In defense of the smart fortwo
ok, hear me out on this one
Before we begin I should note that I am rather biased, being an aspirational smart fortwo owner myself, but I feel that this needs to be said.
First, we need to differentiate between different generations of smart cars. The first generation, W450, was sold from 1998 to 2007. It wasn't officially imported to the US, but was imported and modified to safety regulations by a third party. It had 3 taillights on each side and either almond or peanut shaped headlights. This will be the one focused on mainly in this article. It should be noted that by pretty much all standards the 450 model was the worst of them all, it was less safe; far less reliable; slower; and (in the US) far less available. However, they are my favorite (for reasons unknown to me) and thus the ones I am most knowledgeable on, and therefore the main focus of this article.
450 "peanut" shown
Despite the car being unreliable, unsafe, and slow, I love it, and I think it should be seen as at least a vehicle of interest. For all the talk of how automakers don't make anything different or exciting nowadays, here's a car that was unlike any other. Under 100in long, just 5 feet wide, and a 28.5 foot turning radius, it's a miracle they managed to make it fit normal-sized humans. It also has many details that sound quite appealing. It had:
- rear engine, RWD powertrain
- targa/accordion top option (cabrio)
- 2-seat hatch
- sequential gearbox
- well under 1 ton
- two-tone paint
There were a few caveats, however. The gearbox was awkward and annoying; after 60k mi the engine is living on borrowed time; it had 51 hp; and the car isn't safe in a frontal impact crash (IIHS gave the 2008 a "good" rating, but that means nothing, plus EuroNCAP rated the 450 3/5 stars). However, the fun quirkiness of a smart car is undeniable. I happen to very much like its novel design, and the Museum of Modern Art seems to agree!
The MoMA's happens to be in Stream Green, which I think is one of the best colors smart offered. Almond headlights shown.
Regardless on whether or not you like the smart car, you have to at least acknowledge the creativity and boldness of the designers. Personally, I think it's interesting how there is such a large negative reaction to a car that is so unique and interesting.