Jun 10, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
A riddle: what is stylish, small and European, and only became officially available in the United States in January?
The Swatch-Mercedes brainchild, already synonymous with efficiency and minimalism on the other side of the pond, become officially available to American drivers earlier this year.
Available in three models and a slew of flashy colors, the Smart ForTwo seats two passengers and nestles comfortably in half the parking space as a traditional passenger car.
Smart center Buffalo, one of over 70 smart dealers in the States, were on hand last weekend at Carol’s and Pete’s Polar Parlors, displaying four fortwos and fielding questions from interested patrons.
Carol’s Polar Parlor owner Carol Franceschetti and her brother-in-law Peter Haun, owner of Pete’s Polar Parlor, each reserved their fortwos last year and have been zipping around the Syracuse area in their new rides for about two months now.
Franceschetti said she parks the ForTwo in the lot each morning, and it quickly catches the attention of passers-by.
I can’t get the store open in the morning, she said. People start asking me about it as soon as I pull in.
It is a curious sight, and dealer representatives agreed that of all the questions the fortwo raises, there are two that keep popping up.
Is that thing safe?
According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the fortwo earned ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ crash safety ratings, the two highest ratings given by the insurance trade group.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, an organization of the federal government, gave the fortwo four and three stars out of five in frontal crash tests, and noted a safety concern in side crash testing, the result of the driver side door unlatching during the side impact test, increasing the likelihood of a passenger being ejected from the vehicle during a collision.
How is it on gas?
The three-cylinder engine advertises an average of 33 miles to the gallon in the city and 41 on the highway, according to most recent emissions standards, though like any vehicle, gas efficiency is affected by driving practices and vehicle maintenance.
The fortwo is classified as an ultra low emission vehicle, but it does run solely on gasoline.
At Pete’s Polar Parlor, Fairmont resident Jeff Gasky peered inside one fortwo on display.
Gasky said he had heard the fortwos in Canada get around 90 miles to the gallon, but they are diesel engines, and not available in the United States.
I was wondering, what’s the hold up? Gasky said.
The diesel version, capable of reaching upwards of 70 miles to the gallon, is available in Europe and Canada, but was not be introduced in the States because it does not meet emissions standards, said Smart representative Ken Kettenbeil.
In the United Kingdom, 100 electric models are currently being tested, and a micro-hybrid model is already on sale in Europe in addition to the diesel model. Kettenbeil said
one of the three derivitives of the ForTwo will be available stateside, but there is no time frame as of yet.
A tiny car revolution?
The ForTwo is marketed as a lifestyle vehicle, designed for urban settings, ideal for commuters and single people or couples.
As consumers begin to move away from the SUV trend, miniature models like the ForTwo are becoming more popular, but how small is too small?
Franceschetti said her ForTwo provides ample storage space for a shopping trip, and the Smart USA website claims 12 cubic feet from floor to ceiling behind the passenger seating.
Still, for an occasional vehicle that seats only two, the bare minimum ForTwo model – sans luxuries like air conditioning and power steering – starts at $11,590.
One Lakeland resident, who preferred not be named, sat in Pete’s parking lot enjoying a vanilla cone and gazing at the blue ForTwo.
I wouldn’t mind having one, she said. But how many ice cream cones would I have to give up?