Friday, June 15, 2012

I'll bet that thing's easy to park...

The other end of Broad Ripple from the Bentley, both literally and metaphorically:


In amongst the Priuses and Minis and Honda Fits, there are a fair number of Smarts and a growing number of the new Fiat 500s. And even two of the old 2-seater Honda Insights, which is something of a rara avis.

On some of the narrower streets down in the village proper, where the Zed Drei risks rubbing one of its bulging rear fenders against some hipster on his trendy Surly fixie in the oncoming lane every time I have to ease around a parallel-parked "COEXIST"-plastered Subie with a dog cage in the back and bike rack on the roof, these dinky cars make some sense.

31 comments:

Eric said...

There is a house I pass during my daily commute that has 2 Minis and a Smart in the driveway. I figure they really like tiny cars, or they are former residents of Oz.

Old Windways said...

Just watch out for rowdy crowds. I seem to recall they had an issue in the Netherlands with folks picking them up and tossing them into the canals just because they were so light and aerodynamic.

Matt said...

To be fair to them, they make some sense in any place where the travel paths were laid out and then hemmed in by permanent structures back in the days when anyone not rich enough to own a horse had to walk everywhere.

Of course, in places like that, what makes even _more_ sense is a bike or motorcycle. :) (Which makes it unsurprising that such places have much higher per-capita ownership of two-wheeled vehicles than we do.)

The only way I could see myself buying one of those things is if I also had an RV. And then I'd put the micro-car on a trailer behind it, and use it for local driving-around in whatever city I'd parked the RV in.

Rob K said...

Buck Creek Pizza just east of Lafayette delivers pizza in Smarts.

And every time I hear about the new Fiat 500s, I reflexively think "Fix it again, Tony!" The things we learn in childhood stick...

Josh K. said...

We had Zenn electric car as my patrol vehicle, was only good for about 7 miles, but only if you didn't turn on the head lights or try to run the air. Then you where lucky to get 2.

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

I just wish Volkswagen would go ahead and produce the 1-L instead of constantly making the concept bigger, heavier, more complicated and more expensive.

In the meantime, parking my 25 year old Benz can be a challenge at times, but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that my ecological footprint is much smaller than those liberals driving Prius hybrids.

Sport Pilot said...

The Smart car work’s well in a solely urban setting with minimal Interstate usage as well as its two seat limitation. Yet in actuality I see these human pod vehicles burning up the highways, byways and Interstates daily. Of the available smaller vehicles the 4 door Mini Cooper in an AWD configuration look’s more feasible due to the available interior space. Still I can recall cramming myself into my 280ZX and loving it for the speed and handling, ride and comfort meant nothing to me then.

Yrro said...

I rented a smart in Germany. It was comfortable for two, and great around the city. Unfortunately we were driving mountain roads and the autobahn. It has enough power for the size, but the transmission is the worst piece of shit ever inflicted on a car.

Able said...

Being from Little England, where driving from Lands End to John O'Groats is less distance than some of you drive across a state, these small town cars are the norm rather than the exception (look at the popularity of hot-hatches here).

There's a local business that uses Smarts and their 'party trick' is to park two smarts, sideways, in a normal parking bay and then watching the parking attendant try to figure out what to do (they're not much narrower than a normal car here, but much shorter, and boot [that's trunk to you colonials] space is limited to a change of underoos and a tooth-brush [Jack Reacher in a Smart?]).

It's not the practicality of the car that limits its appeal, it's the identification (like the Mazda MX-5) as a 'ladies car' unfortunately. I'll stick with my Landy and Morgan (well until I can afford the Bentley).

Tam said...

Rob K., Able,

Hot Box Pizza here in Broad Ripple uses the little Smarts as delivery cars, too.

For someone like my Roomie, whose daily commute is ~5 miles of city streets, a bitty car like this would be perfect, since her only highway trip is the rare voyage to a Hamvention.

For me, I've often considered a mo'cycle for daily use and a saloon of some sort for foul weather and the quarterly interstate drive to Tennessee or wherever. It would need to be a saloon that can get out of its own way, however.

(Or maybe a coupe; the older Lexus SC300/400 charm me.)

Stretch said...

F=ma
I'll stick with my Exploder.

Tam said...

Stretch,

Yeah, or "F=Fill out a credit app at the gas station" or "F=can't Find a place to park" or "F=Frickin' dull to drive"... ;)

There's a reason that they make wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, and all kinds of other tools. ;)

MickHavoc said...

Triumph Bonneville and Civic SI
Carbon footprint: LOW
Hoon Factor: HIGH

Drang said...

I could consider a Smart if it got better mileage, in an engine that didn't need premium dinosaur juice.

mustanger said...

You can't mount a gooseneck hitch on top of a Smart or Cooper Mini.

kx59 said...

And here I was thinking you were in the midwest somewhere. This sure sounds like Sacramento, CA.

og said...

What would be fun and easy to park would be a Messerschmitt KR-200. Of course a good example would cost more than a lexus, so...

Gnarly Sheen said...

Someone at my apartment complex has one of these. The worst part about them is this:
It's late at night when I get home, so all the parking spaces are full. Oh wait, there's one near the front that isn't taken! Drive up, start to pull into the spot and...what the hell?!? SOMEONE PARKED HALF A CAR HERE

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the Smart only gets 38-40 MPG. I had a 1980 Toyota hatchback with 4 cyl and manual 4 speed that got exactly that mileage and would haul 4 people and a bit of luggage. Why don't these little hockey pucks get 80 MPG?

Tam said...

mustanger,

"You can't mount a gooseneck hitch on top of a Smart or Cooper Mini."

You can't haul eight kids in a Porsche, or attack a set of twisties in an F350, or get 60mpg in a minivan, or...

Wow, isn't a free market awesome, where different people can buy the different vehicles they want to perform the different chores they need!

Anon 12:12.

"As I understand it, the Smart only gets 38-40 MPG. I had a 1980 Toyota hatchback with 4 cyl and manual 4 speed that got exactly that mileage and would haul 4 people and a bit of luggage. Why don't these little hockey pucks get 80 MPG?"

1) That's their rating under the current EPA testing regime. Using the same EPA testing regime, your Toyota would be lucky to score in the low 20s, City.

2) Despite being a lot smaller than a 1970s Toyota, the Smart isn't as much lighter as you'd think. A '70s Toyota is a sheet metal box of air, where the Smart is jam-packed with side-impact beams, airbags, electronic stability control, CD changer, stereo speakers, and all the other folderol that goes into a modern car. Further, despite being only two-thirds to half the size of the typical pushrod or SOHC '70s econobox engine, the one-liter mill in the Smart is still pumping out 70bhp, which would have actually been considered pretty respectable back then for a little car, considering that a two-barrel Chevy 305 smog motor back then struggled to top 100bhp.

Finally, while it is the highest-rated gasoline-engined non-hybrid in current EPA tests, gas mileage was not the top concern in the design of the Smart; small size was.

Anonymous said...

1980 Toyota Corolla - 1929 lbs. curb wt. 59 HP, 35.9/30 EPA estimate.

2011 Smart - 1808 curb weight, 70 HP, 41/33 EPA est.

I could have cut 121 lbs. out of the Corolla, 50 of it by removing the actual spare tire which I assume the Smart does not have, the other 71 by removing the rear seat which the Smart damn sure doesn't have. A set of headers and a small cam would have got the extra 11 HP. Plus it was an actual car which I drove well over 250,000 miles.

My point is not that a Corolla was wonderful, but that a Smart is dumb. If it weighs about the same and gets about the same mileage, it has no less environmental impact than a 1980 Corolla. Plus for the first time in any car, the driver has to watch out for Harley riders making unsignaled left turns.

Ken O said...

It does make one wonder; my '69 slant-six, 3 on the tree Valiant knocked down 30 mpg. My daily driver now is a Jeep. Fuel economy sucks, but open motoring in a beach town and easy parking are a plus. South Texas driving is interesting, you get to watch greenies in smarts dodge Earthf#%^ers with 9" lifts, seamless and semi-exhaust stacks exiting the bed at 80 on the freeway.

montieth said...

I liked my little '01 Insight. I upgraded to a 2010 model with the 4 doors. I think Honda's idea for a hybrid is a bit more useful and fun that Toyota's. The engine actually makes noise when you accelerate and the 01 would do 130mph. A tless than a ton wet, it was kind of nice though not sporty by design.

The 2010 is good too, a bit more practical around, a touch less fuel efficient (40 mpg avg than 50-55mpg) but the extra space is nice when I'm going north to play Tommy Atkins in the Mid Atlantic region.

What if I need to carry more with it you ask? Well, I like a high low approach. That's why I have a truck that gives more cargo weight capacity per dollar than anything else out there. An M35A2.

Besides, with a Hybrid its fun to make people wrap their brain around the concept of a person who owns that AND a big military truck as well as guns.....

Kristopher said...

A Smart car is not really smart until you have put a Hyabusa engine in it.

Jeff said...

I see a decent amount of them here in Vegas, actually a lot more lately, but you really need to think hard about your commute with these.

If you've got a surface street commute they are really smart but if you've got a 15 mile highway commute like I do now its probably slightly better than a bike.

Vegas is known for bad drivers, but when you've got a summerlin soccer mom in her escalade doing 75 (and now they are trying to txt in their laps so they don't get a ticket), its only a matter of time before you get crushed like a bug. Bikes might actually b a bit safer since they are more agile and hopefully you'd be paying more attention...

Skip said...

The way The Better Half drives I want a lot of iron around her, hence the Towncar. Pity the Smart driver she runs over.

Anonymous said...

If you are determined to risk your life driving a "smart" car amongst much bigger autos like the Toyota Yaris and Chebby Volt, why not make it worthwhile:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDEoMwHHtk0

If the linky doesn't work, just enter 'smart car zx10r' in the magic box.

You wouldn't believe how small the mpg difference is at anything approaching true cruising speeds...and the transmission actually works incredibly well.

That'd be East Tennessee reckonin', anyway.

...Mr. O

Bond in Michigan said...

I have a 1957 BMW Isetta 300 (18.3 ci, 13 hp), one door in the front, in storage that I need to restore and license. I don't look or act like Urkel in the TV comedy. Top speed is about 55 MPH and best MPG is about 50. This car is so ugly it is cute. The last time I drove it I went to a MacDonalds and amused everyone because I am a tall, big man. When I moved it to Michigan I had three other guys help me pick it up and place it into the bed of my Ford F250. Driving down the freeway I was stared at frequently and they had many questions when I stopped for diesel. I explained that it was a spare car like a lifeboat on a passenger ship, if I ran out of fuel or broke down I was ready. Actually it was not in running condition.

Bond in Michigan

Anonymous said...

Smart Car = Dumb Move
Bad transmission
Not family oriented
Overpriced
PLYMOUTH had a better idea: http://www.allpar.com/model/plastic.html

O, I almost forgot,
Daimler squashed it & Chrysler, to build its "Smart Car" thing.

I just test drove a FIAT 500 & it's a better car!

Ulises from CA

Goober said...

My 2011 volkswagon golf TDI (diesel) with a 5 speed transmission got 56 miles per gallon on the last tank I put through it. i am 6' 4" tal and weigh over 300 pounds, and it fits me well and comfortably. it is 4 doors, small, agile, very quick and powerful, and still has the cool factor of a little hatchback sports car.

Why, again, would anyone buy a smart car?

Tam said...

Goober,

Once again, the point of the Smart is not its mileage. Or its carbon footprint. Or its price.

The point absolutely is its size; they made a car as small as possible that would still haul two people and pass crash tests.

If someone bought a Smart and is commuting on a Texas interstate, They're Doin It Rong.

If you live someplace where you can see the horizon from anyplace lower than the fourth floor, the Smart is not designed for you (which is not to say that some suburbanites didn't buy them because they think it makes them look like a hipster.)

But saying a Smart won't haul a family of five is like saying a screwdriver won't saw plywood. As small as a Golf is, you can fit two Smarts in the same parking spot (and it's plenty roomy for a driver and one passenger.)

Our pizza driver who drives a GTI has to do a three-point turn in the neighbor's driveway on our narrow city side street; the guy from the joint that uses Smarts for their deliveries just whips a u-turn.

Tiny "city cars" have their place and their purpose and (here's the magic of the Free Market!) if one doesn't fit your needs or wants, you don't have to buy it.

(Although, incidentally, the diesel version gets 69mpg on the EU's test, although I'm not sure how their mileage testing differs from the EPA's city/hwy/combined ratings...)