How Smart of you!

By Nancy Dunham

Think about the last time you really had a blast driving a car.

It’s been a while, right? But now that you’re an adult, that kind of fun is really behind you. At least that’s what you may think until you take a drive in a Smart Car—which by the way gets fantastic gas mileage and has earned high safety ratings. (You thought we would lead with that, huh? Well turns out this little guy’s got multiple qualities to recommend him.)

The smart fortwo cars (which are about 8 feet 8 inches in length) looks like a big Tinker Toy, a cute carnival bumper car on steroids, the child of a Mini Cooper. In Europe, where roads are narrow and gas prices astronomical, the Smart Car (there are different names for it, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call it this) is seen on almost every road.

Maya Coulibaly, 34, of Fredericksburg, Va., saw the Smart Cars when visiting France and couldn’t wait to buy one. The great gas mileage (about 35 miles per gallon for U.S. models) will help her save when she takes her 15 year old son to the myriad events he attends. Still, she’s keeping her Lincoln Navigator for other times.

But is she worried that a car this little is a risky way to transport her family? "I know the car is safe," said Coulibaly citing the solid steel "walnut" design, the high position of the seats and the experiences of her European friends. "I have no concerns at all about safety in that car."

In the U.S. three types of Smart Cars are available. The Passion Cabriolet (about $16,590) is a convertible with extras including upgraded heat and audio. The Passion Coupe ($13,590) has a few extras (such as a CD player) more than the basic Pure ($11,590). Each model boasts 70 horsepower, rear-wheel drives and 1.0-liter three-cylinder gas engines and can be ordered with automatic or manual transmissions. What does all of this mean to you? Basically safety and savings.

If you fret that a Smart car will feel like you’re driving a Go Kart, well, don’t worry. It feels incredibly solid, even when passed by large trucks at highway speeds plus it boasts plenty of safety features including anti-lock brakes.

The best part of the Smart car, though, just might be its maneuverability. You know that parking space that would be perfect if the truck hadn’t parked just over the line? Well it’s perfect if you’re driving a Smart car. As is just about anywhere else!

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