September 11, 2008

The Smart Car

The minuscule two-seater engineered by Mercedes-Benz, beloved by people who want to show the world that they are saving the world, is so tall and so heavily stuffed with safety and luxury equipment that it only gets 33 / 41 miles per gallon, not much better than cheaper cars that actually have backseats and trunk space, like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.

The Smart Car is kind of like what you'd expect if Hitler had won the war and then ordered the Panzer factories to switch to making golf carts.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

keep trolling!

Anonymous said...

And here I thought the real reason people got them was the ease of on street parking...

Anonymous said...

I've often thought the smart was a pretty crappy value - I get 35 mpg in my aged Civic. The Hitler / Panzer thing just seems out of left field though.

Anonymous said...

this same reason mercedes can't make a good sports car. they are so big and bulky because of over engineering.

roissy said...

if you're a man and you insist on neutering yourself by buying one of these toys and being seen driving around town in it (and i use the term "driving" loosely), then the least you should get in return for your self-administered impotency is high MPG. does it have room in the back for a hipster satchel?

i enjoyed this trolling.

bjdoulbe said...

The difference between 10 and 20 mpg is the same as the difference between 20 and 40 mpg, so as MPG goes up, the marginal benefits decline. At some point parking may be more important than an extra 10 MPG.

halfbreed said...

Most readers of this blog are probably aware of this, but just in case they aren't, Hitler actually did order something very similar. He was the driving force behind the Volkswagen, the "people's car". As Chancellor in 1933, he instructed automotive designer Ferdinand Porsche to create a car which would seat five, go 60 mph, get at least 33 miles to the gallon and cost no more than 1000 Reichsmarks. Hitler even gave him a rough drawing of what he thought the car should look like.

Now if either McCain or Obama would come up with a directive like that....I'd vote for him.

Bill said...

You really hate that thing, don't you?

I do too. But I'm no big fan of the Yaris, either. Total let-down compared to the old Tercel. When I was a courier my friends and I used to put those Tercels to the test, and they really came through! Except, of course, when you got hit by a large vehicle. My buddy Dennis would do all sorts of maneuvers in Redmond parking lots, and I remember floating across 405 in heavy rain at 70 mph, turning the wheel this way and that without effect. Gawd that was fun.

They need to come up with another super-sturdy small car like the Tercel that incorporates up-to-date safety features. With airbags, I might not have been knocked cold by that old lady's Buick back in '95.

Roger Chaillet said...

The real problem is the lack in the States of the diesel version sold in Europe. The diesel version is far more frugal with fuel. Plus the version sold stateside has a different engine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Fortwo

Sean said...

Not only are they easy to park, but you can look European and therefore cultured while driving one.

I wonder what all the people who bought Vespas over the summer to save on gasoline are going to do come winter?

Eric said...

No, the "smart" in Smart Car refers to Mercedes.

terrence said...

Apparently they require premium grade gasoline, too....

TCO said...

There is a chicness, but the other big appeal is parking. Spend some time in a densely parked inner city in Europe.

Maximilian said...

I'm driving a rental Honda Civic that seats 5 comfortably, and I'm getting 40 miles to the gallon. I was astounded when I filled up the tank after 480 miles and it only took 12 gallons. I would have been happy if it had taken 16 gallons, making 30mpg, but 40 mpg was way beyond my expectations. I have also gotten 35 mpg from a rental Chevy Malibu.

Brent Lane said...

As an aside, I think a significant factor in the recent demand destruction for gasoline in the US is being overlooked.

For the most part, the folks around me (southeast US) who drove big gas-guzzling SUVs are still driving them, because they can still afford $4 a gallon for gas.

What I've noticed, far more frequently than Smart cars (or even the now-ubiquitous Prius), is people on bicycles. And no, I'm not talking about college students or trendy Whole Foods types - I'm talking the working or indigent poor, who used to drive around in REALLY big, TRULY gas-guzzling '75 Caprices (which burned through a gallon every 12 miles even before they had blown out their mufflers and had gone 8 years since their last tuneup).

dollmaker said...

"Small cars" are definitely "stuff white people like"!

Anonymous said...

if you're a man and you insist on neutering yourself by buying one of these toys and being seen driving around town in it (and i use the term "driving" loosely), then the least you should get in return for your self-administered impotency is high MPG.

I was staying with a friend in Sun Valley a while back and we passed one of these on the road with the license plate "EDGAR." He told me the "EDGAR" stands for Edgar Bronfman - the billionaire former CEO of Seagrams (and, for you jewbaiters out there, the former head of the World Jewish Congress).

Yes, you could buy a Civic and get the same gas mileage but more room. But that's for trailer trash. Whiterpeople don't do that sort of thing. And these things look really cool with a red white and blue "O" sticker on the back.

farthi said...

Parking by backing straight in to the curb does have its appeal. I understand that this won't be permittted in US cities. Pity.

Anonymous said...

I liked your Hitler crack. I've seen a lot of these cars in Europe and they look retarded. Like ridiculous little toys.

Carolyn said...

A couple of our neighbors, including a former auto reviewer for the LA Times, have gotten compressed natural gas Civics. The Times guy told my husband it was more economical than a Smart Car. It costs a few grand to put in a fueling outlet in your home and the car is several grand more, also. However, there are rebates available.

food for thought said...

Well, Sailer, I've attempted to donate through paypal. Something along the lines of 1 mil minus $999,999. Won't know till tomorrow if it went through.

Now, about how you are going to spend your donations. The Honda must go, that's a given. And this Smart Car thing. Ugh! Have you considered a Mini Cooper? I saw those Smart Cars at a factor in Leipzig a few years ago. They were in a revolving glass tower stacked one on top of the other like in one of those display cases for matchbox cars. Panzer tanks my arse. You would be squashed in a wreck with a Volkswagon.

Then there's always the minivan option. Roomy, affordable, probably gets the same mpg as the ancient Honda. Back seat set 18 inches from back window so seams do not split from years of car sitting in hot sun. Gang members will never, ever mistake you for another gang member, etc.

"My buddy Dennis would do all sorts of maneuvers in Redmond parking lots, and I remember floating across 405 in heavy rain at 70 mph, turning the wheel this way and that without effect. Gawd that was fun."

What version of the Tercel did you own, Bill? Other than the ability to park in any space, I didn't experience anything like being able to drive in heavy wind or rain. Don't think I ever accelerated much over 60mph either. I do remember being able to fit an awful lot of stuff in the back seat and trunk though but maybe that's because I didn't have that much stuff back then.

Reg Cæsar said...

And if there isn't enough space to park this lengthways, you can get away with parking it sideways. Now, that is smart.

An American getting into one of these wouldn't look any sillier than John Cleese with his (old school) Mini Cooper on Monty Python and Fawlty Towers 35 years ago.

These cars, and Vespas, actually look great against ancient European backdrops, what with castles and cathedrals every 50 feet or so. Would you really knock those down to make room for Escalantes?

korf said...

Modern small Toyotas get almost the same fuel efficiency as Smart largely because Smart is an ancient design (by car industry standards). Mercedes created it in mid-90s and then practically abandoned it when expected high-volume demand didn't materialize. Smart became slightly more popular in the last few years of growing fuel prices, and Mercedes responded with a mild facelift -- the first in 10 years.

Bill said...

food for thought said...

What version of the Tercel did you own, Bill? Other than the ability to park in any space, I didn't experience anything like being able to drive in heavy wind or rain. Don't think I ever accelerated much over 60mph either. I do remember being able to fit an awful lot of stuff in the back seat and trunk though but maybe that's because I didn't have that much stuff back then.


I didn't own it, but I drove an '89 two-door hatchback at the time. 4-speed manual, 1.5L. Tiny tires, light body and all.

Yes, you could park the things anywhere, which is one of the main reasons we used them as couriers.

As for the heavy wind and rain, that's just normal from October to February up here. Read what I wrote one more time (not trying to be condescending) and you might see that my praise of the Tercel was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

Indeed, I did get used to "floating" on I-405 while traveling at high speed. This is usually described as "hydroplaning" and it's a bit unnerving at first. One isn't so much driving as piloting. Hit the gas and you feel the car start to sway one way or the other as you plane over the streams in the wheel ruts.

Regardless, I developed a respect for the car due to its superb handling and parkability.

My folks had a Tercel as well for some time before they started making money and got uppity. '85 SR5 hatchback. It took us across the country and back with a roof-rack and trunk full of gear. We actually navigated logging roads in northern Idaho's national forests with the EL gear and 4WD. Sheer cliffs and all that on the one side or the other. It was terrifying, but we made it through somehow. I blame the death of that car on my little sister, who is notorious for wrecking cars. Although it couldn't accelerate too well, we sustained speeds of 80mph or so for quite a while drafting semis across the salt flats in Utah.

I hope my kids get to experience something like that. Lightning strikes in the Rockies, getting blown across the prairie in South Dakota while in a tent... That's living.

Anonymous said...

I mean, just look at the thing.. It's ridiculous.

halfbreed said...

My son and I drove across the ocuntry and back last summer in a big V-8 which was rated 18/25, but I managed to average 31 mpg the entire way just be putting it in neutral on all the downhill portions, of which there are plenty on the big interstates. Around town, however, I'm afraid the 18 is accurate.

Anonymous said...

I live in DC, where parking is always an issue, and if I were in the market for a car I'd buy it. It only looks "ridiculous" because we aren't used to it. Be creative.

Half Sigma said...

I once had an 87 Tercel That got 38 mpg on the highway.

Of course, it was a really cheap car. Prone to overheating in the Arizona sun, and the engine would tend to stall out if the car was standing still and the air conditioner was turned on.

But it didn't cost much money and had great gas mileage, demonstraing that it doesn't require tens of thousands of dollars to "save" on gas.

toadessa said...

My Corolla gets an average of 36mpg, driving about 70% on streets. And it's such a better car in every other way than that tiny thing.

David said...

Americans continue to get fatter, but the cars are getting smaller.

Orson Welles once had to be pried out of his car with "the jaws of life" after he parked it, he was so fat. And it probably wasn't a VW.

Henry Canaday said...

I saw a fair number of Smart Cars in Paris recently. But the most striking difference between Parisian commuters and commuters in big German cities like Munich is that the Germans seem to use bicycles so extensively, while Parisians stick almost entirely with cars, motorcycles and scooters. This in spite of the fact that Paris has a government-subsidized bike-rental service, with bikes standing ready for rental use in a large number of popular locations.

On difference is that German cities have more and better organized bike paths all over their downtown areas. But Paris has quite a few of these as well.

Another difference may be prevention of bike theft. In Munich I saw thousands of bicycles laying or leaning everywhere downtown, unattended and unlocked. In Paris, there were many fewer bikes unattended, and they were all locked.

Anonymous said...

I want one of these!

http://www.aptera.com/

albertosaurus said...

The Nazis revered nature. They invented the concept of ecology and what we today call environmentalism. They introduced laws against "bad" foods and waged the first war on cancer.

One of the main difference between the Nazis and many of today's liberals was their attitude towards white people. The Nazis were in favor of them, modern liberals are against them.

For Nazis the word "Volk" was a magic word. It invoked a series of comforting connotations. Today another magic word is "Smart".

BTW Porsche essentially stole the Czech Tatra design for the Bug.

One of the first "Smart" devices were the Smart Terminals. Previously Dumb Async Terminals only had circuitry that recognized a key press with an ASCII code. That code was sent to the attached mini-computer which generated the dot matrix pattern that was transmitted back to the terminal screen where it displayed a pictoral representation of the letter.

Smart terminals added hardware so as to offload some of the simple processing onto the terminal itself.

IBM which had page oriented sync terminals (the 3270 series) advertised back then that if the mini computer terminals were smart then their terminals were brilliant.

Soon their arose a whole series of products that were either "Smart" or "Intelligent" as microprocessors were incorporated into them.

Then other products that formerly might have only been advertised as "New" or "Improved" were now called "Smart". Twenty years ago the SF Airport began calling its passenger luggage carts "Smart Carts". These carts were made solely of some bent steel tubes and wheels. No brain case was in evidence.

The Smart Car however is really not so much smart as it is Politically Correct. The appeal of the Smart appelation is its invocation of whole shared Veltanshung based on ignorance - kinda ironic, eh what?

People who think such a car is smart probably have failed to appreciate that:

- Global warming stopped nearly a decade ago

- Most of the oil (or near oil) on this planet is under Colorado

- Breeder reactors quite possibly have enough fuel for a million years

- Countries that invested heavily in wind power (Germany, Denmark) are now pulling back.

- Solar power initiatives of the Carter administration have brought US usage up to nearly one tenth of one percent of our energy production.

The climate-resources-energy political issues constitute a kind of IQ test. Anybody who thinks a Smart Car is smart, isn't.

food for thought said...

"I hope my kids get to experience something like that. Lightning strikes in the Rockies, getting blown across the prairie in South Dakota while in a tent... That's living." - Bill

With you as a father, they certainly will. Or you could just drive them across South Dakota or Kansas in a Tercel. : 0) Speaking of tents. Some undocumented campers pitched a few unauthorized tents near the baseball fields down the street. Is there any statute or law Mexicans won't violate?

Also, do you or anyone else know why my gas mileage has suddenly improved about 100 miles per tank. The temperature has dropped almost 10 degrees from the summer peak but I'm still using the front and back seat ACs due to humidity. I thought this was why my gas mileage was so bad this summer. Now I'm not so sure. I'm thinking it's how the gas is being mixed. In the midwest, where I was until three months ago, people were very aware of the consequences of not altering the gas mix in response to the warmer weather. Of course, I have no idea of the details. Any insight, anyone?

Anonymous said...

John Cleese's car in Fawlty Towers was actually a version of the Austin/Morris 1100 - which, to be fair, was developed from the classic Mini.

Reg Cæsar said...

Halfbreed said: My son and I drove across the ocuntry and back last summer in a big V-8 which was rated 18/25, but I managed to average 31 mpg the entire way just be putting it in neutral on all the downhill portions...

I wish Saab would bring back freewheeling, which they had until about 1972. At the time, though, they were trying to sell the then-radical front-wheel-drive in mountainous areas like my hometown, where freewheeling-- like on bikes-- would be awfully scary.

Truth said...

"One of the main difference between the Nazis and many of today's liberals was their attitude towards white people. The Nazis were in favor of them,

Maybe, but they didn't consider Slavs, Mediterraneans, Hellenics, Galls, or Nordics white people

Martin said...

"halfbreed said...

Most readers of this blog are probably aware of this, but just in case they aren't, Hitler actually did order something very similar. He was the driving force behind the Volkswagen, the "people's car". As Chancellor in 1933, he instructed automotive designer Ferdinand Porsche to create a car which would seat five, go 60 mph, get at least 33 miles to the gallon and cost no more than 1000 Reichsmarks. Hitler even gave him a rough drawing of what he thought the car should look like."

The Nazi conquest of europe owed alot to the humble VW bug. Although developed before the war, very few were made before the war. People had to get on a waiting list to buy one, and sent in their payments in advance. However, the german goverment used the money to help pay for re-arming the Wehrmacht.

steve wood said...

I had a Tercel, too - a '92. Don't remember the model, but it was an automatic and so didn't get the impressive mileage described here. Yes, it did tend to stall if you ran the A/C while idling. And God help you if you had to merge into heavy, high-speed traffic since it went from 0 to 60 in about an hour and a half. However, it was extremely reliable. In fact, from purchase until I traded it in at 125,000 miles, I had not a single breakdown due to engine problems. Mind you, it was burning oil toward the end of its life, but otherwise it was fine. I moved on up to a Corolla, which [knock wood] has proven to be equally reliable. I can't figure out why anybody buys anything but Japanese cars ...

Half Sigma said...

"I had a Tercel, too - a '92. Don't remember the model, but it was an automatic and so didn't get the impressive mileage described here."

The Tercel was redesigned in 1990. I had the 1987-1989 model. And I had a stick shift, which gets better mileage than an automatic.

I could deal with the poor acceleration, but the overheating thing sucked. I took it to mechanics, they found nothing wrong with it. I think the car was just built with a crappy radiator.

Once the car overheated while I was driving up the mountain to Prescott. It could not make it up the hill. I watched in embarrassment as crappy old cars chugged past while I was pulled off on the side of the road. But then Mother Nature gave me a lucky break. It started to rain! That cooled off the car and I was then able to finish the drive up the mountain.

David Davenport said...

I wish Saab would bring back freewheeling, which they had until about 1972.

Freewheeling? Get a car with a manual transmission. Put in neutral, or just hold the clutch pedal down with your foot.