My car is in the shop and they lent me a Smart. I don’t know if any of you have ever had the opportunity to drive one so I thought I’d share my impressions. For the Yanks that may not know the story, the Smart was originally developed jointly by Mercedes and Swatch (!!) as a European city car. Since its inception, it has been pretty popular but didn’t make enough for Swatch to stay in the game. Their idea was to customize all the cars like Swatch watches. The problem is that doing so raised the price and lowered the commercial viability. So, they pulled out but Mercedes kept going. It is smaller than the Class A and has no backseat. Driving one (this is the second time I got one as a momentary replacement car) is actually pretty interesting. I am always surprised when I park it and there are still two meters between the back of the car and the wall of the garage. You see, I have a parking garage in Paris for which I need to use a car elevator. For my Class B (soon to be replaced with a Passat, -sniff-sniff-), the elevator is so narrow that I have to fold in my rearview mirrors to fit in width-wise and it is quite the operation to get the car just at the right angle so as not to scratch up the bumper or wheel wells. Well, with the Smart, it is almost too easy: when I look over my shoulder I am already staring the elevator door in the face. Driving-wise, it has a funky transmission with a sort of paddle: on the left there is a + and – for a pseudo-manual shift and on the right there is just neutral and reverse. As for the suspension, god help your back if you hit a speed bump because it gets really bumpy.
All in all, it is a fun car to drive around town – and there are piles of gorgeous babes doing so in the city – but probably a little overpriced for a go-cart with a body.