First “Smart” Car Arrives in New York

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

  • Mark

    Smart car: oxymoron.

  • flp

    “Gone is the need to take responsibility for an acre of SUV on a crowded road”

    ha! as though those dummer hummers ever did THAT!

  • I think they’re cute

    I think they mean “smart” in the sense of “stylish/trim”.

  • upstate manhattan

    …first? there’s been one in my washington heights neighborhood for months now… wearing BC plates, of course.

  • mork

    Dunno — if everyone had one of these, there’d be twice as many parked at curbside and twice as much traffic!

  • I think they’re cute

    But if every current car owner traded theirs in for one of these, we’d be able to reclaim 50% of our street space and parking lots!

  • Larry Littlefield

    There was a great document on the nation’s economy put out by the federal Office of Technology Assessment 20 years ago. It has a whole analysis of the structure of the economy, from the consumption side back to the production side. One problem — the auto companies were among the technical advisors.

    So what was their solution to the problem of energy (remember, this was close enough to the 1970s that they admitted there as such a thing?). People don’t own enough cars. Instead of one or two, people need five or six. Going somewhere alone? Use a Smart Car and save gas. You need a personal truck for when you need to move things, and a large sedan for when the whole family travels together.

    Sort of ruined the whole book for me.

  • vnm

    Upstate Manhattan, “first American owner” seems correct if the person you saw is from British Columbia

  • ben

    if the car went for 2,000 bucks like india’s quest. I am not sure better, yet car sharing could take off.

  • Chris Loos

    Smart Car vs. concrete barrier, courtesy Top Gear:

  • E

    The guys at jalopniks say the Smart Car is “not gay.” What the heck is that supposed to mean?

  • Oxymoron. Exactly. Let’s support Komanoff and Kheel and make transit fare-free. The private auto is not only obsolete, it is a threat to all life on earth.

  • not even gay

    E@10:17, I may have some insight into your semantic question. I drove a couple thousand miles down south last summer with a male friend in a Scion xA, and let me tell you, a Scion xA is the automotive equivalent of interesting eyeglasses. It set off ‘gaydar’ all over the place, especially Alabama.

  • anon

    What is the difference between tsmart car and the nano that Tata just unveiled in India?

  • Brad Aaron

    About $16,000, anon.

  • Josh

    Is that actual 38 mpg, or fake on-paper-only 38 mpg? Because actual 38 mpg is better than most cars.

  • Sphekko

    Not that impressed. I’m pretty sure the Euro version is way more efficient. Why they didn’t allow it here years ago blows my mind. At any rate, doesn’t make much sense to have a car of any kind in New York, i say band ’em from all of Manhattan!

  • Propes

    The diesels in Europe were (and are) much more efficient (and got real-world 60+ MPG), but they flunk EPA emissions and safety testing. Those that were brought into the US and converted to meet standards cost upwards of $30,000 (the top model with everything is under $20k, and the base starts at $11k).

    From my reading of people who already have the US model, real world MPG seems to hover around 38-41 with occasional spikes above and below; but it’s a very small sample size so far.

  • Jonathan

    There’s a Smart Fortwo MHD model that gets 55 mpg, but I’m not sure which fuel it runs on.

  • alpan

    Wait till he get’s rear ended at a red light camera like I just did. He’ll wish it were a Hummer. I’ll take a car with some meat on it thank you.

  • laura

    I am crazy for smart cars they are so cute! Im going to get one for my quincianera!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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