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What's so bright about Smart?

A riddle: what is stylish, small and European, and only became officially available in the United States in January?

Smart cars.

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.

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