a fish makes it invisible - and sustainable.
I have tears for the future.

North said...

DirtCrashr: I just threw up in my mouth a little.


WV I kid you not: RiseTwit

Anonymous said...

I watched a couple who live at the private lake 2 miles outside of our little farm town pull into Subway in their Smart and thought, "makes sense for them." But in a lot full of 250s, 2500s and stock trailers it sure looked out of place! Love my F-350 crew-cab dually, diesel - and thank you Tam for spelling dually correctly.

Anonymous said...

"there's no need to ever parallel-park a Smart"

In Paris or Berlin there is. Parking sucks in those European cities and I'm seeing fewer Smarts there every year (yeah, pun sort of intended).

"Hey, Lance Armstrong, it's a vehicle, not a mobile Nautilus machine"

Now I need to cleanup my keyboard.

Terry

The Freeholder said...

I figured it was because I could buy a Toyota Corolla that got the same gas mileage and had more room for the same money.

However, I did consider one to carry in the back of the Suburban in case it ever broke down. Sort of like a lifeboat....

Anonymous said...

Thought the leaf was going to be sold primarily in cities where the cities/nissan subsidized charging stations throughout the place. Guess not.

-SayUncle

Drang said...

Some random thoughts: As to people buying Smarts Four2s for the wrong reason--i.e., gas mileage--the things are marketed wrong. Hell, they're designed poorly for Amurcans, who buy small cars for the gas mileage. And expect their cars to be able to handle Interstate speeds, another parameter the Smart fails at.
OTOH, a car that small I can sit in comfortably is rare. Mrs. Drang usually drives to the park and ride and takes the bus in, due to scarce parking where she works as much as anything. My commute is all of 15 miles. The Smart would work for our commute, and we could park two of them in a one-car garage space.
"Coal-burning cars." There are many areas in the US where electricity is not generated by coal-burning plants.
OTOH, the watermelons are trying to knock down the dams here in the PacNW, for the salmon...

WV: fearbio.

Stretch said...

Neighbor commutes her 5 miles (one way) in a Smart. She has a 4-door Chevy for visits to family 2 states away.
Local "High Miler" over inflated his Smart's tires to reduce rolling resistance. Also raised breaking distance. Add a rain storm, an interstate entrance ramp and an 18-wheeler and the results were predictable. The EMS team didn't even turn on the lights.

DirtCrashr said...

Since it's basically a golf-cart you should at least be assured you can transport a set of clubs - but can you reaally? You are assured of the maxim, "I can walk from here," but many are not even prepared to walk 18-holes.

Joe in PNG said...

For that kind of money I'd track down an original Brit Mini. You get 4 seats and a bit of interior room, great handling, and that legendary Old English Automotive Reliability (heh).

aczarnowski said...

My in laws were the first in their town with a Smart. Power was barely adequate and the automatic shift had horrendous lag. But "because we can" is good enough for me. More power to them.

Then they got a dog. Thankfully, the trade-in was good enough to get them into a Golf. ;)

Anonymous said...

After reading about them, that they were a pretty well engineered Benz product, and planning to use it as a dinghy for the motorhome, I ordered a Smart in '07 ($100 deposit) which was delivered to the Buckhead dealership in the summer of '08.

Serendipitous in that delivery coincided with $4.25 gas; while that precluded any travel plans that summer with the coach (Ford V-10 power), rich hippies who didn't want to wait a year were eating Smarts up on fleabay and I listed mine the next day, with a buy-it-now 3,000 above my drive-out price of 15,600. That was a Saturday. Sunday a guy from ATL drove up with his family to pick it up. I took a check for 18,600 which I figured was good as it was drawn on his law firm account, and his transpo up to my summer place in Cherokee County was a brand new Lexus hybrid SUV.

I put about 200 miles on the Smart, and while the lawnmower motor and the weird semi-auto trans took some getting used to, it cruised the perimeter and 575 at 70 with no problem and felt quite stable at speed. So I had a little fun, made a little money, and felt pretty smug a year later when gas was below three bucks and you could get a year-old Smart for 12,000.

But if they'd have made that 'busa powered version that you linked to back then as a factory option, I'da hung onto that little badass, just to make those hippies cry.

Of course the real point of the Smart, as it is with the Prius, the Leaf, and curbside recycling, has little to do with practical matters and everything to do with a sick need for reverse-conspicuous consumption and assuaging the guilt that they endure from having the misfortune to be rich white folks. Call it keeping up with the (Mother) Joneses.

AT

Ken said...

At 525kg and with a 105bhp engine, even the (low-end) Classic Caterham Seven goes 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, probably gets pretty respectable mileage (with a 5-speed manual I don't see how it could possibly be otherwise), and starts at 13,650 quid (about $22,000 today). Probably haul about as many groceries as a Smart, and almost as many as a Zed Drei. ;-) (Okay, maybe not.)

I know I go on about Caterhams. Can't help myself. :-)

Jim said...

If I want a small car I'll get a Lotus Elise. As it is my Mazda3 is a good balance of small enough to park anywhere and big enough for four people or more than a few 8' 2x4s.

Plug-in cars are mediocre, and even then only until you need enough heat to defrost the windshield. Perhaps they could install janitrol heaters in them, for irony.

Jim

Ancient Woodsman said...

The Smart car at our local dealer reminded me of the XF85 Goblin, and to me about as practical.

Got an F250 4x4 to do what I need it to do; fairly featureless except for the hauling capability. Too many marketers & buyers of such things as Prii, Smart cars, Leaves, and so forth are for all the wrong reasons, and so well illustrated in the South Park episode about the hybrid car owners.

Brad K. said...

Here is a hint.

If you want to spend less money for gas and spend less time commuting 50 miles to work -- move 45 miles closer to work.

Or figure what the time spent commuting, and the miles spent commuting cost you, public transport or private. And look for a job with that much less commute cost closer to home.

The SmartForTwo didn't have room for a driver, and two to three people conducting business. A car pool with a SmartForTwo just won't pay off. And what I envision when I see one, is what any kind of wreck will do to vehicle and passengers. Seeing two adults in one is an illustration, for me, of "no margin for safety."

Tam said...

Brad K.,

"The SmartForTwo didn't have room for a driver, and two to three people conducting business."

Condemning a two-seat urban runabout because it won't fit four people and haul a 4x8 sheet of plywood is like condemning an Olympic Free Pistol because it's lousy at busting clays.

That'd be like me saying that the Ford F150 is dumb because it's hard to park in Broad Ripple.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I'm always amused by one guy in town with one of those not-so-Smart cars - he looks like he's probably six feet tall and about 300 pounds, folded up inside his glorified go-cart with his knees around his ears.* He can't be comfortable in that thing, and I always wonder why he would have bought something like that when he could get something that gets the same or better mileage for about the same cost, and that he would at least fit into without having to dislocate something.

I'm pretty sure he's faculty of some type at the university, which might explain it, but still...

-----
* I exaggerate, but not by much.

Tam said...

Jake,

I doubt he'd be very comfortable in anything, then. Head-and-legroom in the Smart is about the same as in any other compact car, there's just less rest-of-the-car there, due to the lack of a back seat, trunk, and the position of the engine.

Sometimes I think that people On My Team let ideology cloud their judgment as badly as the hippies do. I, personally, have no use for a Smart as an Only Car because I need to make fairly frequent interstate roadtrips and I sometimes like to drive for pleasure, and I realize that some hippies buy the thing to expunge their white guilt, but I don't feel compelled to make stuff up about it.

Robin said...

The mystery remains why the Smart Fortwo had such mediocre MPG rating.

I call "EV's" Emissions Elsewhere Vehicles and only use "Coal powered car" when I really want to get the owner's goat. As far as I'm concerned, however, the real issue with electrics and hybrids is that those battery arrays scare the beejeebus out of me.

Heath J said...

Those things are goofy looking and made for a smallish, specific niche.

That said, you oughta see the average* SmartCar driver. Tenacious, suicidal buggers that make your average 20 something sport biker look sane. They pilot their strange little conveyances with absolutely no regard for what the laws of physics would do to them should someone blink and not see them.


*On the highway, where I've seen them.

Sabra said...

I have seen a few of them here and there, but I couldn't stomach the thought of driving one. If I don't want to worry about parking downtown, I walk. (I live maybe 1.5 miles away so it's a short distance unless it's summer.) No matter how urban a life I may lead, I still lead it in Texas, and there are far too many sledgehammers for the fly that is the ForTwo.

Gay_Cynic said...

Aaargh. I can't resist.

I know a wee bit about EV's, since I sell them. Many many different varieties. Motorcycles, Cars, Trucks, Vans, Bicycles, Scooters, and MORE!!.

Ish.

The current generation (other than the Nissan Leaf) that I view as most useful is the Wheego LiFe. It has a 90 mi average range between charges, can hop on the highway, compete for the *really dinky* parking spaces with a Mini or Smart, and has a grocery store trip sized amount of cargo space. And it has more power and less weight than the Leaf. Nyah!

And at $34k with a $7,500 federal tax credit and various other state-level promotions attached...it can make a bunch of sense while charging at a whopping cost of $1-$3.

Now, there's the whole class of home-builts (with all the joys and perils of one-off gear)and NEV's (limited, variously, to top speeds of 25mp and 35mph...and in Montana 45mph), and the vast and mighty pit-fall of lead-acid (yes, it's cheap....the FIRST time...)..that's worth considering, but are far from good fits for everyone - any more than a '57 Chev is a good fit for everyone.

I'm driving a Zero S electric motorcycle into work about half the time these days...and frankly, after hopping back on a gas-burning bike last week...am really not sure I'd want to go back to the noise. I've gotten used to hearing my surroundings while riding, with those extra little cues of "incoming!".

Drang said...

@Jake: I'm always amused by one guy in town with one of those not-so-Smart cars - he looks like he's probably six feet tall and about 300 pounds, folded up inside his glorified go-cart with his knees around his ears.* He can't be comfortable in that thing,
I'm a hair under 6'2", 240-ish, and am comfortable enough sitting in one, at least in their display (in the Watermelon pavilion!) at the Western WA Fair. If your neighbor is uncomfortable, he probably has a bad back or arthritis or some other condition that wold, as Tam says, render him uncomfortable in anything.
One of the things IU like about the design is that it lets you sit up, and fairly high, nearly as high as in my GaiaRaper, and it has head room.

Jim said...

am really not sure I'd want to go back to the noise. I've gotten used to hearing my surroundings while riding, with those extra little cues of "incoming!"

Therein lies my one beef with being around electric vehicles, their practicality and the environmental argument aside: They really are too quiet for their own good. It isn't to the opposite extreme from "loud pipes save lives," but if it hasn't happened already I absolutely expect a rash of people struck by these things, and then saying that they didn't hear them coming.

Now, if they were made to warble like the cars in Futurama, I'd be ok with them. Well, sort of. No-one makes a V8 sound like an I4.

Jim

Anonymous said...

Indeed - why is the Smart's gas mileage so *appallingly bad* - that remains the question.

I don't think it's "conditioning" that makes people believe that a car that is half the size and weight of a compact should get twice the mileage - it's an appreciation for the laws of physics.

Now, there is more to it than just the size of the car (the Prius is aerodynamically tuned in a manner impossible to replicate in a half-a-parking-spot car, cars of the 80s didn't have nearly as much emission control, the driver's weight won't miraculously drop in half when the car's does - and various other factors) - but, the fact remains, that to a back-of-the-envelope first approximation, the Fort Woe's gas mileage should be running rings around every other car on the market - not barely struggling to keep the pace with a run-of-the-mill Corolla or Focus.

"Small car - more efficient" isn't groupthink; it's common sense.

Word verif: "cyclo". Now there's a vehiculo that takes up a very small fraction of a standard parking spot.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, The Smart car that is sold here in the US is larger than the original EU version. Something about wanting it to handle our highways. I wonder if it still has the original engine? Might explain the lack of power and mileage.


Will

Anonymous said...

Will: yeah, you mean this EU version? :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPQIizRp9ck

AT

pdxr13 said...

No one has mentioned that Euro Smart cars very often are equipped with super-efficient tiny Daimler TurboDiesel engines. All US-spec cars are users of the dangerous waste product known as "gasoline" and can never be as efficient as a high-compression Diesel engine.

Electric cars are fine as a 3rd or 4th vehicle. Drive every other day and charge on off-days. ZAP truck is like this, perfect for an 18 mile round trip to do multiple pick-up and delivery missions while sitting in horrible (intentional) gridlock traffic. Don't ever get on a road marked for more than 35mph, EVER. It's a little bit safer than bicycling with a Burley trailer in traffic but overall not as safe as riding a 250cc motorcycle, which is to say "most of the time, it's dangerous."

My base-line fuel economy reference is a 1995 Chevrolet Caprice 9C1-police package (4300 pounds), that gets 12mpg around town (250 miles/$84 in spring 2011) with hypermile driving and the "economy car" 1983 MBZ 240D at 4100 pounds. The 240D gets about 29mpg but it's damned slow, even on city streets (especially on city streets).

Previous 1992 Caprice saved my life from a head-on left-turn driver in 2005. Softball mom, kids in car, talking on cellular, rental T&C minivan, eating while driving, SoCal driver: all of the worst case bad-driver features were included in the pilot of the other car. I'm not giving up the heavy-largish vehicles until it's as hard to get a driving license as it is to get registered as a CPA.

Anonymous said...

The European diesel smarts are rated for 70mpg, which is finally approaching "that's more like it!" territory.

Unfortunately, attempting to Google for answers as to why the US Smart is so terribly inefficient yields page after page about how EPA 33/41 is somehow ...good???

No. It is not. 33/41 is me driving a Corolla. And no, I do not do any of the more esoteric "hypermiling" stunts (seriously? An ice vest because you don't want to turn on the AC? Have you thought about how much gas you're burning carrying all that ice around?). I just generally drive in an efficient manner, allowing the engine to coast down hills, keeping cruise control in the low 70s on the freeway, and avoiding stoplight Hell districts of town not to save gas but to save sanity.

perlhaqr said...

there's no need to ever parallel-park a Smart

Ha ha! You've forgotten about the power of Government!

No really, if you park a Smart the way it's designed to be parked, in Seattle, you'll get a ticket. Nevermind that it's sticking out into the street less than the dually doublecab F-650 its parked behind, "That's not how you're supposed to park".

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@ Tam & Drang:

I'm willing to accept that there's a strong possibility my perception in this case in influenced by optical illusion - I've only ever seen this guy driving down the road in the opposite direction to me, and he just looks like he had to squeeze into the car. I could also be underestimating his size. As Tam noted, "there's just less rest-of-the-car there", which could easily throw my perception off - and I've never really looked at one because I've never been interested, so my references are really estimates.

I do stand by calling it a glorified go-cart, though. But I say this with the knowledge that there are perfectly good uses for a go-cart, glorified or not, which also happen to be the same things the Smart is really designed for. Even if it is useful and popular in the EU, I'd say it only fits for a very small percentage of the US populace, except possibly as a secondary or tertiary vehicle for those who can afford such things.

@ Anonymous at 1236pm: +1. Just as a comparison, my 16 year old Corolla with 200k+ miles on it averages 29mpg with mostly stop-and-go "city" driving. And I am not an "economical" driver at all, so 33/41 in such a small, modern car is not really good at all.

Heather said...

There are at least two driving around this state.

They don't seem like very good cars for Alaska.

Larry said...

I don't remember where I saw it first, but the saying is that Americans think 100 years is a long time and Europeans think 100 miles is a long way.
There has to be a reason the Gold Wing is primarily produced for one market...

Ian Argent said...

I own a Smart, have for pushing 3 years now and 45k miles. Its my daily driver and the primary automobile for my wife and I. So let me address some of the misconceptions...

First, don't compare your mileage to EPA numbers - as noted, the EPA numbers are pessimistic. Compare apples to apples. I get 38 mpg mixed on oxygenated gas and 40 mpg mixed on non-oxygenated gas (93 octane). Worst I ever got (per tank) was 35, and best was 46(both on oxygenated gas). Without hypermiling (in fact, I am a bit of a leadfoot), and in a car that generally exceeds modern safety requirements (unlike, say, a Geo Metro.)

Cargo space is adequate for the weekly shopping trips for two healthy adult americans (about a shopping cart worth), or a long weekend's worth of luggage for same. With both of us in the car, too. And my Marlin will fit laid across the back compartment.

The only thing I don't like about highway driving in it is lack of cruise control, or being within about 50 feet of and in the same lane as a heavy truck at 50+ mph (turbulence), and the second can be avoided by passing... I've driven from NJ to NH, NJ to NoVA, and would have driven to Pittsburgh if I hadn't been able to cadge a ride to avoid having to single-hand it for 6 hours (which wouldn't have been any more fun in a bigger car). Not to mention points between.

It isn't a practical car for most one-car households, and prior to a software update the computer was notably inferior to me in picking shift points. There is a somewhat limited market for the things, but they're hardly totally useless.

Anonymous said...

Tam said:

" . . . If I had a second car, I'd love something like . . ."

and:

" . . . The selling point of the Smart isn't its economy, it's all about the small size."

Tam, I have the perfect car for you. I went to the season-opening antique fly-in round these parts, and there were prett-near a whole fleet of (wait for it)

. . . Ford Model Ts.

Small, carries two people, passable milage, groceries in the "trunk", it's got a top, it's easy to maintain, and you can get ANY part you need for it over the intarwebz. They'll also fit in the smallest "small-cars-only" parking spot with room to spare.

And the "cool" factor is near unbeatable. :-)

Just don't plan on trying to be unobtrusive.

BoxStockRacer

Firehand said...

First I've heard of the Zero S; what distance you get between charges?

Anonymous said...

Hey... know what's fast, handles well on the highway, holds maybe 2 people with very limited cargo space, gets about 35/54 mpg or better and about the same price as a Smart?

A brand new Harley. I think I'd rather just retain my dignity and get a damn bike over a golf cart with doors.

Ian Argent said...

I'll take arriving dry and being able to drive in the winter.

Tam said...

Anon 1:34,

My dignity is just fine no matter what I ride in. :)

DMP said...

I think you'd like a dually. You'd even look good in a dually.