Smart Cars

The future of transportation

Katherine A. May ME '05

Imagine being able to change the color of your car in under an hour. Imagine being able to finally fit into those parking spaces even when the other cars are over the line. Imagine parallel parking in a spot that you'd never squeeze into before with your old car. Well, this is all possible with the newest idea from Micro Compact Car (a subsidiary of Daimler-Chrysler), the Smart car. The Smart is a very small city coupe that allows for better maneuvering in crowded city environments as well as is environmentally safer than other vehicles on the road today. Designed by Swatch and engineered by Mercedes-Benz, it is currently being manufactured in France.


The Smart is a rather peculiar car because it is only 2.5 meters long and 1.51 meters wide. Its compact size is the reason it has become a desirable and practical vehicle for big city driving conditions. For example, it can be parked easily in spaces where most other vehicles just would not fit. In addition, due to its small and compact size, the Smart has a much smaller turning radius than other cars, making it easier to pull a u-turn on those narrow streets. Its turning circle is about 8.7 meters, which compared to a Ford Focus, (the American version of a small compact car and one of the best-selling cars in Britain) is about 2.2 meters less. The car only seats two people so one disadvantage is that it does not allow for family traveling. Also, because of its size, the trunk space is rather limited. However, it does have 9.2 cubic feet of space, which is enough space for groceries or a set of golf clubs. Furthermore, if someone is really in need of more space, the passenger seat can be folded down to gain an extra 7.3 cubic feet of space. Guys, it might not be a good idea to take your date golfing. If the both sets of clubs do not fit you might have to leave something at home, the clubs or the date, whichever you prefer.


The Smart comes in three major models: the Pure, the Pulse, and the Passion. Each becomes more expensive with more features and options added, and is more luxurious. The Pure is the most basic of the models. This entry-level model is the most economical and is mostly intended for use within the inner city or for short trips. It contains a solid roof and steel wheels with silica energy saving tires. Its engine is 45 horsepower and gets 56 miles per gallon. Unfortunately this model does not have air conditioning or fog lights. Options for the Pure are alloy wheels, fog lights, air conditioning, fully automatic gearbox, navigation system, side air bags, velour carpet mats, and CD player. The Pure is available in Left Hand Drive and Right Hand Drive.

The Pulse has a more powerful engine. Its intended use is for out of town journeys. It has a 'Softip' sequential 6 speed manual gearbox that is clutch-less. The engine is 62 horsepower and on this model the "sportline" alloy wheels are standard. Leather interior and fog lights are also standard on this model. In addition, the glass roof lets a healthy amount of sunlight in. This one's only available in Left Hand Drive though.

The most luxurious model is the Passion. It has the same engine as the Pulse, but it has "Softouch" sequential 6-speed gearbox that can be switched to either automatic or manual. It also has digital gear display like the Pulse. The Passion has a rear windshield heater and wiper, a tinted glass roof, keyless entry, luggage compartment cover and leather steering wheel and gearshift. The Passion has 54 horsepower engine and can get up to 60 miles per gallon on unleaded fuel. It has the same options as the Pure and Pulse (CD, navigation system, side airbags, velour carpet mats). The Passion also comes in a convertible type with a removable top. In my opinion, the coolest thing about this car is that it has 9 body panels made out of a polycarbonate, that can be changed in under an hour to give the car a whole new look. A whole list of colors are available, such as Jack Black, Lite White, Aqua Vanilla, Phat Red, True Blue Metallic, Bay Grey Metallic, Numeric Blue, River Silver Metallic, and Stream Green Metallic. You could drive to work in classy Jack Black but then at night hit the town in wild River Silver Metallic or sexy Phat Red. They also make great company vehicles because a company logo or image can be put onto the side of the cars. Not only that, a diesel version became available this March.

One of the many advantages to the Micro-Compact Smart Car is its ability to fit into small parking spaces.

Under the hood

The Smart has a 599cc, three-cylinder turbocharged Mercedes-Benz engine. The approximate fuel consumption is 48 mpg in town and 67 mpg out of town; averaging out to about 56 to 58 mpg. The maximum speed the Smart can go is about 84 mph. On the Pure and Pulse models the transmission is a 'Softip,' which is a semi-automatic gearbox containing six gears and no clutch. Meanwhile, the Passion model has a 'Softouch' transmission, which is a fully automatic gearbox. The fuel tank in the Smart is about 4.8 gallons, but with the high gas mileage, fueling up shouldn't be too terribly frequent. The Smart needs to be serviced about every year or every 9,000 miles. The Smart does come with a three-year Mechanical warranty, a one-year SmartAssist Recovery, and a six-year bodywork warranty.


The Smart has the same protection against collision as the Mercedes-Benz 'A' class. It comes with air bags on driver and passenger sides as well as optional side air bags. Inside there are integral safety seats and inertia seat belts that contain force limiters. Independent suspension and ABS brakes are standard as well. The car also contains a 'Tridion' alloy safety cell for state of the art protection. Its integrated side impact struts and engine mounted under the floor provide even more safety. The Smart has another important standard feature, the 'Trust-Plus' system, which contains electronic traction and stability control. According to Southeast Smart Centres, it "cuts off the fuel supply (to reduce torque to the drive wheels) and engages or disengages the clutch accordingly." One disadvantage to the Smart is that it is not designed to carry a spare tire so if you had a blowout on the road you might just be out of luck. A Breakdown Kit that contains materials for temporary tire repairs as well as a Smart Kit that contains an air filter, fuel filter, and gasket 'O' ring for do-it-yourself repairs can be purchased with the car. Roadside assistance like Smart Emergency Service is available on these vehicles in the UK as well.

Internally, the Smart is “smartly” built. For example, the passenger seat is set farther back to allow the driver to see more of the road. In addition, the controls are ergonomically designed by Swatch to allow for the most comfortable and safest driving experience possible. Baby seats, boosters, and a backrest for a child booster can all be added for additional safety for the little ones.

Safety towards the environment is also a concern these days. The Smart has been designed to be nearly one hundred percent recyclable. Additionally, its carbon dioxide emissions are 118g/km, which is lower than some cars that have emissions as high as 165g/km or more. This is also beneficial for cost reasons as the taxes aren't as high for lower carbon dioxide emissions.


The Smart/Pure is about 8,676 dollars (5700 pounds), the Smart/Pulse is about 10,046 dollars (6600 pounds), and the Smart/Passion is about 10,959 dollars (7200 pounds). The Smart/Passion/Cabriolet, which is the convertible version of the Passion, is 14,247 dollars (9360 pounds). As features are added, of course the prices go up. Air conditioning on the Pure is an additional 746 dollars (490 pounds), for instance. Certain colored body panels are also priced differently depending on the color. The factory fitted options are quite a bit more expensive than the other accessories, such as cup holders, child seat booster, ejection seat, carpet mats, CD auto-changer, etc. Just kidding about the ejection seat. It would be a nice touch, though.

New cars to come

A new model to be released by Smart is the Smart Crossblade. It became available in the UK in July this year. Only 2000 will be produced to maintain its rarity. This Smart contains a SUPREX turbo engine with 70 hp. It also has maximum speed of about 85 mph. The interesting thing about this car is that it has no roof and no windshield. It has a small wind deflector at the front. Better watch out for bugs. It also is protected by TRIDION safety cell with steel bars on the sides of the vehicle replacing the doors. It contains extra reinforcements in the floor, A & B pillars, and an integrated roll bar for strength and torsional rigidity. The seats are water-repellent in case of sudden down pour. You'll still be soaked but, hey, at least your seats will wipe dry. The Crossblade comes in Jet Black with Fire Red seats for that extra aesthetic look. The steering wheel and gearshift knob are finished in black leather.

The newest model to look forward to seeing is the Smart Roadster, the epitome of a Smart sports car.

Unfortunately, these cars will not be available in the United States until 2004. However, that's not stopping some people from getting them now. Michael Jackson was seen with his Smart car in Europe this year!

Quote from Vitalograph Business Park, Maids Moreton, Buckingham, MK18 1SW

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