A Smart Car is a small, economical car built by Smart GmbH, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. The Smart Car comes in several flavors, the most popular of which is a 1500 pound, two seat car which has taken Europe by storm. The car I drove was the new Smart for Four, a four seat Smart Car with an 1100 cc engine that sipped gas and was quite fun to drive.
Smart Cars - They're small, but are they safe?
If you've been to Europe, you've seen the Smart for Two most everywhere, parked on sidewalks, or nosed in between two parallel parked cars. They're small, but DaimlerCrysler hasn't forgotten the safety aspects of the diminutive cars; according to car importer Zap, "The tridion safety cell forms the core element of the body of each smart car. It is manufactured exclusively from high-tensile steel and creates a cage-like safety structure for the occupants. The tridion safety cell makes the smart city-coupe one of the safest of small cars with regard to its crash safety characteristics. This has been confirmed by numerous crash tests conducted in Europe."
The Smart Car - Is it a good vacation car?
Smart for TwoJames Martin
I tried to rent the Smart for two, since I was the only one on this trip, but was "upgraded" to the new Smart for Four. You won't want to take four people and their luggage in the Smart for Four, that's for sure. There's barely enough room for a journalist's horde in the "trunk" area, which, by the way, is uncovered--a bad thing if you're stashing stuff in a major European city.
But if you're a couple and want to drive a fun car on your European Vacation, the Smart for Four just might be for you. It's pretty much standard European compact car size, comes with a zippy 1.1 liter gas engine that sips fuel even when driven hard--I didn't use a full tank in nine days of driving. The wide, low profile tires grip the road tenaciously, and four wheel disc brakes bring the Smart to a stop in a hurry. The driving position is first rate, and even a big guy like me can find a comfortable position.
Where do I rent or hire a Smart Car?
I rented mine through Sixti. The cost for 9 days was $222, even though I chose full insurance and chose not to clean the car before returning it (Sixti gives you the option of cleaning the car yourself to save money on your rental).
Check in and check out at Milan's smaller Linate airport was a breeze. I just left the thing in the lot and handed the folder and keys to the agent. My credit card was charged exactly the total I had calculated - so there were no hidden charges. Renting a Smart (or the diminutive Renault Modus, you don't get a choice) at Sixti may be the ultimate short-term rental solution for folks on a tight budget.
Smart Car - The Bottom Line
Smart for Four - Rear ViewJames Martin
I really enjoyed putting the Smart Car through its paces. It's so stable at speeds above 130 km/hour that you can get lulled into thinking you're not going fast at all. It's got a nice growl in the exhaust note, so you wannabe Michael Schumachers can happily push this thing in the corners and come out with a grin on your face.
The 1.1 liter power plant pushed the car adequately in first through third gears. But, with the fat tires and great brakes, one desires lots more power. But then one'd be stuck with a higher gas bill, and at 1.18 Euros/liter, that's no small consideration.
By the way, ZapWorld is working on bringing the Smart to the US. You might want to check out their web site for more. I want one.