Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Car Culture

First “Smart” Car Arrives in New York

4:44 PM EST on January 24, 2008

The eight-and-a-half foot long, 1,800 pound smart fortwo has arrived in the US, with the first American owner taking delivery here in New York. As it happens, he's a friend of the folks at car blog Jalopnik, who took it for a drive. Here's some of what they had to say.

We do need to change the way we think about the Smart. It is safe. Bookended by crumple zones, a steel roll cage surrounds the occupants.

It feels safe, too. The size defines the driving experience, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than feeling intimidated in traffic, you feel empowered. Gone is the need to take responsibility for an acre of SUV on a crowded road. Present is the freedom to move down that crowded road as you see fit. Congested urban streets and crowded highways stop feeling claustrophobic and start feeling easy.

It's not Green. The problem is, the Smart isn't that smart. The 1-liter, 70bhp engine has to work hard, so it only averages about 38mpg. Less if you drive fast.

So the Smart is a more complete, practical car than most people assume it to be - but that's also its biggest problem. It'll still get caught in traffic jams. Look at the Smart as a practical car that's easier to use in an urban environment than anything else, and you'll be happy. Look at it as fundamentally altering the way Americans think about transportation though, and you'll be disappointed. 

Photo: Jalopnik

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Data Dive: More Delivery Workers are Registering Their Mopeds 

“If you have plates, [the police] won’t summons you,” Junior Pichardo told Streetsblog the other day on Flatbush Avenue. “They won’t bother you.” 

February 21, 2024

Why Your City Needs a Walkability Study

Two urbanism rockstars are joining forces to bring a game-changing analysis to more cities — and spilling some trade secrets about low-cost design strategies that get people moving.

February 21, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: No Times Like This Times Edition

Did the metro editors at the Times have drinks with their New York Post counterparts last week? Plus other news.

February 21, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: The Polk’s on Us Edition

Our investigative reporter Jesse Coburn won a Polk Award for his three-part, seven-month "Ghost Tags" investigation. Plus other news.

February 20, 2024

Komanoff: What Was Left Unsaid to Congestion Pricing Opponents

Politicians can be diplomatic, but subject matter experts have a responsibility to say the quiet part out loud. Charles Komanoff learned that last Thursday at the latest congestion pricing gripefest.

February 20, 2024
See all posts