How smart are our smart cars?

The prodigal child of the automotive industry

DON’T LOOK AT IT FAVORS confuse you with top performance on the modern road – the micro city coupe “ForTwo” is a little more than 8 feet long, less than 5 feet wide and 5 meters high. Weighing 818 kilograms and three meters shorter than the Mini Cooper, this Vikings has racing-like cages, anti-lock (ABS) brakes, advanced electronics, microprocessors and a premium powertrain that offer better stability, braking and overall comfort. It has luxury enhancements such as GPS navigation, reverse measurement, night vision, assisted parking, climate control, smart card and keyless voice control. Of course, the smartest car is one that is fully automated and self-driving.

The smart car is a mini-compact two-seater with advanced electronics and a microprocessor that are perfect for crowds and city driving. The first prototype known as the Micro Compact Car (MCC) was developed in 1994 by Swatch and Daimler-Benz, and this ‘Swatchmobile’ was exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997. In fact, the word ‘Smart’ comes from a collaboration between Swatch and Mercedes: Swatch Mercedes ART. The updated Smart “ForTwo” was released in 2008 in the US.

What’s smart about that?

The idea to build a small car came with Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of Swatch watches. He wanted to make a small car that would be economical, environmentally friendly and easy to park indoors. Today, his descendants in DaimlerAG’s Smart division and other carmakers such as Renault and General Motors (GM) offer cars that have electric or hybrid engines and are fuel efficient and environmentally responsible.

Although initially people were hesitant to opt for Smart, now the term is changing. To date, more than 750,000 ForTwoes have been sold in Europe and Japan. Subcompacts also pay close attention to the trend. Waiting lists and pre-orders for Tesla and Chevrolet Volt show that people are more concerned about fuel economy and the environment. The Smart line has favorably positioned itself among the top design and technology segment targeting the urban upper middle class, especially the younger generation.

These micro cars are small in growth but economical. Compared to the 7-foot-wide Hummer H1, the ForTwo is only 5 feet wide. In real life, this means that the Smart Car can return straight to the curb, instead of parallel parking in line with other cars. Two or three smart cars can be parked that way in one parking space. In fact, Swatch initially wanted to make such a car for the US and the European market, where parking space and gasoline have a high price tag. Cars are extremely manageable and fast – they can even beat many supercars when it comes to speeding up city traffic. With its reduced length, the ForTwo can turn within a circle of 22.8 feet, compared to 35.7 feet from the Honda Civic.

With its Tridion protection cell at the front, the Smart also handled the security issue pretty well. This solid structure activates the crumpled zones of the vehicle in a collision creating a passenger safety balloon. The second generation ForTwo was awarded 4 out of 5 stars in Euro NCAP Adult Occupant Protection.

The ForTwo is one of the most efficient four-wheel drive vehicles with a conventional gasoline engine on the market. Obviously, it can’t compete with the hybrid when it comes to mpg numbers, but it has an artistic design and is certainly easier to park than the usual four-wheeler. It can snatch the last parking space practically anywhere and has a wide range of color options for its body and Tridion safety cell. In environmental terms, the Smart is the most promising four-wheel drive vehicle. As it is powered by electricity, it does not cause any environmental pollution.

However, in terms of price, Smarts is not that smart and never was. The base price of the ForTwo automatic drive is $ 20,640 and $ 19,650 in the European market, not to mention the $ 28,750 price of the all-electric ForTwo Cabrio (smart ED). Fuel-saving customers are also looking for bank account efficiency and can find a small conventional car with decent mileage for a few thousand dollars less than the price of ForTwo.

The power-assisted power steering offers very little haptic feedback from the road surface, making the ForTwo jump excessively on uneven roads. The disc and drum brakes also feel artificial in the hands of experts.

Smarts are also slow in terms of speed and mileage. Although fast, the latest ForTwos Cabrio can accelerate to 100 km / h in 10.2 seconds, compared to the 5-7 seconds required for most conventional sedans. Top speed is limited to just 81 mph, as excessive speed drastically reduces mileage and power range. The projected 70-80 miles of one range is also not practical when it needs 3 hours of charging through a 240-volt outlet or 16.5 hours through a 120-volt household plug.

Even smarter

DaimlerChrysler unveiled the all-electric version of the smart car, the ForTwo EV, at the British Motor Show in July 2006. Now, in 2018, if it offers ForTwo Electric Drive – an unusual compact with a price tag of $ 24,550 and a built-in, 80-hp electric motor that travels 70 kilometers with one charge. The latest ForTwo Cabriolet is the ‘convertible’ version of the most significant electric drive. Like its predecessor, the Cabriolet also comes with an electric propulsion system and a surprisingly spacious cargo room.

ForTwo is not the only one in the Smart line. Toyota’s Scion iQ was a worthy competitor that held most Smart car records before his death in 2015. Now ForTwo faces stiff competition from the Mitsubishi I-MiEV and Fiat 500e. The Honda Fit and Chevy Volt may not be the smallest cars on the market, but in terms of hybrid powertrain, automotive intelligence and fuel economy, these cars boast good competition in the Smart segment. The Mini Cooper is another challenge that offers sleek yet heavy performance. All of these cars are designed to maximize passenger space while reducing exterior length. ForTwo also has its cousins ​​from the Smart segment in Mercedes – Smart Roadster and Forfour. The latter is being refurbished to offer a 4×4 pint-sized SUV for the U.S. and Brazilian domestic markets. Hyundai is currently making complete self-driving cars for the next generation, and Samsung is developing an in-vehicle infotainment system. Both firms compete in the industry to introduce hyperintelligent cars.

While it’s obvious that this Smart is a great choice for city cars, what’s less clear is whether it will completely replace conventional gasoline-powered cars. The answer will only give us time. But with fuel prices at historic highs and environmental renewal a burning issue, it’s high time carmakers offered and consumers adopted a more economical and environmentally friendly smart car for everyday commuting.