The ForTwo, a Small Car with Big Gas Mileage Prepares to Enter U.S. Auto Market

Good things come in small packages. That saying has never been more appropriate than with DaimlerChrysler’s micro mini-car, the Smart ForTwo. Imagine not being concerned about $3 plus gas prices or never having to worry about finding a parking space. Sure, at about eight feet long, it won’t satisfy the average American’s lust for large, high-horsepower trucks and SUVs, but with sharp European styling and a Mercedes pedigree, this subcompact two-seater may just catch on with trend-setters when it’s introduced in the U.S. in early 2008. You too might look more closely at the Smart coupe when you discover the low-emission three cylinder engine’s enviable gas mileage (on regular fuel).

The exterior has a cutting-edge appearance, resembling a hip, 21st century version of a 1960s VW Beetle. The pint-sized subcompact’s interior is outfitted with a simple, well-designed cockpit featuring easy-to-reach controls and comfortable seating. Despite having a vulnerable appearance, its sturdy steel frame (to be further reinforced for the U.S. market) airbags, electronic stability control and results in head-on crash tests seem to make it a safe small vehicle (the little guy held its own in offset tests against the Mercedes E-Class and an SUV).

The European diesel engine model averages an impressive 46 miles a gallon in the city and 69 MPG on the highway. When it hits American roads less than two years from now, it will no doubt have similar, perhaps slightly better, numbers (over 70MPG on the highway). All for prices starting at under $15,000.

The tiny runabout is the joint brainchild of the engineering and business minds of Mercedes-Benz and Swatch Group Ltd., a designer of trendy Swiss wrist watches.

On the roads of Europe since 1998 and in Canada since 2004, the Fortwo is popular in Paris, London, Rome and Toronto. A recent New York Times article indicated DaimlerChrysler plans to market the car in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other large cities by stressing its safety, quality, fuel efficiency and small size, which makes it ideal for use in congested urban areas.

Hollywood has already taken notice. The ForTwo has been featured in a chase scene in “The Da Vinci Code and in the remake of “The Pink Panther,” in which driven by the lead character Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

Though it will be a while before the little guys hit our shores, ZAP, a Santa Rosa, CA-based company that sells electric cars, hopes to import ForTwos (they don’t have the blessing of DaimlerChrysler, who plans to sell them through dealers affiliated with Penske, the highly-successful NASCAR racing team) and a major car rental company has already expressed an interest in adding them to their fleet.

The Smart car will face stiff competition from several other small cars (though not as small as the ForTwo), such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, Chevy Aveo and Nissan Versa.

Fashionable without the added cost of hybrids or inconvenience of electrics, the ForTwo may well be a smart choice (pun intended).

To see the Smart ForTwo, visit:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven + 4 =