Recent Belly Flops

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The poor ol’ Pontiac Aztek is old news – and also, it’s been beaten so badly I think it deserves some mercy. Or at least, it deserves to be left alone to pick its teeth up off the floor and wipe up the blood… .

How about some new targets?

But first, let’s define our terms. It is hard to find a genuinely bad car in the old sense. You know, an actual mechanical stinker. Something that won’t start – or run properly.That kind of bad is increasingly uncommon. Almost every late-model car, no matter the badge or brand, runs well enough, is reliable – gets you from “a” to “b” and all that. But while there may not be many bad cars around, there are definitely stupid cars around. Bad ideas. Four-wheeled-never-shoulda-beens.

I’ll begin with the obvious:

* Smart car –

It is expensive (almost $13k to start and they only give you half a car), next-to-useless (a two-seater with no cargo room that is too top-heavy, short-wheelbased and underpowered to dare venturing out onto a highway) and – the piece d’ resistance – it doesn’t even get particularly  fabulous gas mileage. 33 city and 41 highway is about what you’d get in something like a new Fiat 500, which only costs about $2k more but for that you get a whole car with four seats and a trunk. And you can drive it out of your subdivision without worrying about being knocked into a ditch by a semi’s slipstream. Or run over by the semi coming up behind you. Hell, my 1983 Honda Silverwing motorcycle – which I bought for $2,000 – can carry just as many people as the “Smart” car, carries more cargo (no kidding, really) and gets 20 MPG better mileage. So, there you go. The Smart car’s about as dumb as it gets – and I haven’t even mentioned how it looks.

* Acura ZDX – 

This one’s not ugly, just … pointless. The ZDXis a high-riding, low-rooflined crossover sport wagon that’s slow, doesn’t corner too well and can’t be used for very much. It’s also really expensive – pushing $50k with a few options on board. You tell me. It has 300 hp – but needs almost 7.5 seconds to reach 60 MPH. A V-6 Camaro or Mustang will stomp it – and a new Ford Fiesta or Mazda3 will keep up with it. And get twice the ZDX’s horrible 16 MPG. Did I mention it can’t pull more than 1,500 pounds, either? So, what do you do with a ZDX? You write a really big check – $46k, less options tags and taxes. No surprisingly, few are lining up to do so.

* Dodge Nitro – 

It has a silly name, for openers. Embarrassing, actually. Because there’s nothing remotely explosive about the Nitro’s performance. It needs a Prius-like 9.6 seconds to heave its two-ton self to 60 MPH, being both overweight and underpowered. Luckily, you can upgrade to a Detonator or Shock Nitro – and cut that time down to a merely slow 7.7 seconds. Neck and neck with a base Camry four-cylinder. Now that is shocking.  Nitros also come shod with ridiculous ghettowagon 20inch wheels, rendering the 4WD system useless deadweight and also reproducing the ride quality of a really tired ’69 F100. Gnomesayin’?

Tesla – 

There is something demented about a six-figure electric car. It’s like spending a ton of money to build the ultimate motorcycle but it ends up having four wheels. Isn’t the whole point to get around high gas costs? But if the car costs two or three times what the equivalent gas-burner costs, then does it really matter whether it doesn’t burn any gas? You’re still burning money – right? So, yeah, the Tesla looks cool and it’s quick and fast and doesn’t use any gas. But you can buy the Lotus on which it’s based for half as much, get similar performance and put the $50k you just saved toward fuel for, oh, the next 30 years… . I feel green all right. Where’s the nearest bathroom, please?

VW Beetle

Not the old New Beetle. The new (and just) Beetle. It’s no longer cute. It isn’t inexpensive ($19k to start)  and it gets startlingly godawful gas mileage: 22 city. This car has nothing in common with its Beetle ancestors other than its name. VW coulda-shoulda made it lighter, cheaper and much more fuel efficient. A 40 MPG $16k Beetle would have been a slam-dunk hit. But a macho Beetle that gets 22 MPG and isn’t even very quick (7.5 seconds to 60) has all the makings of an epic belly flop.

Time will tell!





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  1. What most people don’t get about the Smart is its intended use is as a Commuter Vehicle. Look at all those ridiculous SUV’s and Pickups clogging the streets in the US. Most are empty and occupied by one or maybe two people. Like Robert_E, I enjoy the Smart because of its size and fuel economy. It suits my Wife and my needs nearly 100% of the time. Sure, sometimes I can use a larger vehicle (bringing back 6 240cm shelves from Home Depot last month comes to mind) but if I need something the Smart cannot carry, I can always have it delivered. Delivery costs here in Guadalajara are rare but if there were a charge, this cost would be a fraction of the costs involved driving something the average American driver thinks is so necessary.
    Regarding the performance of the Smart: I have never had a problem keeping up (except on long grades), passing or being passed. Although I have not driven in strong crosswinds, the few times I have driven on windy days, I have had no issues with stability. I guess it should be noted however, I have the Pulse which has larger wheels and tires than the Pure or Passion sold in the States. I also fitted Bilstein Coilovers and increased the track by 20mm per axel so I’m certain the car is more stable than the standard US or European model.
    And so what if the top speed is limited to 90MPH? How fast can one drive in Zombie Land anyway? I think claims of Interstate traffic moving at 80-90MPH are exaggerated. I drove a rented Toyota from Las Vegas to Chicago a fews years back and at an indicated 90MPH, my GPS showed a speed of 76-77MPH. The Smart is perfectly adequate at this speed.
    Also, as a clarification to BrentP’s comment on 29.11:
    Although Germany has a Recommended Speed of 130Km/h, it is advisory. Once out of a restricted zone, traffic moves at what an individual feels is best (although trucks are limited to 90 – 80Km/h is their Legal Limit). This can be 80 or 180 depending upon conditions. Sundays, during warm, dry weather and when trucks are generally banned, many drivers travel well above the advisory limit. A driver can be held partly responsible for an accident if he is driving above 130 even if he is not at fault but in Lower Saxony, outside of Hannover, I have seen electric signs showing a 140Km/h Limit which kind-of screws up the 130 Thing.

    • No, it’s not exaggerated in the least for the specific time and place I stated. I can be more specific. I’ve rarely encountered it northbound. Usually southbound. Usually early afternoon on saturday or sunday.

      I have driven the rural autobahn. Free flowing traffic was north of 90mph.

  2. Mr. Peters, I read your “Belly Flops” comments on the Mercedes SMART. You gave me a good chuckle, I’ll admit that. I have owned a SMART Cabriolet for over three years and driven about 46,000 miles with it. I also own and drive some other “regular size” Mercedes models.

    Reading you comments has convinced me that you likely have never come within half a mile of a SMART. I regularly pick up my girlfriend with it at the airport and guess where I put her two full size suitcases? Yes, in the trunk compartment which you claim doesn’t exist. I also installed a ScanGauge and it shows me an average of between 43 and 48 MPG, depending on driving conditions.

    You have obviously never seen the crash test videos which show how amazingly strong the roll cage on this car is. Here ( and here ( are two of them. I drive my SMART on the expressways around Chicago in heavy, fast moving traffic and find it perfectly capable of keeping up with the flow and with more than sufficient power to quickly accelerate past slower vehicles.

    Finally, aside from the amazing parking opportunities that come with a car that is about as long as most others are wide, it also is great fun to drive, especially with the top down of course. Dare I mention that the only car I have ever owned which was a better “chick magnet” 🙂 was a Rolls Royce Corniche.

    Last, but not least, the picture you posted is of the old “Mark I” model which they haven’t made in years and which has never been sold in the USA.

    On a different note, as a fellow contributor to, I love reading your frequent essays on liberty and statist abuse.

    Keep up the good work, Sir.

    • Well, here’s what the specs say:

      Smart car cargo capacity: maximum 7.8 cubic feet. For some perspective,the Fiat 500 (about the same “footprint”) has 30 cubic feet (back seats folded; the Smart has no back seats).

      My Honda GL650 motorcycle has more cargo-carrying capacity than the Smart car! And both my bike and a car like the Fiat are highway-usable. The Smart is not, unless you’re either brave or suicidal (more on this below).

      Mileage: You quote 43-48 MPG. EPA says 33-41, about the same as several real cars, including the Fiat 500 and Ford Fiesta.

      Crash test scores: These are very deceptive because they compare a given car against other cars in its class. So, yes, a Smart does well against a Smart-sized car. But how do you suppose it would fare against, say, a Chevy Suburban? Like it or not, American roads are full of huge vehicles (unlike Europe) and (also unlike Europe) addled, inept and inattentive drivers. I’m not a fearful person, but count me out of that deal!

      I’m glad you’re happy with your Smart. I’m all for “different strokes.” And if it’s getting you some attention from women, groovy!

      • As far as the mileage is concerned, I should add that I only use top tier fuels which (using Scan Gauge) I have observed to make a 10-15% (!) difference in fuel consumption when compared to “economy” priced fuels. You may want to make a subject of a future essay.

        BTW, I LOVED your wolf pack essay. I have railed against the use of “we” for years.

        • Yup! The “economy priced” fuels almost invariably have 10 percent ethanol content. At least it’s possible once again to buy real gas – that is, unadulterated gasoline, not gasohol or E10, as we generally have today.

    • There’s no way a SMART car is going to do well in I294 weekend traffic where going 80mph means being just about the slowest on the road. Will it do well on the southbound Edens on a friday at 5pm. I am sure it would. Although it’s one of those instances a bicycle would often be a better choice.

      Edmunds has the Smart at 0-60 of 13.6 seconds and a 1/4mile of 19.1 @70mph. I wouldn’t be trying any left lane on-ramp merges into free flowing traffic downtown any time soon.

      Then again many drivers in this area just love to force everyone else to brake even when they are driving powerful cars..

      • Just one short reply. You my friend are offering nothing but a speculative opinion without any first hand experience. I on the other hand am writing with three years of actual driving experience, including many weekend trips on the I294 in those high speed conditions you mention. I am constantly amazed at how the SMART outperforms almost every published specification. About a year ago I even drove it from the Edgewater (Sheridan & Bryn Mawr) to Niagara Falls Canada(!). Left at 6:00am and arrived at 3:00pm (Central). That’s 8 hours for a 550 mile trip door to door allowing one hour for customs and my one and only fuel stop – 68.75 mph average speed.

        • Speculative? You saying the road test numbers are wrong? That those who did the road tests are lying? Because those don’t tend to be speculation, they are measurement.

          Driving a car at 8/9ths to 9/9ths* of it’s capability on the road is not something but a tiny minority of drivers do. I’ve seen a number of smart cars on the road and like most drivers they aren’t pushing their cars but using far less than their capabilities.

          Most drivers can’t get a 200+hp car to accelerate decently. In a Smart car IME they are even worse. That’s great that you drive yours to keep up with traffic but that puts you in a small minority that use far more of their car than most.

          My evaluation isn’t speculative opinion, it’s calculated using simple math and physics. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it goes 0-60 in ~13.5 seconds and a quarter mile in ~19 seconds. I see no reason to doubt these numbers beyond a few tenths either way.

          I applaud you for driving it not to interfere with other people and I’ve long advocated that just about anything can be driven that way but you aren’t typical.

          *Top speed is limited to 90mph which means if not the engine something else like handling, tires, etc becomes a liability at higher speed.

          With IL’s new punitive 30 over law I’ve found it very difficult to drive effectively at times when I artificially limit myself as to avoid facing 6 months in jail. The other drivers haven’t heard of this law or don’t care and thus they’re going 80-90mph or more. I’ve found this limitation due to my fear of the state to make driving annoying (part of doing well is being able to execute a proper pass when needed) and in the end, whether it is imposed by the car or by how far one is willing to push his right foot, it amounts to nearly the same thing. And that’s making the assumption that the smart car is excellent driving right up to its top speed.

          Also, A ford tempo has a similar performance 0-60 (13.5 seconds, 1/4 mile in 19 seconds)My grandmother had one. Driving it I tried taking it out on the Calumet Expressway (now called Bishop Ford) and I put the pedal all the way to the floor early in the shortish ramp and the car could not get up to speed to merge at the speed of traffic.

        • Hi Robert,

          If this is for me – “You my friend are offering nothing but a speculative opinion without any first hand experience” – I have to correct you. I drive new cars every week; have been doing it for almost 20 years now. I’ve driven virtually every make/model of vehicle in production, including the Smart. It’s fine as a city-suburban runabout (excepting its extreme vulnerability to being squashed by a 6,000 lb. SUV) but out of its depth on the highway. For one, it is underpowered. Traffic routinely flows at 70-plus MPH today. Often, considerably faster. Not only does the Smart have difficulty maintaining that, it does not have sufficient reserves for merging or passing. Grades can also be a problem for this car. It is (my opinion) nerve-wracking to be driving a vehicle that often struggles to keep up with the speed of traffic and which sometimes (as on a 6 percent grade) literally can’t keep up with traffic…

          Also, the very short wheelbase, tall profile and light weight contribute to a darty, unstable feel at today’s routine highway speeds of 70-80 MPH. And the slipstream of passing vehicles often buffets the car enough to push it out of its lane (similar to early VWs).

          That’s my experience with the Smart. Based on that, I’d recommend it as being suitable only for in-city (urban/suburban) use. And also, that potential buyers realize going in that while the car has good crash test scores relative to others cars of its type (of which there are none in the United States!) you, the driver, will be only slightly less vulnerable than a motorcycle rider in the event a Tahoe or Escalade runs a light at 50 MPH at T-bones you into the afterlife!

      • One more thing. As a lifelong lover and owner of exotic and high performance cars, I freely admit that I originally bought the SMART more as a lark than with any intention of using it as primary transport. Three years later, I find myself hardly ever wanting to drive anything else. A few months ago I had an opportunity to spend a day test driving the whole 2012 Porsche lineup on the (F1 style) Mosport race track. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I would love to try the SMART on that track. 🙂

  3. Cost was obviously no object for this parent, a big shot neurosurgeon. I think he would have been wiser to opt for a Ferrari.

    • Doctors, I’ve found, are among the worst offenders – probably because their profession has been so distorted by the tag team of big government and big business. Fee for service is rare. They routinely treat people using medicines, facilities and equipment not their own – and leave others to pay for it. They are often among the smartest people you’ll find with the least common sense, or economic understanding.

  4. A parent came out to our school to show off his new Tesla to the Honors Chemistry classes. He touted the high tech nature of the batteries. He showed the students the connections for plugging the car into an electrical outlet in his garage. Aside from the high cost of this vehicle, has anyone calculated the impact on one’s electric bill. Does it not also follow that electric cars, if adopted on a wide scale, would increase the demand for electricity and thus an bring increase in coal-based power generation? Would this not offset whatever “green” aspects of the electric car? In addition, what about the safety aspect of batteries in auto accidents? Further, what provisions will have to be made for the disposal of spent or damaged batteries?
    Just askin’
    James Dunlap

    • James –

      All excellent and valid criticisms.

      Electricity does not magically flow from outlets. It must be produced first – and in this country, much of the grid is fed by coal and oil-fired utility plants. These produce “emissions,” too. Which is why some refer to zero emissions electric cars – correctly – as elsewhere emissions vehicles.

      But the larger issue, as I see it at least, is the economic one.

      The Tesla proves it is possible to build a sexy, quick electric car… when cost is no object.

      One could also produce a sexy, quick, hydrogen-powered or turbine (or even nuclear powered) car… as an engineering exercise. But the question is: Can one build an electric car that is cheaper to own and drive than a conventional gas-equivalent car?

      So far, the answer appears to be – no!

      I got into a debate with a defender of the Chevy Volt, pointing out to him that one can buy a new Nissan Versa – which is a larger car, with more interior room and passenger-carrying capacity – for around $10k. With AC, around $11k. That’s brand-new. If you were to shop for a slightly used model, or similar model, you could cut your “up front” cost down to around $7k or so.

      Now compare that to the cost of the Volt – which even after a massive federal tax subsidy still costs about $32k. That’s nearly three times the cost of a new Versa! How many years of driving will it take to reach parity? To work off the difference in up front costs? I calculated it and came up with 12-15 years.

      The guy responded by pointing out that the Volt is a “premium” car with features such as heated seats and a really good audio system. I replied – how is that relevant to the person looking to save money? And if saving money isn’t the point, then what is the point of an electric car? A gas engine will still easily outperform it, as far as acceleration, range and overall ease of use. The only thing the EV has on the standard car is that it doesn’t burn gas. But if it burns money, then who cares whether it doesn’t burn gas?

      I dunno…. you tell me!

      • “Electricity does not magically flow from outlets.”

        I’ve been developing products for the last 15+ years. Over this time I’ve found people more and more have no idea of simple concepts. It really is all magic to them.

        • And it’s not cheap, either!

          I was hoping to get a handle on how much it really costs to recharge the Volt’s batteries but – true story – I was specifically told not to plug it in. I am still wondering why….

    • Good points James. That’s the thing with liberal/progressive/green people: they believe that there is a perfect solution to every problem AND the gov’t should be given the responsibility of implementing what they “feel” is the perfect solution.

      They think like children. They have no concept of scarce resources, or efficiency or value or anything. They have a naive idea, they lobby the gov’t to force people to do it and that’s where their thinking stops.

      They never ask: who’s going to pay for this? What’s the opportunity cost? What are unintended consequences? They don’t need to ask those questions b/c their solution is perfect and the gov’t is enforcing it.

      When the house of cards comes crumbling down those people will be the first to suffer since they have no idea how to do anything for themselves.

  5. The Beetle is the worst of the bunch because it had such a damn good heritage to build on. The new Beetle has nothing of what made the old Beetle so cool, other than the look. The new one is for people who care about appearance not only over substance, but instead of it. The old Beetle you could pull the body off in an hour or two, pull the engine out in less than ten minutes. It was air cooled and sinmple. And, if you so desired, a few minutes with a reciprocating saw and you had a topless beach cruiser. Simple, solid, and easy as hell to work on with a look that made you grin. That’s what made the original great. The new Beetle is a lump of shit, a smirk on wheels.

    After this last Sunday too, all I can say is I’d give damn near anything for a new car where simply changing the headlight wasn’t such a damn process. On my Honda Fit, which is a nice overall car, you have to take the front wheel off to get at the headlight. I’m happy with the car overall. But, I think designers in general have lost sight of the values of simplicity, easy self maintenance, and it would be nice if they acknowledged that not all drivers are midget contortionists weighing less than 50 pounds a piece, and let the seat go back just another inch or two to accomodate those of us who happen to weight more than 120 lbs and are taller than 5’2″.

    • I agree with this, “The new Beetle is a lump of shit, a smirk on wheels.” Taking your wheel off to change a headlight is nuts! I’m 6’3′ and 250, I’ve learned to be flexible over the years, no choice.

    • I feel the same way – as a onetime owner of a real Beetle (’73). I liked the unassuming character of the car, but even more, I appreciated its simplicity and low cost of ownership/operation. I drove one for several years into Washington, DC and back every day commuting to my job at The Washington Times. It handled some of the worst traffic/driving conditions imaginable and it cost me almost nothing to own/drive. Yes, it needed occasional this or that – but almost always, the repair needed was both cheap and easy. I could and did fix everything myself. Not only did I enjoy that car, that car helped me save up the money I used for a down payment on my first place. Had I bought something like the New Beetle instead, all I’d have been doing was making car payments.

      You know what’s really pitiful? The new Beetle, with all its fancy technology, gives you just 22 MPG city. My old-school ’73 Beetle did better than that with 1930’s era technology!

  6. I’ve seen the smart car on the highway. It may be drivable at 60 MPH, but god, it’s not very VISIBLE on the road. My dad’s ATV has more visibility than this thing had. I’d hate to encounter one on the road a night.

    • The US version is barely drivable on highways! It’ll do 60 – but that’s givin’ er’ all she’s got, cap’n! Kind of like taking a little 250 cc dual sport out on I-95. Doable, but not recommended!

      • Granted, my Smart slows on the grades (sometimes to 80Km/h with the air conditioning on) but on the flat, it runs at its governed top speed of 145 (I think that’s about 90MPH). Here in Mexico we get the full-on European version which has a different transmission (or maybe it’s just the programming) than the US model so perhaps that makes difference.
        In the Land of The V8 SUV’s and Pickups, which most people think are essential to life, the Smart doesn’t make sense but here in downtown Guadalajara (where many times it takes less time to travel by bicycle than car), there is a logic to it.
        If one looks at the Smart as a replacement for a bicycle or motor scooter, then it works just fine. The problem with the Fiat 500 is: it’s Italian and Italian cars have a poor reputation for build quality – at least in Germany. There is a reason for the “Danke Schön” Italian Ads a while back which indicated the German Auto Firms thank the Italians for purchasing German cars at the expense of Italian car makers – an increasing number of Italians are rejecting their Home Brands.

        • I would not object to this car if it had some cargo capacity and didn’t cost almost as much as a real car (one you can take on the highway and which does carry four people and cargo).

          I gather it (the Smart) is not doing well here at all and may be pulled from the market. I will not be surprised if that’s the case.

          Now, if they sold this thing for around $8k – or even $10k – then, ok. I get it. But $13k for this? Really?

          I’d take my chances with the Fiat – or for even less money, the excellent Nissan Versa, which you can buy for under $10k brand-new.

          Better yet, buy a used touring motorcycle. You can pick up a nice one for around $5k. (I found one for under $2k.) It carries just as many people – and more stuff! Very small footprint. Park it anywhere. Much easier to maneuver in traffic and tight spaces. It also gets much better gas mileage. And – most important – it’s a helluva lot more fun!

          • First: I will not buy a car whose Mother Country has speed limits. I DO have principles.
            Second: A motorcycle may be a better option but my Wife wouldn’t ride with me on one of those than she will ride with me in my Golf – and that doesn’t even factor in a rainy day.

            • I hear you! My wife is not a fan of my bikes, either.

              The Smart does offer weather protection; I’ll give it that. Now, if they fitted it with a diesel (should be good for 80-plus MPGs in something that small) and gave it a trunk and kept the price under $15k… that’d be something.

          • Every country that has an auto manufacturer has speed limits as far as I know. Some countries have some roads without speed limits but that’s as good as it gets.

          • Technically Germany has an overall advisory speed limit of ~80mph and I don’t think you’ll need to worry about speed driving a Peel P50. 🙂

      • But, for reasons of (probably) safety they don’t seem to want to trust you with the performance models over in the States. The 102 bhp Brabus or the vastly more powerful Smartuki models might strike you as a different ‘Kessel der Fisch’. <):-)


        • I don’t get that… if anything,this market is the better market for the performance version given much lower fuel costs and so, less worry about fuel consumption.

          I’ve heard that the company is very close to closing up shop here due to weak sales, by the way.

  7. When I see the Smart Car I can’t help but think of Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau in the The Pink Panther. Even the totally green leftists of Hollywood thought the Smart fortwo was so ridiculous…no….completely asinine that it was the perfect car for bumbling Clouseau. Thirteen thousand dollars for that? How about I buy a used Miata for three grand, put a luggage rack on it and get 30 MPG consistently. Now how long is it going to take at ten grand to make up that 3 MPG difference? Oh yeah, the Miata’s fun to drive too and with the luggage rack I can actually haul four bags of mulch and still have room in the trunk for groceries. Spending that extra 10K doesn’t seem too “smart” to me.

    • Yup!

      The one attribute the (cough) Smart car had that other cars (in this market) didn’t offer was its tiny footprint. But with the introduction of the Fiat 500, which is only a few inches longer overall but also a real car, with four seats, a trunk and enough engine to comfortably deal with American highways, etc. there is no longer any reason to buy the Smart car, unless you just want it because you just like it. Which is fine, I suppose. Some people also like Edsels. Each to his own. But I’ll never understand the appeal!

  8. I agree that the Acura ZDX is about as stupid a combination of contradictory automotive traits as one can imagine. But especially in light of that fact, it is really good looking….at least to me. Many road tests I’ve read show this car running about .5 second faster to 60 than you indicate. If so, it’s not particularly fast….or slow.

    I have to admit that this is a car I’m considering picking up after one comes off lease. Why? Because they are good looking. And it’s likely to be a collector item, because so few of them will ever be bought. 🙂

    • My bet is you’ll be able to pick up a mint, low-miles one for 40 percent less than sticker. I was reading (and will try to find it/post it here) the other day that Acura is having big troubles finding buyers. I think the lack of performance for the money is the major flaw. If it were quick, the rest would not matter. People routinely buy impractical, expensive cars that can move. But mid 7s 0-60 (or even 7 seconds flat) for $46k base price is not acceptable, especially given it is marketed as a sporty vehicle. I am pretty sure it’s a full second slower to 60 than a BMW X5. Now, if Acura got the 0-60 time down to say 6 seconds or less, my bet is they’d sell enough of these things to make a decent profit.

  9. Over here the Smart may make more sense. The road tax burden on the lower emission level autos can make sensible savings. Our urban roads are much narrower, parking places are restricted and the need for 0-60 mph in single figure seconds is non-existent. In general 0-60 in 10 – 13 seconds is considered adequate for most of our driving. The Smarts I have seen seem to perform quite well on our motorways and hum along in the 70 to 80 mph range quite happily. I would quite like the Smartuki engined Sports version with a 0 – 60 around the 5 second mark to use instead of the ‘bike on the rainy club nights and track-days. I don’t know what versions you have available over in the States but here are a few of our options.

    Model – CC, Power, (£) Price/$ Price equivalent.

    Smart fortwo pulse 71bhp micro hybrid drive
    999cc, 71 bhp, £9,200/$13800

    Smart fortwo pulse 84bhp
    999cc, 84 bhp, £9,700/$14550

    Smart fortwo passion 71bhp micro hybrid drive
    999cc, 71 bhp, £10,000/$15000

    Smart fortwo pulse cdi 54bhp
    799cc, 54 bhp, £10,400/$15600

    Smart fortwo passion 84bhp
    999cc, 84 bhp, £10,500/$15750

    Smart fortwo passion cdi 54bhp
    799cc, 54 bhp, £11,200/$16800

    Smart fortwo BRABUS Xclusive 102bhp
    999cc, 102 bhp, £15,000/$22500

    The Smart fortwo has been awarded a four star NCAP adult occupancy protection rating by the European New Car Assessment Programme out of a possible five stars. Based on this high Euro NCAP rating the fortwo fairs relatively well in an accident. Smart fortwo insurance groups start at group 3 and rise to group 4 (out of twenty groups). All models are, therefore, very cheap to insure.

    Smart fortwo emissions (CO2) range from 86 g/km to 119 g/km. Base models have exceptionally good CO2 emissions, higher spec. models have very good CO2 emissions. An emissions figure of sub 100 g/km would be considered very good and above 200 g/km is very high. The lower the CO2 output, the lower car tax band and environmental impact. Our annual raod tax system works on a 13 band CO2 rating – 0 to 100 g/km costs £0, 101 to 110 costs £20, 111 to 120 g/km costs £30 and so on up to vehicles producing over 255 g/km which are charged at £460 per annum. (These figures are for both petrol and diesel engined cars). The Smart fourtwo range, therefore costs between £20/$30** and £30/$45 per annum to tax. The road tax for trucks and artics (semis?)are out of this world.

    ** Rough estimate at $1.5 to the £1.


    • Ken,

      First of all, I am sorry you live in the ultimate nanny state, the one that the USA must use as a model for the next wave of stupidity. Monty Python skits must look like the good old days. Low CO2 emissions? Must be important if you get taxed or fined I guess…. We do not have that to contend with (yet?) so i do not give a flying rats ass about that.

      The Smart(?) car is an interesting study in creative marketing. If I did not know what that golf cart was called, my first thought would be … what a DUMB car…. followed by….who would be STUPID enough to buy one. The marketing deparment must have thought about that too, until some expert said “I know, lets call it a SMART car. The buyer must think they are smart to buy one. They would have been smarter to buy a two year old real car for the same money.

      Safety? Yeh, I have seen the crash test videos. The so called safety cage protects the CAR quite well. Since it does not have crush zones, ALL of the impact is transmitted to the fool who bought one. He better use the seat belt all te he time. Those airbags better be the ultimate paragon of reliability.

      • Was merely making the point that there are two sides to any coin.

        I have driven a couple of American cars over here (One was, I think, a Cadillac the other was a Mustang)and quite frankly they were so bad they bordered on dangerous. They wallowed, they lurched, they felt quite isolated from the road, had little stability and the body roll with snap direction changes (typical of our roads)was like being in a dinghy in a force ten gale.

        On the other hand, the same type of car in the States, which I have visited many times, made perfect sense. Your roads and driving conditions, compared with ours are like chalk and cheese. In all fairness, the Mustang, after significant suspension and engine work by one of my car specialist friends became quite pleasant to drive on our roads.


        • Ken,

          You are absolutly right about diffeeent cars for different countries and circumstaces. A lot of roads in European cities were never intended for cats in the first place, so only cars the size of horsedrawn buggies would fit well.

          Regarding the “handling” qualites (or lack thereof) of the older American luxury cars, again,you are right. Those cars were intended to be :flying carpets” They could be used in town, on wide roads. They excell on the freeways, or motor ways as the British call them. Large, roomy interiors, something that is more “pointed” than driven. 1960s Chrysler cars had power steering that made it possible to steer a two ton car around a corner with one finger. This was much like driving a video game now. No road feel. brakes that were not the best. Radial tires were illegal to sell till the early 1970s or so.

          I really enjoyed driving my 1971 Volvo. Not too large on the outside, roomy on the inside. Great brakes, good handling. Power marginal, but enough, if it had manual transmission.

          The Smart car, the new Fiat, and the other small cars would make sense in Europe, but not in the US. On the other hand, our SUVs would not fit on European roads, and fueling them would be exceeding expensive.

          • Ken,

            Makes sense. A lot of what goes on in your country and in Europe, is not well known in the USA. It seems like if the powers that be decide something is news, they broadcast it, but if they do not want it known, no one will know about it. Unless they are on the internet, at least for now.

            I enjoy reading different points of view, from other parts of the world.

            The original topic, they Smart car is just odd here. I am sure there are things about America that are regarded as odd in Europe too…….

        • The big american sedan was supposed to be a living room on wheels. It was for big american roads. My grandfather’s ’76 olds was so smooth and soft. Felt nothing in there. It was not intended for roads more challenging than a big american arterial road. That said, I’ve seen that the crown vic can be a good rock climber in the right hands…

          Mustangs are supposed to be whatever the owner wants them to be. Thus they tend to come from the factory for the american mass market. Everyone modifies them to their own tastes. This said, ford is getting better and better at having mustang to come from Ford the way an ordering buyer wants it with less and less modification needed.

  10. I think if the Smart car was priced at 7k it would be a slick vehicle. The last I checked they need premium gas (they’re like 10:1) and the warranty is 30,000 miles (if I remember right). You can get a better warranty on an ATV!

    • At $7k I could see it – as a strictly urban/city car. But even then, it can’t carry much of anything – which is ridiculous. An ATV is useful. Slap some turn signals and plates on it and you could bring home groceries. But in the Smart? If your wife comes along for the ride, all you can take home is what the two of you can carry in your laps….

  11. During recent shopping for a new car, I passed on all things GM and Chrysler, both for practical and ideological reasons. I resented my taxes bailing out both companies. Plus, I figured either could go broke again, so where would that leave owners with warranties (of course, GM already did one round of screwing those who bought pre-bailout)?

    However, I used to look at Nitros on the road and think: “Cool!” Now I’m doubly glad I didn’t waste time on a dealer visit and a test drive.

    What did I buy? A 2011 CRV. My wife is still driving a 9-year-old, with almost 100% satisfaction. That alone was 90% of my purchase decision.

    • I love my Nitro. It has the 4.0 and has plenty of power. Just drove in the first snow of the season, 4×4 worked great. I think the guy writing these articles is on crack or something of the sort. He should really get his facts straight.
      I think anyone who misses out on at least looking at a Nitro because of this guy only messed themselves over. Compare apples to apples people…

      • Hey Brian,

        Different strokes…

        The 4 liter version is … ok (just barely) as far as power/performance. But “Nitro”? And “Detonator”? “Shock”?

        Seriously? It’s like calling a a toothless old coon dog Rambo!

        And it is toothless. With 4WD, this thing needs well over 8 seconds to reach 60. Yeah, if you skip the 4WD, it gets there in just under 8. But now it’s useless, and still not quick. A four-cylinder Camry will give it a run.

        If it were a trail-rated 4×4, of course, quickness would be irrelevant. But it’s got gnomesayin’ 20-inch ree-uhms and all that ghetto crap and would be totally out of its depth off-roading.

        So what do you do with this thing?

        It is slow, it handles like crap, isn’t built to go off-road and it gets 16 city, 22 highway (20 with 4WD). The only functional thing I can see is that it has a good tow rating.

        I’d call that a bomb. A pretty shocking one!


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