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I attended the SMART Car Road Show Tour as it passed through Walnut Creek, California today and had some fun observations to share with you all.

First, after parking our Insight right across from their exhibits (just lucky, as it was pretty well attended by the time we got there) we walked over to talk to the SMART Public Relations 'flak' to ask some questions and get the run-down. The flak I spoke to was a well turned-out young man in his mid-20's.

My first question was 'what type of fuel does the SMART require?', his quick and chipper answer: "it uses unleaded gasoline." I rephrased the question: 'what grade of fuel does it require?', (looking around to see who was listening) he answered "premium." My next question was 'what sort of fuel mileage numbers does the SMART have?' he answered: "Oh, we're in the 40's in town and it's in the 50's when I drive it on the highway." 'Hum' I said, 'my car over there (pointing to my Insight parked 30 feet away) uses regular grade fuel, gets in the mid-50's in town and in the low 60's on the highway.' "No it doesn't" he replied. When I then retorted that in my 6 1/2 years of ownership and record keeping that it certainly does, and that it's (albeit less than realistic) EPA mileage numbers were 61 in the city and 70 on the highway he said: "No they aren't - you're confused, hybrids get better mileage in town than on the highway becuase they use their electric motors to run at low speeds." Now ain't life just grand? He certainly straightened me out on that 6 1/2 year delusion that I thought was reality! By this time, I felt his conduct more than warrented a quick technical primer on the differences between Toyota & Honda hybrid systems along with CVT and manual transmissions. I was consise, and at the end of about 50 seconds, when he looked sutably well educated (and contrite), I thanked him for the information, took a look at the SMART and left. Upon reflection, I believe I was dealing with a young salesperson, not a technical geek.

As to the car - good for Mercedes Benz for bringing it to the US and giving it a shot. It doesn't compete with our Insight too well save for more airbags & modern safety systems. It sure doesn't have the space to haul crap like our little hatchbacks do. It isn't a Honda either, I'm absolutely positive that they won't be as problem free as the bulk of our little guys have been (or Toyota either). If I was in the market for a new replacement for our Insight, I would probably start by looking at the Honda FIT or the Toyota Yarus hatchback...and if I ever got to the point where I felt the need for a small car that used premium grade fuel, I'd go for the new Mini Cooper!
 

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:D :D For a minute I thought you were going to ask him what the top speed was (80 MPH) or the accereration from 0 to 60 (about 18 seconds) or about the cost of servicing (think Benz technicians and parts) or noise levels, or the size of the wheels. Mercifully you let him off easily. Well on the plus side.....it is cheaper than the Insight, it is still for sale, it is easy to park, you are unlikely to get a speeding ticket, and you could fit two of them into a single car garage.
 
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:D :!:

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there was a SMART test car in front of us when we left the parking lot and the driver booted it good out on the street. I thought 'well lets see how measure up' and floored our Insight from about 5 car lengths behind in an adjacent lane. We flew past him in no time, and with quite a speed advantage. SMARTS...bring 'em on!
 

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Come on guys the Smart is not comparable to the Insight and its not meant to be.Sounds like you just wanted to brag a bit and ridicule the new kid on the block.
I ran a Smart for over two years and its a great little car but like all others its not an Insight,never was,never will be and certainly not designed to be.
Qship the three cars you mentioned as a replacement are not Insights either and would be a disappointment,they would provide more room but not have the ally body or efficiency of the Insight.
The Smart is quite an accomplishment in its own right to have the refinement,equipment level,crash rateing and handling its doe's for such a small package.Its ultra minimum footprint is designed for crowded conditions which do not exist in the US. This prime design objective is lost in that market with the cuteness and better MPG and association with Mercedes being the only attractions for potential customers.
As for reliability they have been on sale here for seven years now with no known problems.
Another positive in the Smarts defense is its available in diesel,a mild hybrid and a full electric and its carbon footprint cradle to grave is less than most other cars due to its diminutive size and its state of the art factory.
I have owned the Smart and would own another but as with all other cars do not consider it a substitute for the Insight.
By not looking at the Smart with an open mind and embraceing it you are missing another automotive experience that I have found invaluable.
My two years with the Smart added to my knowledge and motoring enjoyment.
Its a motoring icon along side the Insight and many others. ;)
 

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i'm confused to how the Smart Car is electric in other countries, but gasoline here? Or are there two cars called the smart car?
 

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Re: Attended the SMART Car Tour today - no threat to our Ins

Qship said:
My first question was 'what type of fuel does the SMART require?', his quick and chipper answer: "it uses unleaded gasoline." I rephrased the question: 'what grade of fuel does it require?', (looking around to see who was listening) he answered "premium."
Hmmm...I don't know what pipe he's been smoking, but every SMART I've seen has a small 3 cylinder turbo diesel engine.

I'll never understand the SMART in comparison to the Insight. While I'm sure the SMART is a good car, it has absolutely no utility in my life. It's dead slow to the point where it's boring, there no cargo-carrying capacity at all past one or two laptop bags, it's the quintessential "box mobile" and it trails clouds of diesel stink at every intersection (mainly because it has to be floored to get any reasonable acceleration).

The Inisght gets better mileage, looks better (subjective but I think most of the public would agree), is twice as fast (almost literally) and can actually haul stuff...
 

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Re: Attended the SMART Car Tour today - no threat to our Ins

... you're confused, hybrids get better mileage in town than on the highway becuase they use their electric motors to run at low speeds."
I've across that same lack of "understanding" as well when discussing the mileage I'm getting from my little Insight.

Fred / Proud Owner of "The Silver Bullet"
 
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FYI, here in the US, Mercedes will not either sell or support the SMART directly, but has an exclusive arrangement through Roger Penskes' Auto Group of Detroit to do so. The only engine they're bringing in to the US is the gasoline one.

I'm pleased the SMART coming here and, though we're not considering any replacement to our Insight, we wanted to drive an hour (each way) on our Sunday afternoon to see its introduction. Don't know about anyone else, but I was unimpressed by their fluffy smoke & mirrors approach to the "road show", the lack of easily assessable facts or technicaly knowledgable staff. When fairly asked how the car he represented compared to a common (in Northern California at least) Honda Insight, the SMART associate went out of his way to inform me that I didn't have my facts straight. Humm.....that's an interesting technique.

Context is everything, and in the context of the part of America I drive in the Insight works superbly. Short drives to 500+ mile days are easily and enjoyably handled by our wonderful little car. I assume it works pretty well for most of you in the different parts of the world you live in too - or you'd likely not own an Insight. We need more small cars here and I've seen the SMART work well in the context of crowded European cities but, after witnessing the Penske SMARTusa folks at work, am now more unsure than ever how it's going to play in the context of the US market. As I said earlier, I do wish it well and hope it finds a successful & supportable market here.
 

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It seems to me that the Smart's forte is its parkability (offering the perpendicular-to-curb option as well as easy parallel-ability). This gives it an advantage over even small "normal" cars (including the Insight) in an urban setting where parking is limited. Unfortunately distances are usually not great in urban use and rapid transit (and bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles) compete with it there.

I saw a lot of them in Turin, Italy last fall. But if I lived there I'm not sure I'd want one unless I had a long commute that I had to do by car where parking was a concern. If one were to have a car at all, one of the small Euro-diesels might be a better choice because it might be more useful for forays out of the city.

In other words, its niche seems rather narrow even in Europe.
 

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Re: Attended the SMART Car Tour today - no threat to our Ins

Qship said:
It doesn't compete with our Insight too well...
I don't think it was meant to. From the day they go on sale to the general public here, new smarts will outsell new Insights!
 

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I suggest if you want factual info on the Smart Google it and check out any number of sites including owners forums.
FYI there are a lot of sales people who do not know their product, I see it all the time so its best to seek it out with the technology we have at our disposal on line.
Regardless who markets the Smart in the US it is still connected with Mercedes and all that carries with it,the status,build quality etc.
The Smart is available in Europe as a diesel.petrol,mild hybrid and soon to be released full electric. The UK petrol version is capable of a limited 90mph and that is quick enough for most people.
Engines are 61,71,84hp,with a Brabus version of 98hp and a zero to 62mph time of 9.9 seconds with a limited 95 mph top.So who sezzzz they are slow.
Its funny my wife and I found the space behind the seats quite adequate for two years,going to the grocery,carrying cases of wine,a six foot step ladder,even a third small person of course not all at the same time :lol:
No you guys are just to cruel and not expanding your minds over this concept its like owning a motorbike you don't compare them with cars they were designed for a totally different transport experience.
DGate
 

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Dgate said:
FYI there are a lot of sales people who do not know their product, I see it all the time so its best to seek it out with the technology we have at our disposal on line.
I've read numerous posts on here regarding Honda salespeople and sevice technicians that are not well informed on the Insight. I've even talked to Honda sales managers who seemed shocked and disbelieving when I told them I routinely get 75 to 82MPG on a 60 mile ride to work. It's the same with every car, every product. Some people do their jobs half (!)ed :shock:
 

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When I was visiting Germany two years ago, they were everywhere. I thought they were so cool looking, so the family I was staying with got one for a test drive and let me drive it. In Germany, it is so useful in the cities with the small roads and limited parking. It's a great in-town car.

As others have said, it's forte may not be to directly compete in the fuel savings area, but more in the space saving area, and in that context it performs very well.
 

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Driving conditions and drivers are very different in Europe and England. The Smart is more suitable over there. Honda has tiny cars in Japan that they don't market in North America, and I think Daimler-Benz was right not to bring the Smart to the U.S. either.

Locally I see more Smart cars than Insights. They are all Diesel. I'm concerned that in Canada Smart car drivers are being coerced by slick salesmanship.

I don't want to read where one of the multitude of local deer has hit a Smart car.

I don't want to see a Smart car stuck in the snow because of its small wheels or off the road because it hit one of our infamous potholes. (Even the SUVs get in trouble around here.)

Over the years I have been almost the first to an accident scene three times and seen two people die that I couldn’t help. I don't want to be trying to get someone out of a Smart that has tangled with a typically much heavier Canadian vehicle. Also I drove motorcycles for many years as a student, and could easily have been killed on several occasions. Perhaps these experiences make me a more serious driver now and in part explain why I believe that hybrid cars like the Insight, Civic and Prius are the correct technical route to follow for safety, practicality, and clean emissions.
 

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Kip your fear tactics remind me of someone south of the border of your location.I fail to agree with your analogy since the world is by nature a hostile place where man is concerned and people dying will always occur one way or another.
There are so many varied types of transport used throughout the planet to pick on just one is ridiculous.
Car companies dominating the market by producing hugh inefficient vehicles tout the same argument that small cars are dangerous.This fear is partially what is driving the current SUV market but where does it stop,
An SUV is vulnerable if in collision with a Semi so why aren't we all driving Semi's.
People get killed every day in SUV's or tripping on the sidewalk so this whole argument is irrelevant.
One thing positive about the Smart is that it has been properly engineered to make it as safe as possible whereby a lot of small cars are not.
The original Smart for-two carried an NCAP rating of three stars out of a possible five when the insight and its SUV brother the CRV was rated at four stars. The new Smart has been upgraded and lenghened to improve on this but no figures as yet.
I am in no doubt the preconceived idea of small cars being unsafe may kill the market in America.On the other hand it could be like the VW beetle sucess in the fifties and flood the market as the next "must have" item,the timeing is right considering looming energy problems and the realization we are being duped by big oil and the car industry, time will tell.

DGate
 

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DGate - I don't think it's accurate to characterize Kip's concerns about the safety of small vehicles as "fear tactics" or to liken them to US (foreign?) policy.

I think those concerns are legitimate. No matter how safe a small car is made it will always be at risk against a much larger heavier vehicle. However, I agree that the vehicle size "arms race" is a real problem. Unfortunately many vehicle owners are happy to increase their safety in some types of accidents by decreasing the safety of other road users. This is not to say that SUV's cannot be used responsibly, but my observation is that many drivers appear unconcerned about the risk posed by the extra weight, size, height and stopping distance and decreased manouverability of their "off - road" vehicles. But while there is free choice over vehicle purchases what can you do? Legislating to discriminate against or restrict SUV purchases must the ultimate political no-brainer "no no".

The practical reality is that those of us who drive small, lighter cars know that we are probably increasing our risk of injury or death on the road, but we also know that that risk is still very small. I just hope that if I do get T-boned in my Insight that the other car is a Smartcar - not a Discovery.
 

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I know.....I sound like a person arguing that everyone should be driving an SUV. Incidentally, the CRV is roughly 3 times as safe on a total fatality per accident rate than many larger, heavier, more powerful, truck based SUVs.

Dgate, I realise that the day may come when fuel is so scarce that cars will have to be as small or smaller than the Smart. At least then we will all have a level playing field so to speak. Since the Smart car has been out for some time in Europe, I would appreciate if someone could find some accident/fatality figures relating the Smart to other small cars such as the Yaris and Fit/Jazz. If the Smart is just as safe as the others mentioned (in Europe) then it will prove my comment that the Smart is well suited to Europe and European roads/drivers. Furthermore, if someone can find Canadian figures that prove the same, I'll be relieved that my fears are groundless.

I probably should have researched the facts before expressing my emotion based opinion. :cry:
 

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I've heard the thing about "hybrids do better in the city" frequently, probably because for most people, hybrid = Prius. Honda could do a bit more to sell the Civic hybrid, if you ask me.

Another thing about the Smart versus Insight comparison is that the Smart is meant to be sold as a profitable car, which is part of the reason that they weren't imported here for such a long time. The Insight, I think we all agree, was more of a research project, and certainly cost Honda a lot more than $20k each.

In my view, any sort of car is great if it gets decent mileage and supports the idea that we don't need to drive SUVs and giant pickup trucks. Maybe if the Smart is a success in the USA then Honda will import one of their smaller models...
 

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Dougie - my Prius gets about 10% better fuel economy on the open road than in the city (although we do have relatively low open road speed limits here). It's a common misconception that hybrids (especially the Prius) get better consumption in the city. Stop/start conditions (traffic lights, intersections, heavy traffic) penalize fuel efficiency in all cars. The Prius gets penalized less than other cars, but it still gets penalized.
 

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Kip we both have our oppinons,mine has been honed through growing up in America in the forties and fifties before anyone had heard of Nader and was even aware of car safety.
Today we have people so jumpy about the subject it is pathetic to me since I have been driving tiny cars since the age of 16 as well as big ones.
I have never feared driving these vehicles even though I have had three accidents in them,two of which were avoidable.
If fact due to the quicker response of the smaller car most potential accidents become "close calls"which is something drivers of large ponderous vehicles never experience as they try and control the enertia of their overweight vehicle.
How come no one ever questions this aspect of vehicle safety?I have driven some American vehicles that are downright dangerous in handling,brakeing and lights.
Give me a quick responsive small car any day and I stand a better chance of avoiding these goons on the road while conserving resources and saving my pennies for other more impoortant things.

Ghille I hope you don't get hit by a Smart since it was designed to make use of your vehicles crush zone so you might end up worse off.

Just for info measure the distance between the front of the Smart and the drivers torso,then do the same on the Insight but deduct the engine thickness which is not compressable.I think you will find the Smart has the same or more space available in a front collision. In a side on the wheels act as impact points instead of the soft door area of a conventional car.

DGate
 
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