Originally intended to document my experience of DeLorean ownership, focus is often radical and strange, boring and obtuse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

SmartCar: Officially Dumb?

They say good things come in small packages. They're wrong.

I feel really great today. Why? Consumer Reports, the Bentley of car testing publications, agrees with me. The SmartCar stinks.

Consumer Reports' chief tester David Champion says he does not think highly of the SmartCar ForTwo, and was quoted as saying, "We don't think they're particularly good, but we've got a lot of people interested in it."

I don't know what his reasons are, but I suspect many of them are the same as my own. Hey, I used to be interested in it too! Until I devoured all the info on the SmartCar website. Then, things changed, anda few months ago I wrote about why I dislike the SmartCar, using facts taken directly from the SmartCar website.

What's strange is that Smart owners seem to be offended by those facts, and threatened by anyone who writes about those facts.

The biggest reason I don't like the SmartCar is because it is fooling everyone into thinking it's some environmentally-friendly, earth-saving, non-polluting vehicle. Most people I've spoken with didn't believe me when I told them it was a diesel. Almost everyone was disappointed to learn it wasn't electric.

I'll tell you right now - Make it electric and I'll do a complete 180 on my opinion of it. It is a great car, but not for Canada, where fuel is cheap, cities are far apart, and the only thing wider than our roads are the trucks that drive on them. Its tiny size may get you a dozen more mpg over a VW Golf TDi, but if it takes 2 trips to get all your groceries home, it defeats the purpose.

In Canada, the SmartCar just isn't a great idea. *Edit* Originally I wrote about the fact that there's no spare tire. Now, something has been brought to my attention in the comments below. The Smart comes equipped with a can of puncture sealant and inflation foam. This information was not provided on the Smart Car website at the time this post was written. I agree the foam can help in some emergency situations, but it can't seal a blow-out. And when you're travelling on a Toronto highway and hit debris, you don't get a puncture. You get a blow-out that only a spare can help with (assuming it's got air). Which is fine if you only plan to use the Smart on city streets - An ideal place for the car.

Additionally, it's unsafe. I know what you are saying, nay, yelling at me right now: It did okay in crash-tests you dolt! Watch the video! So the doors still open. Now, let me give you a harsh dose of reality, and the reason I think it's unsafe. If someone was driving that car, that poor sap would have just lost both legs. Crash tests do not simulate real life. I will eat my words if I ever see someone walk away from their SmartCar after being sideswiped by a Lincoln Navigator changing lanes at 140 kph, causing the SmartCar to bounce off the guardrail like a 72-pound wrestler, directly into the path of Triple H in the form of transport truck barrelling down the highway at a completely normal 120 kph.

Finally, it's just a diesel engine. Invented by Rudolph Diesel in 1892, diesel engines have been used widely in cars since first being used in the 1936 Mercedes Benz 260D. Plain, boring, dirty, smelly, carcinogenic diesel. There's no technological advancement here. Not like VW.

David Champion agrees with me that the SmartCar isn't very good. But without test-driving the Smart Car, I don't know what flaws or quality issues the car has which makes Consumer Reports think poorly of it. This was a car I could have fallen in love with; it's a shame it's an ordinary diesel.

C'mon Mercedes, make it live up to its name. Make it electric! Now that's a smart idea. And I'd be happy to drive one.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Rainypete said...

I think it's cool. What's better than a car that fits in your pocket, especially in bigger cities where you have to pay to park?

7:14:00 AM

 
Blogger ms. creek said...

electric/bio-diesel?

how fast is 120k? let's see, 2.2 lbs/kilogram, wait, wrong measurement. oh yeah, 1000km/m, 100cm/m, 2.54 cm/inch, 12in/ft, 5280ft/mile. never mind. i think i'll go eat more candy.

9:08:00 AM

 
Blogger Martini said...

120 kph is about 75 mph.
140 kph is about 85 mph.
Incidentally, 140 kph is probably the average speed on most of our highways. You could probably fit a 3 month supply of candy in a SmartCar.

12:12:00 PM

 
Blogger Kev And Charlotte said...

Hey, now down't you bad mouth the smart. In London, England you can rent em for like 4 quid a day. They aren't deisel there, and i've driven them lots. Inside they feel super rooomy (till you look over your shoulder). I don't know about here, but they are wicked fun in a euro city with wee windy streets and you don't have to pay congestion-charge on the things.

Sure, the things only go 85 miles per hour, but the miles per gallon is nicer than a LOT of hybrid cars. If you have a mindset where you compare them to most existing cars feature for feature, you may come up short on the smart - but it's not like most existing cars, it needs it's own category. Did i mention it's not diesel over there?

Kev

3:56:00 PM

 
Blogger Martini said...

I know, it's a unique car with some definitE benefits, but if Consumer Reports doesn't like it, then I'm not crazy. Except for the lack of spare tire, I would love it if it were electric.

What does it run on in Europe? Regular gasoline? According to the SmartCar website it gets 60 mpg, while the hybrid Honda Insight gets 66 mpg.

12:11:00 PM

 
Blogger JODSTER said...

Makes my Metro look huge. I may even try bouncing one off a highway median this weekend!

12:16:00 PM

 
Blogger Amanda said...

I have a smart roadster, but actually am enjoying it. It is especially great when it is warm and the top is down. However, there are a few glitches that are annoying. We will definately we trading it in for a merceded in a couple of years. ;) It's more of a short term toy I suppose. ;) But it is the closest thing I have had to a sports car...so I'll enjoy it while i can! :)

7:40:00 AM

 
Blogger Martini said...

Hi Amanda
Thanks for the input. It's nice to hear people's opinions, especially if they are owners! I do think the SmartCar looks fun to drive and I would not pass up an opportunity to try it.

If you come back this way, keep me updated on your thoughts about it.

-M.

1:50:00 PM

 
Anonymous mattdaddy said...

"Consumer Reports, the Bentley of car testing publications, agrees with me."
Thanks for discrediting yourself right off the get-go. CS is a steaming pantload of a publication when it comes to car testing.
Do yourself a favour get yourself educated on the car before posting your ignorant rant.

9:39:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!! Try driving the car before you slag it! Open your mind!
1.When's the last time you had a flat tire?Why haul around extra weight? The smart has road side assistance for 4 years. It also comes with a kit including a compressor for minor repairs.
2.The smart has been involved in numerous collissions in Canada with no reported fatalities. Will be much safer than a DeLoreon.
3.A diesel with no technological advances??? Do your research!!
The diesel powering the smart is computer operated with a cdi system from bosch that makes it one of the most efficient in the world. Have you ever wondered why half the passenger vehicles in Europe are now diesel?
They use less fuel and that makes them more environmentally friendly.

I find it very strange that you feel threatened by the smart car.
It's probably because you know deep down that you really should be driving one if you were truly responsible.
Glenn.

10:37:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Secondly, it's unsafe. I know what you are saying, nay, yelling at me right now: It did okay in crash-tests you dolt! Watch the video! So the doors still open. Now, let me give you a harsh dose of reality. If someone was driving that car, the poor sap would have just lost both legs. Crash tests do not simulate real life. I will eat my words if I ever see someone walk away from their SmartCar after being sideswiped by a Lincoln Navigator changing lanes at 140 kph, causing the SmartCar to bounce off the guardrail like a 72-pound wrestler, directly into the path of Triple H in the form of transport truck barrelling down the highway at a completely normal 120 kph."

Check out Bud Colby (Calgary Alberta). He was doing 110 kph and was broadsided by a Kia Sorento doing 120k. The smart flipped in the air before even touching down and rolled several times. Bud was home from the hospital 3 days later. Realize of the over 7,000 smarts in Canada noone has been killed or seriously injured in one while there have been many accidents.

1:10:00 PM

 
Blogger tuborg said...

Would you feel safer in a 10ton dumptruck or SUV hitting a cement wall head on at 100km/h? Trust me, I have seen videos of this. Nothing more than a charred lump of metal in the end. Smart car drivers, are just that. Smart. (95% of all accidents are preventable) Me thinks, smart drivers are 200% more aware of their surrounding conditions than most other drivers. They have absolutely nothing to prove, other than the fact that they are a happy bunch. Hooray for them.
I would get one if I could...

12:05:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corvettes, most Ferraris, all current Lamborghinis, and many other top dollar vehicles don't carry a spare tire; they come with a can of flat repair and a small compressor to reinflate with. The smart is just the first car for ordinary folks that uses this very wise technology to save weight, and thereby fuel.

Some car companies fit their cars with 'run-flat' tires, but the ride and handling suffer. Spare tires are now delivered only to the fat and foolish, who pay extra for the 'old way' of doing things.

12:18:00 AM

 
Blogger Martini said...

Anonymous #1Bud Colby's experience is amazing for sure. But 3 days in the hospital is pretty rotten.

At 100 kph, I slammed my Jeep YJ head-on into a cement wall while avoiding an idiot and his unfortunate offspring reversing up the highway in my lane. I didn't spend one day in a hospital. My only injury was sore wrists from holding the steering wheel so tightly.

Anon #2 - Thanks for that info! This is something many people did not know, including myself, as the Smart Car website failed to mention this when I researched the car.

Unfortunately, if you read the cans, there are many, many different kinds of punctures they can't seal. On the other hand, most people don't even know if their spare tire has air in it. So I guess they cancel each other out.

6:36:00 PM

 
Blogger Martini said...

If any of you actually took the time to read my post carefully, you would see that I suggested an Electric Smart Car would be an excellent idea - and I'd be happy to drive one. I'm not 100% against the car.

mattdaddy - Consumer Reports is a widely read and respected publication whose information is compiled by acquiring statistics. Your ignorance absolutely astounds me.

tuborg - you could be quite right there. Still, I'd be a bit nervous taking one on the highway.

Glenn - 1. If I've seen one driver stranded with a flat, I've seen a thousand. It happens daily.

2. The DeLorean has been involved in numerous collisions worldwide, with no fatalities. Statistically, the Smart isn't safer.

3. Okay, the CDI is advanced as far as diesels go, however, you've missed the point. Diesels still compress fuel and emit extremely harmful particulate matter into the air. Electrics like the Tesla, and hybrids, employ far more advanced technology.

Diesel fuel is the predominant fuel in Europe because it is (or used to be) cheaper. Period.

I didn't say I felt threatened by the Smart Car. Don't know where you got that from. If you're just trying to hurl insults at me, grow up.

Finally, as a "truly responsible" person, I drive a car that pollutes less than a Smart Car, and gets better fuel economy - a SULEV Honda Insight. Ouch. I'm sorry that hurt.

9:58:00 AM

 
Blogger Aims said...

"1.When's the last time you had a flat tire?Why haul around extra weight? The smart has road side assistance for 4 years. It also comes with a kit including a compressor for minor repairs." OOOOhHHHH super 4years assistance wow lucky ole car!! Why do prats feel the need to comment?!

3:09:00 PM

 
Blogger Kev And Charlotte said...

I'm sticking to my post - when i drove a smart, it was wicked stupid fun. I loved it. I'd totally buy a second hand one.

But a gas powered one!! like they have in UK.

7:28:00 PM

 
Blogger Rainypete said...

I had a blast when I was bombing around in a smart car (and they go like stink too with the low weight). I'm on the hunt for one in the next couple of years until someone comes up with a better option for me. With my history and car batteries (only get 2 years out of one) I just don't know.

8:48:00 PM

 
Blogger Martini said...

And thanks for stating your thoughts in a respectful, mature manner.

11:58:00 AM

 
Blogger Martini said...

As for "Mattdaddy" and "Glenn" -

You attack the writer instead of valid subject matter because you don't know what you're talking about. The slander tells me my mind is more open than yours ever will be.

All modern cars (and some not modern ones) are computer controlled. Diesels emit harmful particulate matter and twice as much carbon dioxide into the air as their gas counterparts. They are not environmentally friendly. The Mercedes Bluetec diesel is what I call advanced technology. Perhaps it is you who should be doing research.

Facts about the car outweigh your opinions. Care to continue the debate?

3:42:00 PM

 

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